Top honour for athlete
WITHIN the space of a week, Proserpine State High School student Howard McDonald has won a national gold, held the Queen's Baton and sat exams.
The local 16-year-old threw 60.96 metres to take first place on the podium for the under-18's javelin event at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships in Sydney on Saturday before flying back to the Whitsundays and pulling on the sports shoes again to carry one of sports highest honours on Monday.
Howard was among the 14 prominent Whitsunday community members who took it in turns to carry the Queen's Baton on its epic journey from England to the Gold Coast ahead of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Receiving the baton from Georgia Murray at the Coral Sea Resort, the up-and-coming javelin star took the baton down Broadwater Ave before handing it on to Jan Claxton of Ocean Rafting.
Sergeant John Dickinson ran the final leg through a guard of honour made up of Whitsunday torch bearers for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
Howard's mother, Sue McDonald, who spoke on her son's behalf as he sits exams this week said it was of special significance because Howard had his mind set to compete in a future Commonwealth Games.
The newly crowned champion even received a shout out from Mayor Andrew Willcox during his speech at the Airlie Beach Lagoon after the final leg of the Queen's Baton Relay.
"It's been a really lovely week,” Mrs McDonald said.
"It was just amazing for him to be in the baton relay - such a huge honour and he he really loved it.
"He is feeling over the moon.”
And the young gun isn't all brawn and no brains, according to his proud mum.
"The school has been really wonderful, they have really supported what he's doing,” she said.
"He took all his study with him to Sydney.”
Howard has been reportedly nursing an injured elbow in the lead up to the event, but that didn't stop him winning by over a metre which was a little off his personal best of 63.21m that he threw in Adelaide last year.
"As a mum - it's pretty amazing what he's achieved, since he only started athletics in high school and within five years to become a national champion,” Mrs McDonald said.
"He loves the sport- and it's safe to say I'm pretty proud of him.
"He's a bit of an all rounder, very academic and was state swimmer when he was younger.”
The McDonald family also have tickets to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to watch two nights of athletics (including the men's javelin) and one night of swimming.
Across the country, baton bearers will take more than a million steps to take the baton to its final destination, the Opening Ceremony on April 4.