World Champion Sally Pearson (Qld) has claimed her ninth Australian 100m hurdles crown on Saturday night in a dramatic finish to day three of the 2018 Australian Athletics Championships & Nomination Trial on the Gold Coast.
Pearson shook off the disruption of a false start by fellow competitor Daniela Roman (Vic) to equal the record number of national titles set by Victoria’s Pam Ryan, crossing the finish line in a season best time of 12.73 seconds (1.1m/s). 2016 national champion Michelle Jenneke (13.14 - NSW) was runner-up, edging out Brianna Beahan (13.16 – WA). Pearson and Jenneke both automatic nominations for the Australian Commonwealth Games team.
A pin drop could have been heard within Carrara Stadium following the false start with Roman discussing her break with the officials.
“I’m really proud that I got out here today and put on somewhat of a good show,” said Pearson. “It’s disappointing with the interruption because I was ready to run fast.
“These things happen – this can happen at the Commonwealth Games or at the majors anywhere. You’ve got to keep your focus and keep your cool and just make sure that you get the best job that you can, done.”
Pearson will now head to the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in the build up to Gold Coast 2018.
“World indoors obviously isn’t my main focus, Commonwealth Games is very, very important for me to be able to perform well here. I’m looking forward to the next eight weeks until I race at the Commonwealth Games.”
Improvement in a few targeted events has led Australia's best decathlete in over 15 years, Cedric Dubler(Qld) to cruise to victory, achieve automatic nomination and a 115-point personal-best score.
“I’m in incredible shape at the moment,” said Dubler, after he walked a lap with his ‘mates’ and competitors after a gruelling two days in the extreme heat. “I went into the 100m and got a good start and it all flowed from there. In the 400 I held back a little to feel a little bit better today. In the 1500m, there is still a little bit more there. I wanted to pull up next week feeling okay as there is only six weeks until the Commonwealth Games.”
During the two days, he set personal bests in the 100m, shot put and pole vault. Another goal was to achieve an A standard, which would allow the selectors to name another Australian in the event for the Commonwealth Games. The potential recipient of that position, if the selectors give the nod, is 2017 World University Games champion, Kyle Cranston (NSW) who placed second with his second B standard, and a PB of 7786, which moved him to 13th Australian All-time.
What better preparation could there be for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games than to break the world record on debut in the stadium for the Games. That was the form shown by Melbourne teenager, Isis Holt, who lowered her own T35 world mark in the Ambulant 100m. Holt, who was named on the team in January, clocked 13.37s , to win her first-ever Australian title.
“The goal here was to come and actually race,” said her coach Nick Wall. “We knew she had in the multi-class some quality ‘38s’ (classifications) and actually she has never been first across the line in an Australian championship, so that was the goal here to come and race and practise for major championships.”
Although this is not the first time she has broken the record, Holt was still overwhelmed by the result.
“I’m speechless,” she said. “It is an amazing feeling. Going into this race I knew my starts and my sessions were on point and so to come out here and see a result from that is satisfying.”
Holt explained that breaking the record on home turf was an added bonus.
“There is something very special being able to compete well and achieve things in your own country, knowing you are on home soil and surrounded by friends and family.”
The hope for Australian sport legend Kurt Fearnley (NSW) is that the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will be his swansong.
“I had this in my calendar since I was part of the bid process in 2011,” said Fearnley after he placed second in the wheelchair 1500m. “I sat down with Sheridan [his wife] and said that this will be my last run.”
He is certainly looking forward to bringing his career to a close in this venue.
“This stadium is crazy. It is going to be nuts when it is full of Aussies. I’ve waited 18 years to get a home crowd at a major meet like this. I got that in Sydney and it was just amazing. It sent me on this journey and it will be a nice way to finish.”
The drama was not just contained to the 100m hurdles with Joseph Deng (Vic) tearing up the B final in style, upgrading the B qualifier he held going into the championships, with an A qualifying time and new world lead of 1.45.71.
“I knew I was in good shape,” said Deng. “After my run on Thursday I knew that I could run way faster because I was negative split. I knew if we went through in a fast first lap, I would run fast. I just had to believe in my fitness.”
Luke Mathews (Vic) took the win in the A final in 1:45.90, ahead of Josh Ralph (NSW) in 1:46.85 to book a return ticket to the Gold Coast in two months’ time.
Mathews admitted that Deng’s performance did force him to pause for a brief moment on his way to the start line.
