A successful domestic track season reaches its climax this week with the four-day open Australian Championships commencing Thursday and culminate with two five-hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday. The championships are covered in history, will be the 94th men’s and 73rd women’s. After an initial Inter Colonial Meet in Sydney in 1890, the inaugural championships were both held on the MCG in 1893 (men) and 1930 (women).
A group of Australia’s enduring athletes are seeking their own history at the championships with Sally Pearson chasing her 17th title, Lauren Wells a record 12th 400m hurdles crown and Alwyn Jones triple jump title number 10.
RUNNING INTO HISTORY
Sally Pearson has dominated the 100m hurdles for well over a decade with nine titles since her first in 2004. In 2011 she won a treble, 100m, 200m and the hurdles. There have been five other occasions she has claimed the 100m/100m hurdles double. With wins in 2017 and 2018 she is seeking a third consecutive hurdles crown. She does face a strong field including Commonwealth Games finalists Michelle Jenneke and Brianna Beahan. They were both upstaged at the Sydney Track Classic when teenage heptathlete Celeste Mucci won, and she will again be a force at the nationals.
Pearson can become the third most successful women at the nationals with her 17th title.
Most national titles - women
20 - Gael Martin V
18 - Tamsyn Manou V
17- Pam Ryan V
17 - Dani Stevens N
16 - Sally Pearson Q
14 - Raelene Boyle V
14 - Cathy Freeman Q/V
Dual Olympian, Lauren Wells is close to her best form of her career. This summer in the 400m hurdles she has ran her fastest time for nearly three, has run PBs in the 200m and 400m, but has suffered her first defeat by an Australian for five years, when Sarah Carli won the Canberra Track Classic.
At the nationals she will need to hold off Sarah Carli in the 400m hurdles to win her seventh consecutive and 12th overall 400m hurdles title. Wells, with title 12, can become the equal second most success woman in a single event at the national championships.
Most titles in a single event - women
13 Dani Stevens - discus
12 Kerry Saxby-Junna - 5000m walking
11 Lauren Wells - 400m hurdles
11 Tamsyn Manou - 800m
11 Gael Mulhall - shot
In the men’s triple jump Alywn Jones is on target for his own piece of history. He has an amazing record in the triple jump at the national championships- nine titles, 12 podiums spanning 14 years.
In 2019 he leads the rankings and has produced the three longest jumps of the year. He has won six competitions and placed second once. Nevertheless, the event has a group, very closely clipping at Alwyn’s heels, including (with seasonal bests) Shem James 16.15, Julian Konle 16.14 and Emmanuel Fakiye 16.07.
Most national titles in one event - men
13 Andrew Murphy - triple jump, 12 Ray Boyd - pole vault, 12 Dick Leffler - hammer throw, 12 Warwick Selvey - discus throw, 12 Kyle Vander-Kuyp - 110 metres Hurdles, 10 Gary Honey - long jump, 10 Lawrie Peckham - high jump, 10 Stuart Rendell - hammer throw.
Two of the best athletes in the world will grace the field events at the nationals. New Zealanders Tom Walsh and Eliza McCartney will provide world class competition for the Aussie. In the shot this season, 2017 world champion, Tom Walsh has already launched the 7.2kg ball to 21.70m and will add value to the national shot put title which features five-time champion Damien Birkinhead and two new 18 metre athletes Courtney Heinze (WA) and Aiden Harvey (NSW). McCartney, who has a PB of 4.94m and season’s best of 4.85m is on the cusp of vaulting five metres, a height just two women outdoors have cleared. McCartney will compete against Australia’s Commonwealth Games competitors Lisa Campbell and Nina Kennedy.
The championships are fully integrated with a complete range of para events. Competing will be many of Australia’s world class sprinters, jumpers and throws.
Canberra-based pair, Chad Perris and Scott Reardon will compete in the ambulant 100m. Perris (T13 classification, visually impaired) is a three-time world championships medallist and won bronze in Rio. Reardon, originally from Temora, has won the last four consecutive Paralympics or world championships T42 (leg amp) 100m.
Commonwealth Games medallists Jake Lappin, Eliza Stankovic and Angie Ballard will feature in the wheelchair 400m and 1500m events.
