Local teen overcomes hurdles to place second in the state
Local teenager, Unity Beitzel, is achieving big on the athletics stage after recently placing second in the Under 20 women’s Heptathlon at the Combined Event State Championships in Brisbane in December, qualifying her for the 2021 National Championships.
Coming in second in the state was a huge achievement for the 18-year-old who has clawed her way back after a serious training injury sidelined her for over a year.
Unity has had a passion for athletics since she began training at the age of nine, competing in a range of events including long-distance running, hurdles, and high jump, before finding her groove in the Heptathlon, a track and field combined event.
Heptathletes compete across seven disciplines; 100 metres hurdles, High jump, Shot put, 200 metres, Long jump, Javelin, and 800 metres.
In late 2018, as she was making her way up in the Heptathlon world, Unity seriously injured herself after falling on a hurdle during training.
The fall caused internal bleeding, later leading to an infection and surgery, which she says set her back, preventing her from being able to train or compete.
“I lost about 12 months of progress and felt like I was almost starting from scratch again,” Unity said.
Now fully recovered, Unity has worked hard to get back to top condition even nabbing a personal best during her State Championship appearance by adding 300 points to her score.
Ironically it was the hurdles that set her up in the competition. In only her second race over 100-metre hurdles since the accident, she shaved half a second off her previous race time.
And as the hurdles are the first event in Heptathlon, it made a big contribution to her score.
“It was great to see little improvements across a lot of the events while also being consistent in others. A lot of time had been spent on working on things like speed, running technique and overall endurance so seeing that work pay off really makes the time and effort put into training really worthwhile,” she said.
“Due to Covid-19 and the impact it had on athletics in 2020, we had an extended offseason meaning we were able to spend most of the year working on weaknesses and trying to improve as much as possible before competitions began again.
“Since coming back from my injury and getting over my fear and worry, I’ve started to love hurdles again.”
Unity said the injury really put into perspective who much she loves track and field.
“As soon as I could start training again, I was more determined to try to get back to where I was, which was a long process and often made me feel frustrated and upset about the progress I had lost.
“I managed to qualify for States for High Jump about eight months after surgery and placed third, which really encouraged me to keep training and continue in track and field.”
Unity’s coach, Greg Hamilton, has been training her for nine years and says he is incredibly proud of her determination.
“I am very excited about how she has done,” he said.
“It shows how strong her character is, the fact that she has come back from that injury.
“The fall was a lot of bad luck really, it was probably a drill she had done a million times,”
Mr Hamilton said Unity is making strong progress as she prepares for National Championships in April.
“She will be competitive in that field, if she continues the same progress, she will definitely challenge the top girls in the country at that competition.”
That is no small feat for an athlete who also has to deal with the challenges of rural living and not having regular access to top-grade competition and training facilities, as much of her competitors do.
Currently, Unity trains on local ovals, however, often the grass can be too long or waterlogged to be effective.
“We have to be creative with how we plan our sessions sometimes, the weather here really throws the unexpected at us,” said Unity.
“Training in North Queensland is a struggle leading up to events in the summer season, it would be great to have an all-weather running surface available in the future.”
Mr Hamilton added it can be hard for local athletes to exceed because of the difficulties in finding a decent training surface and believes many local clubs would benefit if a better running surface was built in the Shire.
“We are very lucky the school (Mossman High) allows us to use the oval and long jump runway, but we really need a 100 or 200-metre synthetic surface to run on without having to travel to Cairns.
“We don’t need a full track, but a couple of lanes built in a local park would make training so much easier.
“However, I am very proud of the way she has overcome diversity, a lot of athletes may have given it up. She is trying to stay local and still be successful, and is producing results,” he said.
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