By TONY WHITE
ACCOMPLISHED Yamba athlete Alyce Bennett is rapidly making up for lost time.
The 17-year-old Yamba surf lifesaver will defend her Sportsfest women's title at Yamba's Whiting Beach tomorrow in the annual event expected to attract big crowds of spectators.
Bennett admits to a rude awakening in November when she took part in her first surf event after completing her HSC ? the XXXX carnival at North Caloundra.
"I knew I was a bit behind the eight-ball because I hadn't put the hours in the pool but I just had no endurance and it nearly killed me," she said. "It was really annoying.
"I was a bit better during the inter branch championships at Soldiers Beach, but I've stepped up my training to twice a day three times a week to try and catch up."
Bennett's acceptable level of fitness would be the envy of most athletes.
Sportsfest is a fun event for Bennett.
"Last year I was more relaxed and fitter, I just decided to give it a go and have some fun. It's that type of day ? have fun and compete," she said. "It's different to surf carnivals. The pressure isn't the same.
"The standard of competition is getting better and better each year."
Organiser Ray Hunt expects increased family participation this year.
"I'm expecting a lot more kids to enter," he said. "And I expect the various age groups to be keenly contested affairs, particularly in the swimming events.
"A number of triathletes are coming up from Coffs Harbour so the rivalry between the top guys like Hugh Dougherty should be really good."
Registration is between 7-8am and the first event at 8.30am.