New Zealand’s Paralympic Games, world champs and Commonwealth Games F46 javelin thrower, Holly Robinson will be favourite for the Ambulant javelin. Rio Paralympic Games gold medallists Brayden Davidson (T36) will compete in the ambulant long jump against the John Boas-coached Nicholas Hum (T20) who has exceeded seven metres. Eight-time Paralympian, Russell Short (T12) competes in the ambulant shot, but will be up against an interesting line-up of T38 (cerebral palsy classified) athletes, including world and Commonwealth champion, Cam Crombie and Commonwealth medallist Marty Jackson. Talented visually impaired (T12) teenager Jackson Hamilton competes in the discus, shot and javelin. See feature events for details on the women’s long jump and men’s javelin.
The athletes across the weekend will be seeking selection and qualifying performances for a multitude of national teams. The events include: World Relays, World Para-Athletics World Championships, IAAF World Championships, World University Games, Oceania Championships and World Para-Athletics Junior Championships. Such is the important of the championships, the first eligible athlete will be automatically selected for the World University Games.
FEATURE EVENTS & ATHLETES
Women’s para ambulant long jump is packed with world class athletes across a variety of classifications. Returning to competition is 2015 world champion Carlee Beattie. The T47 (arm amp) athlete is returning after injury and working for GOLDOC (organising committee for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games). Rio Paralympic champion and former German, now an Australian citizen, Vanessa Low lines up in the long jump. The T42/61 double leg amp has been in good form this summer and at the recent Dubai Grand Prix. She will be looking to match per PB of 5.22m which will yield a world record in a reclassified event.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Erin Cleaver (T38) will be chasing a leap of 4.72m to nail a world championships A qualifier. World championships fourth placegetter in 2017, Sarah Walsh (T64, single leg amp) has been in career best form this summer with three jumps over 5.20m, highlighted by 5.33m in the Canberra Track Classic. Also in the competition is Commonwealth Games competitor Kaitlyn Joseph and New Zealand Rio Paralympian Anna Grimaldi.
The women’s 800m is another feature event on the program with many scenarios. The quickest Aussie in the last few years, Georgia Griffith has overcame a slow start to the domestic season due to injury to claim fine wins in Sydney and Perth. But then 10 days ago, she clocked her fastest time of the season (2:01.90) at the Victorian Milers club meet, but was defeated by big improver Catriona Bisset who ran 2:01.27 and has now installed herself as favourite for the national title. A major unknown is the 2019 form of dual Commonwealth Games representative Brittany McGowan. After running 2:00.24 early in 2018, the long 2018 campaign saw her times drift by September. In the mix for a podium are two incredibly talented juniors, Keely Small (PB 2:00.81 & Youth Olympic Games gold medallist) and Carley Thomas (PB 2:01.13 & World U20 Champs silver medallist). We also have the improving former 400m Olympian Morgan Mitchell who with three consecutive PBs is now down to 2:03.86; along with former national champion Lora Storey. Not in top-form (SB of 2:02.82), but as a 1:59.06 athlete NZ’s Angie Petty will also be a threat.
Individually there are dozens more to feature on the track, including
• Rohan Browning (100m) can he backup his Brisbane 10.08 form with a national title? Arguably his best event is the 200m – what damage could he do to his PB of 20.71 and can he stop Alex Hartmann making it four consecutive 200m titles?
• Luke Mathews faces very competitive fields in the 800m and 1500m, making the double difficult. In both events, national record holders Jo Deng (800m) and Ryan Gregson (1500m) will be the biggest challengers for Mathews.
• Kurtis Marschall has already this season raised his pole vault PB twice, initially to 5.81m, then 5.87m. He is chasing his fourth consecutive title.
• And so many more including: Nick Hough (110m hurdles), Matt Denny (discus), Hamish Peacock (javelin), Cedric Dubler (decathlon), Dane Bird-Smith & Katie Hayward (walks), Nicola McDermott (high jump), Brooke Stratton & Naa Anang (long jump), Kathryn Mitchell & Kelsey Barber (javelin) and Celeste Mucci (heptathlon). Plus an intriguing men’s steeplechase between Max Stevens, Matthew Clarke & Ben Buckingham.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia