Hunter Clark wasn’t first across the line in Saturday’s 3km time trial, in fact, he finished just outside the top 10.

With running machines Ed Phillips and Dan McKenzie first across the line, it was a host of seasoned senior players that followed next.

Jack Newnes flew home in fourth, Jack Steele powered across the line soon after, while Jack Lonie showcased his improved endurance to finish just behind the likes of Seb Ross and Jarryn Geary.

WATCH: Phillips crowned time trial king

But it was Clark that left the biggest impression.

The silky-skilled youngster was back in the field when the same distance was run in the early stages of pre-season in November.

His smooth running style pointed to someone with huge athletic potential, but the tank wasn’t quite there.

Fast-forward two months and the leading pack were still in sight when Clark rounded the final bend of the athletics track.

His time dramatically improved, the No. 7 draft pick was exhausted at the finish but clearly happy with the huge step forward.

"I smashed my PB which I was pretty happy with, and got a target that Richo set to me," Clark told

I beat that (target) by a bit, so it was a really good run for me personally, and all the boys ran really well, so it was a good start."

"When Richo set me a target for my 3km, it was to enable me to play more time in the midfield, so that's what I've been training to do, and hopefully I can continue to train well and show that I can play there."

Midfield coach Brendon Lade said it was exciting to see Clark improve so quickly.

“To be running those sorts of times in just his second pre-season is impressive, but it also shows how hard he has worked in the past two months to improve his fitness,” Lade said.

“We know how skillful and clean he is with the ball in his hands, but to play regular minutes through the midfield you also need the tank.

We need the young guys doing exactly what he’s doing, and that’s putting themselves in a position to impact games for longer."

“What’s exciting is that he wasn’t alone when it came to improved times on Saturday, and that all the young guys were running really well.

“It gives a great platform to train really strongly over the next 13 sessions before the JLT Series kicks off.”