Bella Pasquali may already be a national champion but the 15-year-old from Wangaratta is only just getting started.
Pasquali, who also claimed victory at the Stawell Gift in April, is emerging as one of Australia's top young 400m runners.
Her coach, Jason Boulton, believes she can be 'world class' with sufficient work and Pasquali says her ultimate goal is to represent her country at major championships.
"She can be as good as anybody I've seen," Boulton said.
"But that comes down to Bella's motivation.
"If she wants to be world class, she can be world class.
"She hasn't even scratched the surface yet and she's an Australian champion and has run a quick time (55.47 seconds).
"She's in the top 25 in Australia already as an 'open' runner, as a kid who's run 10 to 12 competitive 400m races in two seasons.
"The sky's the limit."
Pasquali, having come through Little Athletics over the past decade, was just beginning to take the sport more seriously when COVID struck in 2020.
But teaming up with Boulton and the opportunity to race in the Victorian Athletic League fired her up when sport resumed and Pasquali's pace has only quickened since then.
"Mum and Dad are both runners so it did come naturally," the daughter of Wally and Anna Pasquali said.
"But I did put in extra effort which made the difference from being average to good.
"My dream is to wear the green and gold, that would be a really big thing.
"First, the school nationals are at the end of the year and I'm hoping to go well there."
Pasquali produced a barnstorming finish to win the under-17 women's 400m at the Australian Athletics Championships in Sydney, before coming from the back of the field to take out the women's handicap final over the same distance at Stawell.
"I have a love-hate relationship with the 400m," Pasquali admitted.
"I was never quick enough to be a 100m runner so I went out to 200m and then I found I was really good at 400 so I went to that.
"But it's a really hard and painful event to run.
"Winning those races means a lot.
"Sometimes I didn't want to come to training but all the hard work has been worth it. It just shows how hard I've tried."
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Pasquali trains with seven-time Australian champion Jack Boulton, Jason's son.
"Bella's a very naturally gifted athlete and she doesn't like getting beaten, which is a good strength," Boulton said.
"She's just scratching the surface.
"What's she's achieved is pretty much through natural ability and a bit of confidence, realising she actually can run."
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