23 December 2018
Athletics the winner at the rejuvenated Australian Mile Championships
The first Australian Mile Championships for 25 years, held in Sydney last evening, was a major success. Conducted as part of Bankstown Sports Athletics Club’s annual Albie Thomas Meet the championships attracted quality fields who produced on the evening. In the boutique Crest venue, it was a relaxed atmosphere, but still a sense of history and occasion that made it a great event and a must do on your athletics calendar.
The pre-race expectation was it would be a race between training partners Matthew Ramsden (WA) and Ryan Gregson (VIC) and that is certainly how it evolved. Early pace was taken on by half-mile specialists Rob Lister (NSW) as they passed the mid-way point in 2:04. But the athletes kicked down over the last two laps. Approaching the bell, Ramsden had moved to the front and Gregson was close behind. But in the home straight Ramsden held his advantage as he and Gregson moved away from the field as both dipped under sub-four minutes with times of 3:59.18 and 3:59.95 respectively.
“It feels really good to win - my first open Australian title, so I’ll claim it,” said Ramsden who suffered major disappointment last summer.
“I tore my plantar fascia in the Commonwealth Games trials heat. I won my heat but after the race I couldn’t walk. I’m all over it and feel really good with no niggles or anything now.”
Gregson was understandably disappointment, but philosophical about the defeat.
“It was alright first up from a spell where my last race was in Darwin in September. First race of the season is always a little rusty but still was a sub-four minute mile and it should only get better from here.”
It was the 25th mile/1500m race of the year for Gregson which has seen him run a sub-four minute mile (or 1500m equal) in nearly all the races.
“I’ve been getting better lately at being more consistency. That wasn’t my best day today, but I still challenged someone like Matt Ramsden who is one of the up and comers and he was great today.”
Ramsden took time to pay tribute to Gregson.
“I have so much respect for Ryan. I wouldn’t be running as well as I am today without him. Honestly if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be able to beat him today.”
First NSW athlete was bronze medallist Rorey Hunter (in 4:01.98) who runs for the host club Bankstown. In ninth place, Sutherland’s Oli Raimond broke the NSW under-18 record of 4:09.22, clocking 4:08.09.
Medals were presented by Nola Thomas, Albie’s widow who looked fit enough to challenge the athletes to a race. The event is an ongoing legacy of the legendary three-time Olympian Albie Thomas who won the most ever Australian mile titles (four), was the first to break four minutes on Australian soil and the only Australia, until now, to dip under four minutes in this championship. The occasion also allowed former athletes of Albie, like James Nipperess, to spend time with Nola and her family including daughter Robyn, who support the event annual with pride.
The women’s race was just as close with inform Victorian Whitney Sharpe taking the win over Genevieve Gregson (nee La Caze) 4:37.35 to 4:37.66, while Zatopek under-20 3000m champion, Newcastle teenager Rose Davies was third with 4:39.77.
“It went probably how we had planned,” noted Sharpe. “At Zatopek last week we followed the same plan - stay calm, remain close to the lead. I aimed to be in front of Gen and the girls with 200m to go. That was the plan and it paid off tonight.”
Sharpe, 27, had no doubt the racing and training program, under coach Nick Bowden has helped her progress.
“I ran 4:18 nearly two years ago at the nationals then a PB at Zatopek (last week) and have picked up the kilometres over that period. I have now had 18 months of consistent training including the AV (Athletics Victoria) cross country races over winter,” said Sharpe who has just finished a master’s in occupational therapy.
“The focus will remain the 1500m and I’ll be aiming for nationals.”
Her rival, Gregson was complimentary of her performance.
“Whitney Sharpe is phenomenal and is running really well at the moment and I do think she will keep improving.”
Like her husband, Gregson was able to put her result in perspective.
“It is just fun to race at this time of the year. We have done a lot of base training and so have a lot of training under our belt - it is just I’m a bit blunt at this time of the year. I take a lot out of today - training and racing wise.”
She outlined her next major focus.
“We have to take our time and get ready for next October (world championships). Steeplechase will always be my pet event but I don’t like running it too much. My last two years of training I’ve been injury prone so I’m going to stick to flat racing like the mile, 1500m and 5000m to get my body strong. I’ll come out for nationals, and maybe one time before that, and hopefully get a qualifier out there early.”
Other than many inaugural PBs, the following broke their personal best: Whitney Sharpe 4:37.35, Jaylah Hancock-Cameron 4:41.98, Imogen Stewart 4:44.73, Beth Croft 4:46.44 and Georgia Winkcup 4:50.60.
The women’s medals were presented by Dave Chisholm, a great friend and training partner of Albie. Dave has unfortunately been suffering from a form of Parkinson’s disease.
The event looks to be here to stay thanks to the outstanding commitment of the Bankstown Sports Athletics Club, led by President Colin Whitbread. They rallied dozens of members who worked closely with a small group of Athletics NSW officials to host an outstanding event. And for the privilege of hosting the event Bankstown Sports Athletics Club will make a loss of about $3000, but Colin feels it was worth the cost for the benefit of the sport. The winner certainly was athletics.
David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW
Image: Matthew Ramsden & Ryan Gregson (courtesy of David Tarbotton)