SIX Forrest Beach nippers will travel to the Sunshine Coast at the end of the month to compete at the 2022 Queensland Surf Life Saving Youth State Championships.
Siblings Mariam (15), Benon (13) and Stephen Hall (10), and sisters Ellie (12) and Billie Lahtinen (10) along with Louise Kaurila (13) were named in the North Barrier Branch State Team at the recent branch championships held in Sarina.
All six athletes were selected for their strong performances on the beach and will join athletes from under 11 to under 15 from Townsville’s Picnic Bay, Arcadian, Ayr, Mackay Eimeo and Sarina making up the 65-strong squad.
The team have been training hard over the Christmas break in preparation for the big event which will take place at Alexandra Headlands.
Under 11 competitors Stephen Hall and Billie Lahtinen are following in their older siblings’ footsteps as they embark on their first state championships.
Lahtinen, the current under 11 female beach flags and sprints branch champion said she was excited to make the team in her first year being eligible.
“For the past 2 years I’ve seen my older sister get selected for the North Barrier Branch team and this year I’m finally old enough to get selected too.
“I was so excited. I was jumping up and down with joy,” she said.
With her sister Ellie making the team for the third year in a row, Lahtinen said she’s thrilled to be sharing the experience with her.
“It’s been really great to train together with Ellie and she’s been able to give me some really great tips. I can’t wait to wear the team uniform with her.
“I love competing at carnivals and seeing my friends from other branches. I love going away to carnivals with my whole family,” she said.
Lahtinen hopes to make the most of her first state event as she competes against the best in the state in the beach flags, sprints, one kilometre beach run and beach relays.
“I’m really hopeful to make the most out of this experience and do the best that I can. I’m hoping I don’t get any injuries from competing. I just want to make my family proud.”
Lahtinen will be one to watch along with under 15 competitor and team co-captain, Mariam Hall who is hopeful on another strong performance this year and possible medal contention after placing fifth in the flags and sprints at last year’s championships.
At her final junior state competition, Hall will also be vying for a medal in the march past event. The team is coached by her grandfather and assistant team manager, Lenny Chiesa who will also be travelling with the team.
Hall will again be carrying the flag for the march past team with fellow teammate Louise Kaurila in the belt. The girls were part of the team that brought home the bronze from last year’s championships.
The three-day program is set to be action-packed with thousands of nippers from across the state battling each other in the surf and on the sand in their quest for state glory.
Like her teammates, win or lose Lahtinen can’t wait to get on the beach and compete for her region and rub shoulders with the best in the state.
“I can’t wait to do my favourite events – sprints and flags. I’m really excited to be going away with my whole family, my Forrest Beach teammates and the branch team,” she said.