ATHLETICS coach Gerrard Keating reckons Montana Monk and Sarah Pickering are as "thick as thieves".
The runners began training together about 18 months ago, when Pickering joined Keating's squad.
Since then, they've been bouncing off each other, building a camaraderie and healthy rivalry that has helped drive their competitiveness in training.
Both girls will compete at the Australian Athletics Championships this week, after successful results at the Little Athletics State Championships late last month.
Keating credited Monk's dedication to training, saying it had helped Pickering.
"Every session she does is just quality," he said.
"I've never seen somebody whose training is just so consistently of high quality, there's never any dip. She really does train like an elite senior athlete, and that's helped Sarah and Sarah's helped Montana. They really do complement each other."
Keating says the pair's friendship has helped them develop on the track and recalled a close third-fourth result in a race at the All Schools nationals in December when they finished within a second of each other.
"It's my worst nightmare, it really, really is, because you know that one's going to be disappointed," he said.
"They both ran great, Sarah ran third and Montana ran fourth. She was genuinely really happy for Sarah."
Monk and Pickering are in separate age groups this week, despite both being 15.
Monk will run in the under-16 400 metres before the 800 metres later in the week.
She finished third in both events at the national championships this time last year and said she was hoping to run new personal best times.
She described her training buddy Pickering as a "crazy" and "confident" individual.
Pickering, who will consider running in the under-17 1500 metres midweek before her pet event of the 800 metres, said Monk had been a motivational force.
"We really do work off each other," she said.
"It's been so vital to have another girl around my age, around my ability in the area to go train with. Since we competed together at the last nationals in December, we were so close to each other in that race we've been really wanting to one-up each other in every competition.
"It's just me and Montana trying to work to get to the line faster and trying to get the best out of each session."
Keating says he has "been lucky" with the elite talent in the Hunter he coaches.
"They just all are really professional in the way they go about things, and it just rubs off," he said. "And that's what I've always tried to create, an environment of success breads success and learn off your training partners."
A number of athletes from the Hunter are competing in the national championships this week.
The event runs from Monday to Sunday.