THERE is no time like the present for Georgetown heptathlete Sophie Stanwell as she chases a Commonwealth Games B-qualifier at the NSW Combined Event Championships this weekend.
The 22-year-old and Maitland decathlete Matt Harris will both defend NSW titles at Campbelltown Athletics Centre with an eye on the qualifying marks for the 2014 Glasgow Games team.
But while Harris is preparing to build his Games selection campaign towards the national titles in April, Stanwell is keen to start 2014 with a bang.
Ranked No.1 in Australia after a strong 2013, Stanwell is in sight of the qualifying mark.
She needs to improve her personal best tally across the seven events by just 44 points to reach the 5600 target.
Although there are still several chances left to hit the score, Stanwell believes she can do it at the season opener.
‘‘I want to set PBs in the events I’ve really been working on over the last few months – the two throws and the hurdles,’’ she said.
‘‘If I can do that and do well in the other events, I should get near 5700 points.
‘‘My training all points to that sort of score, the weather should be good, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t be aiming for it.’’
Stanwell made her international debut in July, finishing ninth at the World University Games in Russia.
After a slow start, she was ninth in a field of 19, which included 2011 world champion and London Olympics bronze medallist Tatyana Chernova.
Despite disappointing efforts in the high jump and 100-metres hurdles, Stanwell took plenty of positives out of the performance heading into the biggest year of her career. ‘‘I had a pretty tough start in the first two events, but I did personal bests in the rest of them,’’ she said.
‘‘And I ran the fastest 200m in the competition, so that was pretty special, having my name next to No.1 on the boards ahead of the all those top athletes.’’
Meanwhile, Harris will shoot for an unprecedented sixth consecutive NSW decathlon title this weekend.
The 24-year-old was optimistic about bridging the 300-point gap from his personal best to the men’s Commonwealth Games qualifier this season but was looking further down the track.
‘‘I’m not going as good as Sophie at the moment – she is on fire – but everything is going well,’’ Harris said.
‘‘It will be tough to get the qualifier. I know I’m capable, but everything has to go well for me.
‘‘I’m really looking to build through the season towards the nationals.’’
Although further away from a Games berth than Stanwell, Harris said it was within sight.
‘‘The last one I did I lost 400 [points] in a single event, 200 in a another. And the 1500m I didn’t go too hard in because I’d already lost so many points,’’ Harris said.
‘‘You can pick up or lose a lot very quickly.’’
Both will back up in two weeks to compete in selected individual events at the Hunter Track Classic at Glendale.
HOPES: Matt Harris and Sophie Stanwell, who are defending their NSW titles at Campbelltown this weekend. Picture: Ryan Osland