19 Feb 2018
Golden national championships for NSW
In very humid conditions, the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast was, for the first occasion, in track and field mode as it hosted the Australian Athletics Championships and nomination trial for the Commonwealth Games. Many NSW athletes secured automatic selection, while others await a phone call from the selectors to return in April for the Games. Here is a rundown of many of the NSW performances.
NSW sprint champion, Larissa Pasternatsky (SYU) knew the scenario, she need to clocked a 200m qualifier to enhance her selection prospects. Firstly, she bypassed the 100m and in the 200m heat, with two days recovery before the final, she went for it in the heat, but was foiled by a -1.2m/s coming close with 23.47. In the semi, with a tailwind she went even faster, 23.46. In the final she clocked another PB of 23.27 (-1.7m/s) to place third. Quarter-miler, Jess Thornton (ILL), stepping down the distance and placed fifth in 23.48.
The fastest 400m athlete in Australia this summer, Anneliese Rubie (SYU), confirmed that ranking with a hard-fought win in the final in 51.92, over 17-year-old Bendere Oboya (CBT) whose time of 51.94 ranked her as the third best junior in Australian history.
"To be honest, I can't remember much of it,” said Rubie. “All I remember is with 100 metres to go I was fourth, but I felt amazing, so I thought 'I've got this, keep it cool'. Then with 10 metres to go I knew I had to dip, so I just ran all the way through the line, almost face planted, but managed to salvage that."
Oboya’s result was one of the performances of the meet.
"Usually I run hard in the first 200m, and I knew I had to stay close to all the girls,” she said.
Was it a surprise?
"I definitely thought I could do it. It just matters how I feel, and it worked out all fine today."
One of the revelations of the season continued in the 800m, with Lauren Reid in her debut season over the distance, now aged 32, she was fourth across the line in a sensational PB of 2:03.83. Another remarkable story has been the comeback of Chloe Tighe (KEJ) this summer. In the 1500m, in just her fifth 1500m/mile race this summer, she achieved her third PB to run 4:11.12.
In a terribly close race, Olympic semi-finalist Jenny Blundell (SYU) missed a medal by 0.85 seconds, defending champion Heidi See (HIL) was sixth (4:14.06), on debut at the nationals Lauren Reid was ninth (4:14.75) and Regan Abigail (tenth, 4:15.00).
She hadn’t even nominated for the event for the Commonwealth Games team, and why would she was running her first track 5000m for six years. But the untapped-talented, Celia Sullohern (MQH), quickly resolved that administrative requirement after she won the trial and achieved automatic selection in the 5000m to go along with her 10,000m.
"I am just trying to get my legs back on the track and getting used to that sort of tactical running," said Sullohern who this season has been reintroducing herself to track racing.”
Second place in the race was Madeline Hills (KEJ), who made a great return from injury to secure automatic selection.
“So really happy as it was first race back in a very long time after injury," said a relieved Hills. “I knew I just needed to finish top two (to qualify for Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games), so obviously I wanted to win the race. But to be honest, I'm just as happy knowing that I can walk away and have the next few days knowing that I'm in and hopefully I'll get the 10 (qualify for 10,000m) as well.”
In third was Eloise Wellings (SUT), who will need to await a decision by the selectors as she seeks selection in her fourth Commonwealth games team.
Rising to the occasion in the 100m hurdles, Michelle Jenneke (SYU) nailed second place and an automatic selection with a season’s best time of 13.14.
One of the most amazing improvements on the weekend was that of Sarah Carli (WOL) in the 400m hurdles. Seven years since she won silver at the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2011, she has smashed her personal best and moved from 29th to 14th Australian All Time. She also nailed a B qualifier and now waits the selectors nod for possible addition to the team.
Two-time Commonwealth Games representative, Victoria Mitchell (AEA) could not be denied as she won the National title, turning back a group of rising young stars. Leading the change was NSW’s Paige Campbell, who had won the major leadup race and at the trials placed second in a PB of 9:49.00 and moving up one place to number six Australian all-time.
"I felt really good, and didn't look at the time once during the race,” said Mitchell. “I was thinking 'just win', and with a kilometre to go I was coping well and knew I could bring it home.”
Dani Stevens’ (WES) 17th national title also confirmed her selection for her third Commonwealth Games team.
After the first three rounds in the women’s hammer throw, Alex Hulley (SUT) looked in control with 64.66m, two metres ahead of five-time national champion Lara Nielsen (Qld). But in round four, Nielsen pounced, taking the lead by just three centimetres with a throw of 64.69m. On the very next throw, Hulley responded by seizing the lead back with a throw of 64.84m, to lead by just 15 centimetres and secure automatic selection for the Games.
"Definitely not (happy with) the distance, but my plan was to win, and I did that," said Hulley.
The heptathlon was amazing. We had six Commonwealth Games B qualifiers prior to the event and two more achieved the standard during a low scoring, but close competition where less than 200 points separated the top-5. Defending champion and World University Games silver medallists, Alysha Burnett (CHE) placed third with a score of 5699 points. She was solid across all her events and has put herself in a good position for selection.
Stephanie Schweitzer (T20, HIL) won the 200m and 800m ambulant titles and came close to a treble, placing second in the 400m to world championship medallist Torita Blake (Qld). All three performances marks were superior to her treble at the NSW Championships two weeks ago.
In the women’s Ambulant long jump, a selection trial for the Commonwealth Games in the T38/37 discipline, NSW’s three contenders all achieved B standards. Erin Cleaver (MQH), who in January was named in the team, cleared 4.41m, while world championships medallist Taylor Doyle (BLA) leapt 4.36m and Kailyn Joseph (CHE) 4.09m.
