OUR next generation stars are demanding our attention right now - and they deserve it.
Ballarat's emerging talent has been serving up world-class action on multiple sporting fronts in the past week alone.
We are a regional city with an impressive international and domestic sporting reputation yet too often it can be easy to forget the tiers that take us to these elite stages. Our athletes never just burst into elite ranks, they put in incredibly hard work to get there.
University of Colorado basketball starter Jeremiah McKenzie has turned on a three-point masterclass with Ballarat Miners, back from the United States in his summer holidays. The Horsham export has helped drive the Miners to a Big V youth league men's championship series, starting at Selkirk Stadium on Saturday night.
McKenzie has been far from alone in leading the Miners while the likes of Amos Brooks, Lucas Impey, Zac Dunmore, Will Hynes and Ned Renfree all clocking consistent minutes with the Miners' NBL1 team this season.
More than 20 years have passed since Ballarat tasted the ultimate victory in Big V action. Ballarat Lady Miners secured the championship women's division three-peat in 2000 amid one of Basketball Ballarat's most prolific on-court eras.
The Miners' best-of-three finals series against Ringwood, and the playing experience it offers, is crucial in continuing to fuel the Miners' basketball program - not just for Ballarat, but for western Victoria - and the potential doors this could open up for players to take their games to the next level.
We need these strong sporting foundations.
While Ballarat has been keenly watching Commonwealth Games action in Birmingham, less than four years our from our tilt at hosting track and field, we should also keep a close eye on Columbia.
Schoolboys Cooper Sherman and Lachlan O'Keefe have passed their qualifying rounds in the IAAF World Under-20 Championships.
Sherman, aged 18, ran a personal best time of 46.94 seconds in the men's 400-metre semi-final on Thursday morning (Ballarat time). He was the fastest non-automatic qualifier to the semis with a goal to break 47 seconds for the first time in the distance.
High jumper Lachlan O'Keefe was set to final action early Saturday morning. The 17-year-old reached the final with a qualifying jump of 2.08 metres, seven centimetres below his best.
Eighteen-year-old Alanna Peart was listed to follow in the footsteps of her Olympian cousins Jared and Rachel Tallent, in the women's 10,000m race walk. Peart is coached by Jared, an Olympic gold medallist and one of Australia's most decorated athletes, who competed in the world junior athletics championships in Jamaica four years before his Commonwealth Games debut for Melbourne 2006.
Yual Reath, the 22-year-old landscape gardener, contested his first IAAF World Championship meet in the high jump in the United States last month.
These are the hometown heroes we hope will continue to build for when Mars Stadium will transform into a world-class athletics venue in four years time.
And there are a host more youngsters pushing through in track and field events.
Our strength on the water was also on show to start the week in World Rowing under-19 action in Italy.
Ballarat Clarendon College trio Lucy Richardson, Katie Jackson and Head of the Lake winner Ellie McClure clocked the fastest time for an Australian women's under-19 eight, finishing third in the B-final in six minutes and 25 seconds.
St Patrick's College rower Tom Foley also featured in the Australian men's eight.
Each athlete will bring their experience back to Ballarat, which in turn helps to build on our rich sporting history. The next steps are tough, but these are huge strides our athletes are taking right now to reach the highest levels they can.
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