Alana Boyd enjoying pole vault battle with Nina Kennedy ahead of national championships

National record holder Alana Boyd has welcomed the emergence of Nina Kennedy in the women’s pole vault, outlining she can only benefit from greater competition on the domestic front.

The 17-year-old Kennedy set a new world junior outdoor best when she cleared 4.59 metres to win the pole vault at the Perth Track Classic last month, relegating the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Boyd (4.35m) to third.

Her performance in Perth cleared the world championships qualifying mark of 4.50m, the same height she achieved to take victory at the national junior championships in Sydney a fortnight ago.

The Australian Athletics Tour has proved to be a steep learning curve for Kennedy, however, as she no heighted at the Adelaide and Melbourne meets, with Boyd winning on both occasions.

Boyd posted 4.50m to triumph in Melbourne, which doubled as the opening leg of the IAAF World Challenge, moving her a step closer to booking a place on the Australian team for August’s world titles in Beijing.

The 30-year-old has previously lacked consistent competition on the domestic circuit, although the Parnov sisters, Liz (4.50m) and Vicky (4.40m), have shown they have the potential to be world-class vaulters.

Kennedy’s rise has excited Boyd and she is relishing the opportunity to compete against the Western Australian teenager at this weekend’s national championships at the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre in Brisbane.

“Obviously she’s only 17, almost 18, a youngster nipping at my heels, so it is good to go into competitions and have someone there that is a threat,” Boyd said.

“Obviously I’m not going to have it on my own at the nationals this weekend and I’m going to have to be on my game. But it’s great.

“I’d rather go into a competition knowing it’s going to be a battle rather than having to wait around a long time and not have anyone there to push me.”

Boyd or Kennedy can earn automatic selection for Beijing should they win the final on Saturday evening in Brisbane courtesy of the fact they have already posted world championships qualifiers.

The pressure of not having to chase a qualifying mark this weekend has left Boyd relieved, knowing she can simply focus on winning what would be her fourth national title.

“It’s been something that I have been trying to get for the whole season and it just hasn’t happened on competition days,” she said.

“So [it’s a] massive relief and now I think it’s a little bit of a weight off my shoulders … and I can go into nationals just focusing on the process and get the job done and go onto world champs.”

National record in Boyd’s sights

Boyd is coming off a solid 2014 campaign, in which she successfully defended her Commonwealth Games crown in Glasgow and was ranked equalled ninth in the world with a 4.65m in Mannheim.

Her performance in Germany was her best height since establishing her national record of 4.76m in Perth in 2012 and she is confident she can set a new mark at some stage this year.

“It’s definitely possible, everything in training is indicating it will,” she said.

“I’ve made a few changes to the poles I’m jumping on and I’m taking off further out. There are a lot of different technical things that we’ve been working on that have come together in training and not necessarily all the time in competition.

“But it’s a work in progress and I think the next couple of months … leading into going to Europe I think it will definitely come together and if it does then I don’t see a reason why I couldn’t get up to the 70s (4.70m-plus) and potentially set another Australian record.”

Boyd is desperate to compete at the Beijing world titles, having been forced to miss the 2013 edition in Moscow because of Achilles tendon and knee injuries.




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