NEWLY-CROWNED Victorian under-20 champion in pole vault, James Woods will be aiming to fly higher at this month’s national track and field championships at Sydney’s Olympic Park. A multiple record-holder for Athletics Bendigo Region, Woods recently cleared 4.80m to win gold in the state title showdown at South Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium. The 19-year-old vaulting star will be aiming to soar higher at the Rare Air Meet being held this Sunday at Melbourne University.

After great success with South Bendigo in recent years, Woods joined Keilor St Bernards for this season’s AVSL action.

A goal is to surpass the mark of 5.05m to qualify for this year’s world junior track and field championships in Colombia.

To wear the green and gold in Cali in early August is a goal Woods is determined to achieve.

Personal best for the 19-year-old is 4.95m.

A high of his 2021-22 campaign was at the Zatopek 10 meet run on Australia Day at Lakeside Stadium.

Woods soared 4.85m and team-mate Lara Wittey from Box Hill cleared 3.65m to claim the Steve Hooker pole vault challenge.

It was a hat-trick of wins for Woods.

“It was an incredible feeling to win again,” Woods said.

“Lara achieved a personal best and to win against such quality competition meant a lot for both of us.”

The field for the Steve Hooker challenge included Matthew Hosie and Tamara Mancuso, combined height of 8.40; Joel Pocklington and Sarah Melson, 8.30; Andrew Bull and Cassidy Bradshaw, 8.25; Dalton Di Medio and Abigail Delia, 8.05m.

For Woods, training is not just at the athletics track, but also in the gym.

“There’s jumping sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, and then gym workouts three times a week.”

The work he has done in the gym is clearly shown in his arms, quads, and shoulders.

“Pole vault is a lot about power, technique and timing,” said Woods.

He is now coached by Bill Georgantas and is competing with Keilor St Bernards in AVSL and Rare Air meets.

Sessions with Georgantas are at Aberfeldie or Greensborough, so there is a fair amount of travelling from Bendigo involved for Woods.

“We have been working a fair bit on refining my technique. There have been improvements, but there’s still a lot to do, especially to reach 5.05 metres.”

Woods is not fazed by the hard work.

“To vault at the world under-20s in Colombia is what I really want to achieve this year.”

His determination is shown by setting up a GoFundMe page to help push along his championships quest.

Major off-track players are parents Andrea and Glenn.

“They have given me incredible support since I started in athletics.”

The national championships are on from March 26 to April 3 in Sydney.

Another target for Woods is the Oceania titles in June in Mackay, Queensland.

Woods took on pole vaulting five years ago and holds the Bendigo Centre record of 4.80m for open, under-18 and under-20 set on January 11, 2020.

He is joint holder of Bendigo’s under-16 record of 4.20 with Bendigo Harriers’ Jemuel Pryse.

A leap of 4.95m at Box Hill on January 26, 2021 put Woods at top of the Bendigo Residential record list for open, under-20 and under-18.

He also set the residential record of 4.80 for the under-17 age group in December, 2019 in Perth.

To clear 5.05m will not be easy, but dedication to his craft and self-belief have already played a big part in the journey by James Woods to being among the best in the country at such a testing event.