In 2006, Athletics Tasmania launched an under-17 development squad.
It was part of a long-term strategy by Athletics Australia seeking to identify and nurture promising track and field participants.
It has taken more than a decade, but two of the fresh-faced young talents among the initial intake are about to collect their tracksuits for the senior world championships in London.
It is to be hoped they don’t get each others. Similar in age and height they may be, but Hamish Peacock’s frame may contain a bit more muscle than Josh Harris’s.
Peacock was in that initial squad as a javelin thrower, Harris as a steeplechaser.
Eleven years on, the former has specialised in his craft, making three senior world titles plus an Olympics and Commonwealth Games (where he won a bronze medal) having also been a tidy thrower of discus and shot put.
The latter, in his own words, took a while to realise that his best event was also the toughest and despite since monopolising state 5000m titles will make his world championship debut in the marathon.
Born three months and 200km apart in 1990, both feature among a Tasmanian all-comers record-holders list alongside such distinguished names as Sebastian Coe, John Walker and Ryan Gregson (another product of the inaugural nationwide development squad).
The University of Tasmania Athletics Club teammates have also both dabbled in the triple jump, but the less said about that the better.
Underpinned by the Tasmanian Institute of Sport and involving camps at the national institute in Canberra, the program sought to instill a sense of professionalism into athletes, educate them about fundamentals such as nutrition, recovery and the role of Athletics Australia, convince them they had a future in the sport and expose them to a higher level of coaching.
Peacock’s father Evan also attended as part of his own coaching development. Three years later he was named Australian junior coach of the year.
“We knew from about the age of 14 that Hamish had some talent but having this created really helped along the way,” he said.
Just a year later, Peacock Jnr won a silver medal at world youth championships and his career path to Moscow, Beijing, London, Glasgow, Paris and Rio de Janeiro was locked in.
In contrast to such exotic locations, Harris went to Kings Meadows.
As he took time to ascertain his best discipline, the former Brooks High student became a high school maths teacher – credentials that would prove valuable in his spare time when calculating individual kilometer time splits.
Described by former Athletics Tasmania president and my fellow columnist Brian Roe as “the state’s quiet achiever”, Harris claimed national bronze medals in three different disciplines – on the track over 3000m and in both half and full marathon.
Although London represents his full international debut, he has already worn the green and gold on both the track and in cross-country in world university games while Monday was the first anniversary of him claiming Australian records for 25,000m and 30,000m at the Hobart Domain.
The two-time Tasmanian distance athlete of the year and former beer mile world record-holder is not a great one for taking himself too seriously.
The home page of his personal website carries a photo from the Melbourne marathon of a group also containing Craig Mottram and Jess Trengove.
The Oympians are a picture of concentration, oblivious to all around them.
Harris is giving a thumbs up for the camera and sporting a huge, infectious grin.
The same picture is used in his Twitter profile, although it cuts his own head off.
Six weeks ago, as the majority of world championship representatives were jetting off to warmer climes to finalise their preparation, Harris could be found at windswept Windsor Park, Riverside, pausing a training run to cheer on his Kings Meadows students in the all-schools cross-country championships.
Harris’s laid-back (and often shirt-less) approach to his running should not mask the enormity of his achievement in making it to London via such diverse marathon outposts as Fukuoka, Berlin, Lake Biwa, Rotterdam, Adelaide and Ross.
“I’m really looking forward to the experience of representing Australia and have done everything I can to leave my best performance out there,” Harris said this week.
“I’m aware that we are racing during summer and during the middle of the day, so I’ll be aiming to run sensibly and come through the field in the second half of the race. My PB is 2:17.08, and I’m looking to outrun my ranking.”
It has been a quarter of a century since the state had even three at this level, when Simon Hollingsworth, Gail Luke (both 400m hurdles) and Susan Andrews (400m) competed at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Meanwhile, the state program which originally unearthed Peacock and Harris is still running and continuing to nurture budding athletes.