One of the highlights of the championships was the men’s 100m final and NSW athletes were everywhere. The season leader, Rohan Browning (SYU) looked solid in the rounds and in the final ran brilliantly to take silver, behind Trae Williams’ (QLD) breakthrough 10.10 winning time. Josh Clarke (SYU) managed three rounds, something he had not achieved since he was a junior and wound up third with 10.31. In fifth was Jin Su Jung (SYU) with 10.47, just ahead of veteran Isaac Ntiamoah (SUT) 10,49.
A Glasgow Commonwealth Games athlete, Josh Ralph (SYU) secured selection on his second Games team, with decisive second place in the 800m, turning back a high-quality field. The successful return of junior star Robert Lister (ILL) continued with him making the final after a heat time of 1:47.23.
In the 1500m Bankstown’s Rorey Hunter was a surprise bronze medallist. The former Indiana student, just defeated Tasmania James Hansen for the medal by 0.05 seconds and Sam McEntee (Vic) by 0.15 seconds.
The men’s 5000m was one of the best races ever at the Australian championships with three athletes under 13:20 in oppressive conditions. US-based college student Morgan McDonald (RBH) was unstoppable over the last 200m as he charged to victory in 13:19.05.
“I can’t believe the time, it’s a quick time I’m super pumped with that,” McDonald said. “I’ll take it every day of the week.”
McDonald, who is studying a Bachelor of Business at the University of Wisconsin, returned to Australia on Christmas Eve after being granted leave to study online in the build up to the Australian Championships and a hopeful start at Gold Coast 2018.
“I need to get used to this heat,” said US-based McDonald, with a Commonwealth Games debut now on the horizon. “It was so tough out there, I’m going to have to train in it.
Nick Hough (SYU) won his fourth national title from team mate Justin Merlino, himself a four-time national champion. Hough ran 13.76, with Merlino clocking 13.94. There was a NSW clean sweep with Jacob McCorry (CHE) third. After a few hiccups in races recently, former NSW athlete, Ian Dewhurst, won the 400m hurdles.
The men’s 3000m steeplechase was a very open championship, but experience was the decisive factor with four-time champion James Nipperess (SYU) sprinting to victory over recent big improver, Max Stevens (SA) and 10000m selected team member Stewart McSweyn (Tas). Nipperess clocked 8:43.89 with Stevens less than a second behind.
After injury in 2017, high jumper Brandon Starc (PAR) had been striving for the A standard all season, jumping six consecutive B standards. But when it counted, he nailed the A standard of 2.28m on his third attempt, his highest leap since the Rio Olympics.
"I've been searching for it for months. I've been consistent after my surgery (ankle) after Rio (2016 Olympic Games), getting 2.20 to 2.24. We were going quite well after my surgery. I jumped 2.25m in Japan last year and we thought London (2017) World Championships was a possibility. I couldn't get the 2.28m, I had a bit of a shin problem and came home."
The men’s pole vault was a close battle for the bronze medal with three athletes locked on 5.15m. Sydney Uni’s Angus Armstrong was one of those who was placed fourth Australian on countback.
NSW’s Emmanuel Fakiye (UTN) was locked in a battle for the triple jump berth at the Commonwealth Games. He was one of two eligible for selection with Shem James (Qld) and also in qualification shape was nine-time champion Alwyn Jones (SA). Fakiye started slowly but eventually recorded the competition’s only 16 metres jump in the fifth round, securing his automatic selection for the Commonwealth Games. He becomes the first Australian male to compete in the triple at the Games since 2006.
"I'm very stoked and so grateful. It's been a long time coming. It's unbelievable,” said Fakiye. "It was a great competition. All the guys were pushing each other. Going into the third and fourth round I knew I had a big jump in me. Everyone had 15.90s and I knew I would get over the 16 metre mark.
“The dream was to get a qualifier and then the dream was winning this. Now the dream is pushing for it at the (Gold Coast 2018) Commonwealth Games and make my name in the world."
The hot condition for the decathlon was matched by the form of NSW champion Alec Diamond (UTN). On day one he returned four personal bests in the 100m, long jump, shot put and 400m. He started day two well in the hurdles and discus, but disappointingly he battled in the pole vault. One of his strong event, with a PB of 4.70m, he opened with a safe height of 3.80m, although he required three attempts there. But at his next height of 4.20m, he came unstuck and no surprise followed with a below par javelin throw of 47.20m, below his PB of 54.01m. He rallied for a tremendous 1500m 4:54.94 to claim a well-deserved bronze medal with a score of 7405 points, just 12 points (about two seconds) ahead of Victorian David Brock on 7393 points. Equal PBs by Diamond in the vault and javelin would have given him another 250 points, a Commonwealth Games B qualifier and a 60-point PB. But we can be assured we have a quality decathlete of the future.
Also magnificent in the decathlon was World University Games champion, Kyle Cranston (ASW) who won silver, adding 83 points to his personal best scoring 7786 and moving up to number 13 in Australian history. He had also started well with PBs in the 100m (10.96) and long jump (7.26m).
Triple world champion, James Turner (WOL) won the Ambulant 200m in a time of 24.23, just outside his T36 world record. Rheed McCracken (MQH) won the wheelchair 100m in 15.49, while in the Commonwealth Games selection event, Kurt Fearnley (MQH) was second in the T54 100m wheelchair event.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Triple jumper Emmanuel Fakiye (courtesy of Casey Sims)