Question: What are your legs?

Answer: Steel springs.

Q: What are they going to do?

A: Hurl me down the track.

Q: How fast?

A: Like a Leopard.


JAMES Denton, a 15-year-old sprinter and the nation’s freshest Under 16 Men’s 400-metre champion, may just embody this saying.

The Warragul wunderkind has trained and represented the Moe Little Athletics Club since taking up athletics eight years ago.

Over the 2023/24 Australian summer athletics season, James walked away from three national level events with the same number of Gold medals. He even won Gold at the January Colgate North Island Games held in New Zealand.

But April was the sprinter’s biggest month on the calendar by far, and was capped off by winning a Gold medal in the Men’s 15 Years 400m at the Coles Little Athletics Championships held in Adelaide at the end of April.

He was the fastest of seven competitors representing Australia’s Little Aths clubs across the line in 51.63 seconds.

James was backing up another golden run in the Under 14 Men’s 400m at the Chemist Warehouse Australian Athletics Championships, also in Adelaide.

You could call the 400m James’ pet event – he likes it because it’s challenging.

At the Australian Athletics Championships, James cruised to pole position in the first of two heats, qualifying for the final with a time of 52.21 seconds.

James stepped onto the South Australia Athletics Stadium track at 1.15pm the next day, in conditions different from running under lights in the heats the night before.

James said winning the Gold medal felt “incredibly satisfying”. However, surprise came before elation.

The final would come to be encapsulated in James’ own term – “challenging”. Not just because the 400m event is the grittiest test of speed and endurance, but because he had to chase the title to the line.

As the athletes took their mark, commentator Nick Wall predicted – and James would later prove wrong – that one of his Victorian compatriots and defending champion, Matthew Milias, would take out the title only to be beaten if another competitor ran a stronger 300m split.

James started from lane six, while Matthew started behind him in lane five. Although James posted one of the quickest 300m splits – about 38 seconds – he had work to do off the last bend because Milias was the first to hit the 300m mark.

Milias was leading and looked like a sure winner with 50, 20, and even 10 metres to go. However, finishing with impeccable technique, James’ tall figure loomed and could be seen moving more efficiently, smoothly, and comfortably.

With legs like steel springs, James hurled his body towards the line, running over the top of Milias in what was a photo finish.

Shock: A sweet ending to a gutsy run by James Denton saw him win by a whisker in a time of 50.39 seconds. Photograph supplied

To the human eye, determining the winner was a flip of the coin. Wall’s call that, “Milias will take the title!” boomed over the speaker but was quickly met with uncertainty.

“I don’t know about that, Nick – that was a close finish,” another commentator replied.

As a slow-motion replay captured the photo finish and the official results aired on the big screen, James looked shocked, having already congratulated Milias and waited seconds for the results to appear.

“James Denton is your national champion” rang out across the stadium.

The clock stopped in 50.39 seconds as James crossed the line, beating his Victorian compatriot, who had led the race from the beginning by 0.01 seconds.

“Initially, I was in shock, however when it sunk in, I was very proud of myself and that all my training was worth it,” James said.

Proud: James is embraced by his brother Benjamin after he was announced as the champion. Photograph supplied

At the finish line, James was emphatically embraced by his brother Benjamin before he looked to the camera in disbelief and shook his head.

But as a bright smile crossed his face, a look of pride shone through.

James certainly has a lot to be proud of. Among his achievements in the athletics season, James also won a silver medal at the Little Athletics Championships in the 15 Years 200m. He was awarded the Gippsland Sports Academy Junior Gippstar Award for the month of November in 2023. In December 2023, he won Gold at the Australian All Schools Track and Field Championships that were held in Perth.

James said he hopes to pursue athletics on a global level, with the ambition to compete at the World Junior Championships in the individual 400m and team 4x400m relay events. He also said securing a scholarship to study and compete at the college level in America is another goal.

So, watch the athletics space because James Denton may soon be more than a national junior champion.