WITH the Region 2 Championships just around the corner, training stepped up a notch last week in preparations for the big event.
Ten youngsters from Merriwa Little Athletics attended an intensive training session at the Hunter Stadium, Glendale, on Friday with coaches Peter and Charlie Gentz from Tiger Fitness and Training.
As a special surprise, Australian hurdles champion Tiahna Skelton and elite athletes Jaimie Studdy and Tahlia Merryfull were also on hand to train, inspire and encourage the young athletes.
Merriwa Little Athletics president Tash Taaffe said she was delighted with the turn out.
"We haven't offered a clinic like this before to our athletes, but it was one we needed to have," she explained.
"Whether they are running with Little Athletics or school, eventually if you are good enough you end up at one of the synthetic tracks in the Hunter or Sydney.
"It can be extremely overwhelming and intimidating, especially for our younger athletes.
"A clinic like this gives them a huge confidence boost.
"They now know what to expect at the upcoming regionals in terms of the track.
"They also know that, yes they are good enough, they do have a lot of skills already and can hold their own training with some of Australia's best which is fantastic to see."
Taaffe said the clinic was made possible through a Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN) Empowering our Communities grant for drought impacted communities.
From across the Upper Hunter, 14 Merriwa athletes have qualified to compete at regionals.
Scone boasts three representatives, Denman two and Aberdeen four, with the Muswellbrook and Singleton clubs fielding 22 and 28 participants respectively.
The Little Athletics NSW Region 2 Championships will take place at the Hunter Sports Centre, Glendale, on Saturday and Sunday, February 1 and 2.