“BSSC is an amazing learning environment full of supportive staff and great resources. The passion teachers have for their subject really rubs off on you. I’d never switch schools.”

So says Year 12 student, Cameron Smith, who arrived at BSSC unsure about where he wanted VCE to take him.

“My teachers have helped me find my academic passions—I love the sciences and will eventually study a Bachelor of Science majoring in Chemistry or Environmental Science.”

Before that, however, Cameron has another personal Everest he wants to conquer.

“I am also very focused on athletics and the big dream is to represent Australia.”

A member of the Eaglehawk Athletic Club, Cameron is presently attracting attention for his excellent sprint times. His best distances are the 200m and 400m.

He also competes high jump and his proudest moment came in round two of the 2022 Athletics Victoria Shield League when he shattered his high jump PB of 170cm by clearing the bar at 193cm.

High jump athletes are renowned for their eccentric pre-jump rituals and Cameron tells great stories about international competitors’ routines.

Naturally he has his own work-up—something he repeats before every jump and, based on how he’s developing, seems to be proving effective.

Cameron emphasises the importance of being physically and mentally focused.

“You can lose 30cm off a jump if you’re not perfectly in sync physically and mentally,” he says. “And the tactics involved in running a 400m are very complicated.

“When I’ve spent energy too soon in a 400m, and been lactic from 250m, it’s just horrible: you feel really ill and you’ve got nothing more to give.

“At some point I will have to decide whether I want to do running or multi-events—such as high jump and triple jump. What I pursue will come down to what I’m best at.”

Surprisingly Covid was the catalyst that led Cameron into athletics.

“I was playing soccer and the competition was stopped because of the pandemic. I was a bit lost, but went and chatted to Terry Hicks. He tested me and is now my coach.

“Terry is amazing and has become an important role model. Eaglehawk Athletic Club is a supportive group of people and I love how accessible our club is—you only have to pay for your singlet to join.”

Athletics has broadened Cameron’s world in unexpected ways too.

“I’m interacting with people competing at Masters level and I’m coaching ten-year-olds. I’ve also become more aware of what might be going on in the background of someone’s life.

“Putting my hand up to coach made me realise how important volunteers are and I volunteer as an official at competitions too.”

Training also de-stresses Cameron which makes him look forward to it—this is lucky because he trains five times each week, plus Sundays, and has a long run on Saturdays.

“It gives my whole body a reset. If I’m angry I will run harder and jump higher—which is a technique athletes can use to fire up their performance.”

Balancing his schoolwork, training and homework is the biggest challenge Cameron is facing.

“But athletics has taught me discipline, which is transferable to everything else I do.

“I also think school is an opportunity worth having—not just academically, but culturally, socially and in terms of life skills.”

Nobody will be surprised to read that, although there are many people Cameron would love to sit down and talk with, pushed to choose just one, he names the legendary 400m sprinter—and much-admired—Cathy Freeman.

“I think she’s a role model for all Australians, and I’d love to have a conversation with her.

“As an Aboriginal woman she had it tough growing up in Australia—and had to bear harsh criticism for celebrating by carrying the Aboriginal flag on her victory lap in 2000.

“I’d like to hear more about that.”

Another woman who has had a huge impact on Cameron’s life is his mum, who has supported him in all he’s wanted to get involved with.

“I’m grateful for the way she’s raised me and I feel like I have always been at the forefront of her mind.”

However, Cameron does admit she’s had an uphill battle feeding her very tall and eternally hungry son!

Despite his plans to pursue science, Cameron’s favourite subject this year is English Language with Dave van Es.

“I think of English Language as the science of language and I’ve realised the analysis of different types of communication can even apply to different species.”

Asked for a hot study tip, Cameron says he usually begins by spending 10 minutes on each subject reviewing class notes.

“This helps me identify repeating mistakes or things I haven’t quite understood. I also redo exercises we’ve done in class to reinforce the learning and I see my teacher when I’m really struggling.”

However, Cameron does add a caveat to all this: “If the Doggies are playing my homework time management changes to 20 minutes study and 5 minutes watching the footy.”

“I’m happy with how I’ve lived my life so far, but if I could go back and talk with myself when I was only 12, I would say: ‘start aths earlier!’ because beginning in Year 10 was cutting it pretty thin.

“I’d also encourage myself to keep on experiencing the world and taking opportunities—otherwise there’s nothing I’d change.”