LESS than two years ago Erin Cleaver had never competed seriously on an athletics track.
Naturally, she was nervous.
But the Whitebridge High School student, who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, was a natural.
Cleaver qualified for the NSW Combined High Schools Championships where she won the 100metres, 200m, long jump and javelin for athletes with a disability.
‘‘I was really surprised with how I went with my results,’’ Cleaver said.
‘‘I was expecting to just lose in my first year and then find my way up from there. But from CHS on I just started winning.’’
Eighteen months on the 15-year-old has continued winning.
Cleaver’s development has been so rapid her coach Shaun Fletcher has earmarked her for next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
At the Australian Junior Athletics Championships two weeks ago in Sydney, Cleaver recorded a personal best long jump of 4.43m, which placed her third in the world in her category.
This weekend looms as vital in her burgeoning career.
From Thursday to Sunday, Cleaver will compete in the long jump, 100m and 200m at the Australian Athletics Championships in Brisbane.
Cleaver already has several Paralympic B-qualifiers in all her events.
On the weekend she will begin her hunt for a A-qualifier jump of 4.69m.
‘‘The distance she jumped this year in her classification would have been top four in the world in 2012, 2013, and 2014 – and that’s against open aged athletes,’’ Fletcher said.
‘‘She’s the youngest in the world to be ranked in the top10, so she has lots of potential.
‘‘Athletics Australia already have her in the development squad because they’re confident she’s a realistic chance for the Rio Paralympics next year.’’
Fletcher has been amazed by her development.
‘‘Considering her age and the minimal training she had behind her, she’s competing at a very high level already,’’ he said.
‘‘In the last year she has improved a metre in the long jump, so it’s a rapid progression.
‘‘She came to me with no preconceived ideas or bad habits.’’
In October, Cleaver will travel to Doha, Qatar, for the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World where she will again chase an A qualifier.
Cleaver expects the 100m and 200m may be beyond her reach for Rio, but she is confident of qualifying for the long jump at Doha.
‘‘It’s 4.69m, which is a little bit far at the moment but I know I can probably get it by the time I get to world championships,’’ Cleaver said.