“I had a good feeling that selection would have gone my way anyway but 1:45.7 solo, that’s impressive,” he said. “As I was walking out I wasn’t as confident.”
Satisfied with his performance, Mathews was glad he got the job done.
“I knew that it was realistic to win but there’s something about the trials… it adds so much more pressure,” he said. “I’m really happy with that. I’m happy I could move on from the dark times I had in July, August last year and do something for my mum [coach, Elizabeth]. It’s been bloody tough training by myself. My mum, my dad, Sam McEntee and a few select others have just helped me through so I’m really happy.”
Five athletes hold an A qualifier, including Jeff Riseley (Vic) who was third in the A final (1:47.04).
Linden Hall (Vic) continued her great summer form with a long-awaited national title in the women’s 1,500m. Hall was calculating, surging ahead on the final lap with Zoe Buckman (Vic), Chloe Tighe(NSW) and Jenny Blundell (NSW) having successfully moved clear of defending champion Heide See(NSW).
Hall’s win in 4:07.55 earned auto nomination for her Commonwealth Games debut.
“It feels so good to actually say it,” the 26-year-old said. “I’ve been hypothesising for a while thinking when the Comm Games come we’ll do this we’ll do that, and I went – ‘you can’t say that, we’re not in yet, don’t jinx it.’ It’s so nice that I can finally say that without looking arrogant.”
Twenty-year-old Nina Kennedy (WA) won a career-first national women’s pole vault title and equalled Alana Boyd’s Championship Record of 4.60m, which was set in Brisbane in 2015.
Kennedy has enjoyed a resurgent 2018 campaign after a quad injury forced her to withdraw from last year’s World Championships in London. The former junior world record holder led a WA clean sweep of the podium, with training partners Liz Parnov (4.25m) and Vicky Parnov (4.10m) joining her on the dais.
With only Liz Parnov and Kennedy still in contention at 4.35m, Kennedy cleared at the first time of asking and claimed the title as Parnov missed with her three attempts.
Setting the bar up to 4.50m, Kennedy required a third attempt to progress before then clearing 4.60m at the second effort. She had three goes at attempting a new personal best of 4.72m but could make it over. New Zealand’s Olympic medallist Eliza McCartney did not record a height.
Having not represented Australia since her world championships debut as a teenager back in 2015, Kennedy admitted she couldn’t wait to compete for her nation at the Commonwealth Games in April.
“I haven’t worn them [national colours] in two or three years now, so to do it in front of my home crowd ... you know my family is going to be there, extended family, friends … and now that I’ve competed inside the stadium, I’m so excited, I’m just going to go for it,” she said.
“I’ve never been national champ before at an opens so that was literally the goal, just to be national champ and so now I’ve done that I’m so happy.”
The Perth vaulter will also get to represent Australia at next month’s world indoors which seemed unlikely at the end of last year when her form and confidence was missing.
“I always say you’ve gotta’ have those downs to know what these ups feel like and to know everything so, it really puts this season in perspective for me, I’m just so happy,” she said.
In women’s javelin, Kathryn Mitchell’s (Vic) hot form continued less than a week after her new Australian record of 67.58m.
Mitchell is Australian champion again, a decade after her last national title, taking out the competition with a throw of 65.51m, well over the A qualifying mark of 60.60m. Kelsey-Lee Roberts (ACT) also snagged the A qualifier with her silver-medal performance of 62.21. Kathryn Books (Vic) threw 51.31m for the bronze.
Mitchell admitted the week had been a tough one mentally, following the buzz of setting a new national standard.
“It’s tricky because you’re on a high off that and it was a real interesting week,” Mitchell. “The intensity of throwing – it was competition so to recover from that and get back where this was more the focus. I just tried to recover and take the same process into this competition as I have been doing – that was our target.”
Day four (Sunday) competition begins at 1100 local time on the last day of the championships. Highlights include world discus silver medallist Dani Stevens (NSW) and the Commonwealth’s leading pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall (SA). Men’s finals include long jump (Henry Frayne – SA), 400m hurdles (Ian Dewhurst – NSW), 200m, 3000m steeplechase, javelin (Hamish Peacock – Tas), shot put (Damien Birkinhead – Vic) and 1500m (Ryan Gregson). Women’s finals include 200m, high jump (Eleanor Patterson – Vic), 400m hurdles (Lauren Wells – ACT), long jump (Brooke Stratton – Vic), 3000m steeplechase and 800m (Georgia Griffith – Vic).