Australian Athlete: The Rise of Keely Small


Athletics Australia

An article preview from Australian Athlete, by Dr Philo Saunders:

At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Keely Small became the fastest ever Australian junior over 800m, setting a new U20 (and U18) record of 2·00 81. Keely’s coach Philo Saunders takes a look over Keely’s background and training. 

Keely burst into the headlines on Saturday 11 March 2017 after winning the Canberra Track Classic in a sizzling 2:01.46. Not only did she beat the best 800m runners in Australia, but she did so at the age of 15! For many, the result may have seemed to come from nowhere, but for those close to Keely and who have followed her career it was not an unexpected result by this exceptionally gifted athlete.

Keely has dominated her age group right through little athletics and ran 2:10.01 at the age of just 13! I knew of Keely’s performances and ability as her previous coach (Paul Tarley) was a committee member with me at the Canberra Redback’s Athletics Club. Paul’s development group started joining  in training sessions with my group as many of them were very good and looking for a senior group to train with to take the next step. Josh Tarley did most  of the sessions with my group but the younger runners including Keely mostly did Paul’s sessions. I remember Keely joining in with a few of our training sessions in 2014/15 when Melissa Duncan and Brittany McGowan were training in my group. Such was Keely’s ability in these training sessions that we asked her to pace the Open 1500m race at the 2015 Canberra Track Classic where Melissa and Brittany’s aim was to run around 4:10. Unfortunately Keely suffered a broken foot when a friend dropped a weight on it in a sports store. After this, I followed Keely’s progression as she was often at the AIS doing sessions with  Paul’s group.

As Keely kept improving she started doing more sessions with my group. Towards the end of 2016 I started giving her more feedback and began to write a training program for her. Running with faster male athletes was just what Keely needed to take the next step in her running career. I was so impressed how she went about her business. Keely would fly under the radar turning up and doing whatever session was on the program. As there were male athletes much faster, it was only when asked the times she had been running for the reps that you realised how much she was improving and that she was set for some big break through runs in the coming season.

An article preview from Australian Athlete. By Dr Philo Saunders.

To read the full article purchase your copy of Australian Athlete, available June 6 – pre-order now




Become part of our Commonwealth Games Australia family and get all the latest news our team members!