STEWART McSweyn was born a winner.
He pipped his twin brother Angus in entering the world by two minutes and has since been ticking off milestones with great success.
His most significant benchmark moments have come in the past year.
The King Island middle distance runner and former Ballarat Clarendon College student won numerous state and national championships, and set Tasmanian state records.
McSweyn, 21, joined the renowned Melbourne Track Club 12 months ago – a move credited to his rise into the national spotlight.
The thinly-built runner spends his training days testing himself against some of Australia’s premium athletic talent.
These include the country’s fastest ever 1500m runner Ryan Gregson, 5000m specialist Brett Robinson, two-time Olympian David McNeill and 2016 Launceston mile champion Jordy Williamsz.
“I’ve got a bit stronger, I’ve started to take my running a bit more seriously…I’ve learnt a lot off them and progressing under the Nic Bideau regime – it’s working wonders at the moment,” McSweyn said.
“When I go back home it’s a slog, I’m running around the farm a fair bit on my own, which is a lot different to training on pretty good surfaces in Melbourne.
“I am running about 160km, which is pretty much two runs a day except for Fridays and Sundays and then three gym sessions a week.
“It’s an enjoyable place to be as you’re with 10 of your good mates every day slogging it out and learning off guys who have been to a couple of Olympics.
“It’s just so motivating trying to achieve some of the stuff they have achieved.”
McSweyn got into running at King Island District School and honed his skills running around his parents Scott and Jacky’s beef and merino sheep farm before boarding at Ballarat Clarendon College from Year 7, a move which linked him up with the Eureka Athletics Club and strong Ballarat distance running culture.
McSweyn won his maiden national cross country title in Canberra, finishing the 10km Stromlo Forest course to become the fourth Tasmanian to win the title, and the first since Devonport distance running champion David Chettle won in 1977.
He said the combination of cross country and steeplechase was a good one and he would continue to strive for excellence in both.
“I think they work well together.
“The steeple even though it’s only 3km is a strength event as well and cross-country is very similar – it’s a lot of strength through the heels on the undulating terrain,” he said.
“With world cross-country early in the year it’s a good basis to get the aerobic fitness before you start doing more track specific stuff later in the year.”
The 2017 Tasmanian Institute of Sport scholarship holder made his 10,000m debut at December’s Zatopek 10 in Melbourne, finishing second in the national championship.
The result moved him into number two on the Tasmanian all-time list behind Chettle.
McSweyn holds Tasmanian records for 3000m which he achieved in Finland, 3000m steeplechase and 5000m..
But there is one record in his sights – the national Australian steeplechase record of 8:16.22 set by Shaun Creighton in 1993.
“I think I can drop a lot of time as I’m running better than I have last year and my technique and strength is getting better. I definitely think I can run, if everything goes right, 8:20 this year.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do to become a world-class athlete, but I’m slowly moving up the domestic ranks and hopefully this year I can try and make a mark overseas.”
After finishing fourth in the mile race at Latrobe in Tasmania last week, winning the Devonport equivalent and running a strong second behind Gregson in Burnie on New Year’s Day during the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals series, McSweyn has two simple goals for 2017.
Make March’s world cross-country championships in Kampala, Uganda, and qualify for the Australian team in the steeplechase, 5000m and 10,000m for August’s world championships in London.
Long term, McSweyn has the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympics firmly in his sights.