Cody Shanahan will look back on this summer’s track and field season as the one in which he truly felt like he belonged in the elite company of the best under-20 middle distance runners in Australia.

The Western Athletics up-and-comer garnered confidence out of his triumph in the Rob De Castella under-20 three-kilometre race at the Zatopek meeting in December and has been impressing ever since.

“This year, I’ve realised that I actually can do it, so I’m a lot more positive towards training and racing,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan will reflect fondly on that pre-Christmas night at Lakeside Stadium.

But the 19-year-old almost never made it to the starting line. The Point Cook resident was struggling with training in the two weeks prior to the race because of an iron deficiency.

His coach, Peter Burke, encouraged him to battle through.

“I had no energy at training the week leading up, so I almost pulled out the day before,” Shanahan said.

“I spoke to my coach and said, ‘I’m not going to make it, I’m done’, but he convinced me to race – and what a decision that was.

“The under-20s don’t have a three-kilometre event at the national championships, so this one essentially is the national championship.

“It’s the fastest three-kilometre runners under 20 in Australia and two or three from New Zealand, so it was a pretty big win.”

The strong running has continued into the new year for Shanahan. He broke the Western Athletics three-kilometre club record and shaved an incredible 34 seconds off his personal best time in the five kilometres.

Shanahan is looking forward to a big cross-country season.

The apprentice electrician wants to break into the Victoria open-age cross-country

After his break-out season in track and field, Shanahan can dream to be among the elite middle-distance running in the nation.

“To get up with the elite guys in Australia, it could take three or four years to get to that level,” he said.

The future is certainly bright for Western Athletics, if the Victorian Junior Track and Field Championships is any guide.

Western claimed nine gold, seven silver and 15 bronze medals and a swag of personal bests and Australian Junior Athletics Championship qualifying times at the three-day Lakeside Stadium meet.

On day one, there were gold medals for under-18 triple jumper Jotham Kuku, under-18 5000-metre walker Heath Beveridge and under-18 1500-metre runner Matthew

Western claimed five golds on day two, including Beveridge, who doubled up in the under-16 3000-metre walk, Aliyah Canepa in the under-17 discus, Kaylee Mangion in the under-15 200-metre hurdles, Mia White in the under-16 2000-metre steeplechase and Kirk Shanahan in the under-20 3000-metre steeplechase.

Canepa claimed her second gold medal on day three in the under-17 hammer throw.