Final jump of the competition: final event of the year: one final chance to write her name in the history books. And she did it.
On December 19 2015, in her last outing as a junior, Eliza McCartney cleared 4.64m to add a centimetre to the world U20 pole vault record. She couldn't have left it any later. Here are seven things you need to know about the New Zealander who, after a glittering junior career, is set to take on the world at senior level.
1. Matching Valerie
Double Olympic champion Valerie Adams is the undisputed queen of New Zealand athletics, but Eliza McCartney is already her equal on one front. They are the only Kiwis to hold every national record from U17 through to senior, with McCartney's 4.64m standing as a full NR. It's a dizzying achievement that the 19-year-old is still getting her head around.
“I’ve grown up knowing Valerie as this amazing icon of the sport,” McCartney tells SPIKES, “so to be compared with her and to be on her par with her seems weird. Somehow it just doesn’t seem right.”
2. Star school
They teach them good at Auckland’s Takapuna Grammar School. It has produced TWO current world junior record holders: McCartney and Jacko Gill, men’s junior shot put record holder. McCartney was also classmate of Grammy Award-winning songstress Lorde, aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor.
“I was in most of her classes growing up,” she says. “Everyone always knew she was an amazing singer – that was very obvious from early on. She is amazing.”
McCartney is far too sensible to be drawn into silly request to answer which athletics event Lorde would be best suited to, but perhaps the musician’s sporting interests lie elsewhere: she had a single called Tennis Court, while baseball is said to have inspired her smash hit Royals.
INSTAQUOTE: "I don't know if I can describe the feeling of jumping 4.64m, a new World Junior Record, but I think my facial expression sums it up quite well"
3. All the ingredients
McCartney’s father, William, was a 1.95m high jumper (achieved aged 16) and her mother, Donna, an accomplished gymnast. A combo like that is ideal for the pole vault.
Indeed, her younger brother, Hamish, is also a vaulter. The 16-year-old boasts a best of 3.60m – still more than a metre shy of big sis’ best.
4. Academic ace
Not unsurprisingly for a daughter of a lawyer (dad) and doctor (mum), McCartney is a whiz in the classroom as well as in the pit. She is studying part time towards a degree in physiology. That might be a chore for some, but not the rising pole vault star.
“I really enjoy studying and I will continue to keep that up,” she says.
5. Netball jumper
Aside from being an outstanding pole vaulter, McCartney found that her height (she's 1.79m tall) helped her excel in netball (a sport similar to basketball). A keen defender, she says her background in the sport has done her pole vault career no harm.
“I had a lot of agility, so I liked playing defence because I liked to jump higher than anyone else,” she says. That didn’t change with a pole in her hand.
McCartney has won world champs medals as a youth and a junior, and already holds the our right New Zealand national pole vault record
Training at the AUT Millennium training centre in Auckland – the same New Zealand base of the aforementioned Adams and Gill – McCartney has access to outstanding facilities. She can work on either an indoor and outdoor vaulting runway and has a fully stocked weight room.
AUT is also home to another, less common training aid: a downhill pole vault runway, an innovation dreamed up by McCartney’s coach Jeremy McColl. It’s no gimmick.
“It allows us to reach a greater speed on the runway, which allows us to get on bigger poles without using as much energy on the run up,” she says.
7. Pole’s apart
Typically for a pole vaulter, McCartney has suffered her fair share issues when he comes to transporting her poles.
“There have been a few scares,” admits McCartney, who competes with carbon fibre poles. On one occasion her poles became wedged in the baggage chute after a dozy baggage handler decided that they would fit.
But her biggest alarm occurred at the 2013 World Youth Championships in Donetsk. It was her first overseas competition and she was left to sweat as her poles only arrived a day before she was due to compete.
Yet clearly she made the most of her opportunity in the Ukraine as she finished fourth. It launched her hugely impressive international career, which includes bronze at the 2014 world juniors, silver at last year’s world university games, and, after her last ditch heroics in December, the U20 world record. Time for seniors.