FROM wilderness to state representative, Kelsey Wilkes has enjoyed a rapid rise in the world of triathlon.
The self-motivated 18-year-old improvised her own training with limited resources to compete against athletes with state-of-the-art training facilities and top notch coaches at their own doorsteps - and won.
As her father Dion Wilkes recalled, Kelsey was "the only one without her name on her swimmers" when she ran third at the Forster Challenge in November.
That has all changed.
"We were waiting for the presentation when a national talent scout came and asked about her background," Mr Wilkes said.
"She's done sport her whole life, but they'd never seen her and all of a sudden she was beating kids who had been in squads for years."
Wilkes' attention-grabbing performances in NSW Elite Energy Series races late last year earned a call-up into the Triathlon NSW Development Squad.
This included a two-week training camp at Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith last month. From there she joined a select group in Wollongong as part of the Performance Squad.
"It's been full-blown training over the holidays," Kelsey said. "A real eye-opener to see the other girls and I met so many new people."
Previously a talented cyclist and prior to that state swimmer, Wilkes chose her final year at McCarthy Catholic College to launch her assault on triathlon.
The only missing link in the chain - running.
"I have never really been a runner," the multi-talented athlete said.
"I thought I can swim and ride, surely I can run as well.
"It is definitely my weakest leg, but I'm working hard to improve it.
"I always like the bike leg best. Then when I run, if the legs are heavy and tired and it's painful I just tell myself there's only 20 minutes left."
That same perseverance and determination that keeps the end goal in sight has proven a valuable trait on the home front. Often alone in her athletic quest, Wilkes has relied on self-motivation.
"Usually I'm motivated enough to do stuff on my own," she said.
"But sometimes it does get really hard and I get sick of having no one to train with.
"It is hard without a lot of other people pushing you or encouraging you.
"So it was great at the camp. There were so many people in common."
This issue will soon become a thing of the past.
On February 23, Wilkes will compete in her first Australian Junior Triathlon Championships at Brighton, Victoria, before crossing Bass Strait for the Oceania titles in Devonport.
When she returns she will base herself in Lennox Head where she will train with triathlon coach Grant Giles and commute to Lismore to study Exercise Science and Nutrition at Southern Cross University.
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