Q&A with Taylah Perry, Executive Officer VAL

Date: 4th March 2022

Congratulations on your new appointment as Executive Officer of the VAL.  How did the role come about and what are you hoping to achieve?

When I saw former CEO Tom’s role advertised it felt like the perfect opportunity to challenge myself and expand my career in a sport that I’m passionate about and especially within a community that I already know and love. I hope I can carry on Tom’s legacy and continue to grow and improve pro running across the State – our sport has a rich history and still so much potential. I hope to continue fine tuning our background processes in the office and obviously the quality of all events on the VAL calendar.

Can you talk us through your working career to date?  We understand you come from the world of Little Athletics?

My career in sport kicked off at Little Athletics Victoria, I was extremely fortunate to be part of the LAVic team for just shy of 5 years – my role was Membership, Programs and Merchandise Coordinator, which covered a broad range of activities from liaising with 100+ Little Athletics Centres across the State, designing LAVics Championship t-shirts and managing their online store, to organising specific community events and sponsor activations. Working in a supportive, small team environment, gave me the perfect platform to learn and build my confidence – CEO, Anthony McIntosh was integral to my career development and has really shaped how I now operate as a sports administrator and as a leader. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I had with LAVIC and the team I was lucky enough to work with, leaving was not an easy decision! Thankfully, I am now only down the hallway and still get to see them frequently.

You are continuing with your pro running which is terrific, can you tell us where you are at with your training and competing?

Adjusting to my new role has interrupted my training a little but all things considered I’m very happy with where I’m at. Having training at the end of the day ensures I step away from my desk for an hour or so and get some fresh air!

Competition days are a little different, learning to juggle my work hat and my athlete hat, has taking some time but I feel I’ve adjusted reasonably well, I have always managed to perform pretty well under pressure – I just remind myself on the start line to take the work hat off and focus for 14 seconds, channel everything into the track.

How did you get into pro running?

I got back into athletics after a year off for year 12, returning to the track in 2014 I was in search of a coach and was introduced to Shane McKenzie – I’ve been training with him ever since. Shane has been on the pro circuit since before I was born (ha, sorry Shane!) so there was never any doubt he would have me racing in the pros in no time. I’ve now been racing in pros for almost 10 years and still love it just as much as the first year!

What are your pro running highlights?

This is a tough one, there have been so many – winning the Stonnington Gift is certainly up there, I was 18 and freshly moved out of home, it was a pretty tough time in my life and winning set me up for the next 12 months. It was completely unexpected and took a huge weight off my shoulders. Making the Strickland Family Women’s Gift Final in 2017 is probably my equal highlight, at the time I was shattered to have come 4th but a few weeks later I found out I was actually pretty unwell and probably lucky to have been as fit as I was. I like to think everything happens for a reason, sometimes it just takes a bit longer to work out the reason!

Any thoughts about the future of the sport?  

I hope my existing relationships with Little Athletics and Athletics Victoria will continue to strengthen, there is so much potential and so many ways for us to work together – we’re starting to see more and more athletes crossing from amateurs to pros and back again, which is great! I think all athletes should be encouraged to give both a go, they’re both very different experiences in terms of athlete pathways, expectations and outcomes. At the end of the day, it will be up to the athlete to decide their priorities – for me pros is a bit of fun, I get to hang out with my friends, I get an opportunity to be competitive and I never know who is going to win, but when it comes to wanting to run a PB or lining up for State Champs you’ll see me at AV!

 Who do you admire; any heroes?

To be honest I don’t really have any sporting heroes, plenty that I liked and look up to but not sure I’d call them my heroes. For me, my family are my heroes, each one of them has shaped me and made me the person I am today.

Who do you think are the athletes to watch this season?

I’ll be honest when it comes to results, I tend to only really look at the women’s races, mainly because I’m in them. So, picking athletes to watch is a bit tough! I think the Strickland Family Women’s Gift Final this year will be incredible, there are so many ladies that will be looking like the favourite, I truly can’t pick!

What is your academic background/credentials?

I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Event Management at Latrobe University in 2016.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Heathmont and now live around the corner in Bayswater, Victoria.

Time for any other hobbies?

Training takes up most of my spare time but anyone who knows me, knows I’m pretty passionate about my veggie garden and saving the planet.

What are your thoughts on the Powercor Stawell Gift Carnival and why it is the one everyone wants to win?

The Stawell Gift always feels extra special, it’s the culmination of hours of training and racing coming together in one grand finale – the atmosphere when you walk through the gates at Central Park is electric, everyone is excited and you can almost feel the history!

Winning the Stawell Gift is putting your name down in 140 years worth of history, it’s creating a story that your family will talk about for generations to come – I think a lot of people assume it’s because of the prize money (it certainly helps) but if you’ve raced in the Stawell Gift, you’ll know the feeling that I’m struggling to put into words. It’s about the sash, the prestige, the honour and of course the bragging rights!



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