ATHLETICS: When Erica Tillman steps up to her mark at the start of the long jump runway, there is one thought running through her head.
"I just think to myself, 'you can do this', and then I just go for it,” Tillman said.
It is a positive and straightforward attitude that has seen the South Grafton High School student take on the best at the NSW All Schools athletics championships and come out on top.
Tillman narrowly missed a personal best in the triple jump event to clinch the gold medal but equalled it in high jump for a bronze.
She jumped a 11.87 metres in the triple jump final to beat the next best jumper at 11.65m.
It was an achievement that had the Year 11 student on top of the world as she qualified for the Australian All School championships in Adelaide in December.
"It was pretty tough (in Sydney),” she said. "I knew some of the girls were going to be pretty competitive and they definitely challenged me to reach my best.”
While the competition might have pushed her, Tillman did not need much motivation as she always strives to beat her best.
"If I know there is a chance of placing then I will definitely go for it, but achieving a PB is always first and foremost in my mind,” she said. "It is really good to know you are improving on yourself and you always have yourself to beat. It also helps to always have motivation.
"I think the mental side of things is half the battle, especially in high jump because it is one of the toughest events. You are always competing with yourself mentally.”
While it does take a lot of mental preparation to succeed on the track it also takes a lot of physical preparation, with training most days of the week.
While she does Grafton Little Athletics every Friday, she also does two days of sprint training, one day of high jump training and a day of strength work at a physio.
"It is a lot of training but I just love doing it,” she said.
"I love competing and I love striving to make myself better on the track.”
It is this striving that will see the South Grafton student compete in only her second heptathlon - a seven-discipline event that includes the long jump, high jump, javelin, shot put, 100m hurdles, 200m sprint and 800m run - at Queensland state titles next year.
"I am not the best thrower or runner but it is good to mix up the competitions a bit and just have a go at it,” Tillman said.