Morgan McDonald (NSW) has booked his ticket to the Commonwealth Games in sensational fashion, winning his maiden Australian 5000m title in a world leading time of 13:19.05.
The most anticipated race on the opening night of the 2018 Australian Athletics Championships & Nomination Trial came down to the final 300m with McDonald shooting into the lead from Pat Tiernan (Qld) who had set the pace from the gun.
Defending champion David McNeil (Vic) finished in second, also earning a spot to race in the very same stadium at the Games in April, impressing in a time of 13:19.51. Australian 10,000m title-holder, King Island’s Stewy McSweyn was third in 13.19.96. Never has Australia had three athletes run sub 13:20.00 in the same race, a statistic made all the more remarkable with the oppressive conditions.
“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.
Seasoned campaigner McNeil will be heading to his second Commonwealth Games
“It was unexpected,” he said, juggling his studies to be a doctor of physiotherapy, where he’s currently on his clinical rotations, alongside a part-time job and training.
“That’s probably one of the proudest race efforts I’ve put in,” continued the two-time Olympian.
“I’ve had a bit of a change in lifestyle the last year and a half. Life in particular has been really, really challenging outside of running. That’s probably one of the proudest race efforts I’ve put in.
“I’m really proud I got through today and a lot of that had to do with reflecting on what I’ve done in the past and having a bit more self-belief than what I normally do and when it was getting tough, having to concentrate and hold on.
“To be honest I didn’t expect I’d get through in this race. I had at least six guys that were in good shape and running well. I think my biggest goal was to try and consolidate my fitness that I’d half proven at Zatopek [where he was third] and show that I was still making progress to being in peak form at the start of April.”
Adding to the incredible result was the Canberran Michael Roeger’s new T46 class world record mark of 14:06.56 finishing eighth in a field of 18. Roeger bettered his previous world mark of 14.14.91
“The last four months has been preparation for this,” he said. “To get under 14.14 is a dream, especially on this great track.”
In the other all-important final with Commonwealth Games spots on the line, Erin Cleaver (NSW) was victorious with a jump of 4.41m in the ambulant long jump.
Second in the T38 section was Taylor Doyle (NSW), a former world championship medalist with a Commonwealth Games B qualifier of 4.36m.
Vanessa Low (ACT – T61) took out the Ambulant long jump Australian title with her jump of 5.07m - a new world record mark.
Josh Ralph (NSW) was the fastest qualifier in the hotly contested men’s 800m heats. Ralph is among four athletes – Peter Bol (Vic), Luke Mathews (Vic), and Jeff Riseley (Vic) with an A qualifier in the bag heading into the championships meaning places in the final are at a premium.
Ralph posted 1:46.75 to win the fastest heat of the night, just .25 off the A qualifying time.
“That’s the quickest heat I’ve had by a long way out of every nationals I’ve ever been to so it was good,” he said. “It’s a season’s best.”
Ralph had the benefit of running in the third heat of the night, seeing Joseph Deng (Vic) and Luke Mathews go head-to-head in the previous heat with Mathews just getting the edge in 1:47.01 by .51 of a second.
Crossing the finish line, Mathews, wearing a black arm band in memory of national javelin record-holder Jarrod Bannister who sadly passed away last Friday, pointed at the sky.
“I didn’t actually know Jarrod Bannister personally; when I started making teams he wasn’t there. In the athletics community in Australia, when people pass away, it feels like you know them even though you’ve never met them. I was watching him when I was younger, and I thought I should pay my respects.”
Ralph will head into Saturday night’s final with Bol (1:46.94), Mathews (1:47.01), Alex Rowe (1:47.03 – Vic), Dylan Stenson (1:47.04 – SA), Robert Lister (1:47.23 - NSW), Deng, and Mason Cohen (1:47.71 - NSW) all through.
The big four in the women’s 1500m, Olympic semi-finalists Linden Hall (Vic), Jenny Blundell (NSW) and Zoe Buckman (Vic), along with defending champion, Heidi See (NSW), all successfully negotiated the 1500m heats and progressed into the final.
"I was happy to lead from the front at least a lap in, because I feel you pull-up better the next day if you run even laps,” said the summer leader. Hall.
"It was a very familiar last 100m coming down with Heidi See. It's great to see so many 1500m girls have been able to push each other the last few years. It's incredible depth."
In the men’s 100m, defending national champion Trae Williams (Qld) blitzed his heat in a personal best of 10.21, setting the standard for Friday night’s final.
Williams shocked even himself with his time, bettering the mark he set in Canberra two weeks ago by .02.
“Hopefully come finals time we’ll drop that and get that A qualifier which would be good,” he said. “I’m very surprised but I’ve got a lot more to give.”
Summer leader Rohan Browning (NSW) was the second-fastest qualifier in 10.32 ahead of Jack Hale (Tas) in 10.40.
National junior record holder Celeste Mucci (Vic) leads the women’s heptathlon with a score of 3472, from a surprise second placed Kiara Reddingius (WA) with a score of 3416. In third is reigning national champion Alysha Burnett (NSW) with a score of 3398. Mucci’s day was highlighted by an equal high jump personal best of 1.75m and a massive lifetime best of 24.28 in the 200m. Unfortunately, a headwind of -1.8m/s slowed her start for the day in the 100m hurdles with a performance of 13.86.
In the women’s pole vault, the leading hopes, Nina Kennedy (WA), Liz Parnov (WA) and Olympic bronze medallist from New Zealand Eliza McCartney, required just one vault in qualification to successfully progress to the final. World junior championships hammer throw silver medal, Alex Hulley (NSW) took just one attempt to progress into the final, ahead of five-time national champion Lara Nielsen (Qld).
In other highlights, Christian Davis (Vic) posted a world junior qualifying mark to take out the preliminary round of the men’s 400m. Eighteen-year-old Davis was impressive, posting a time of 46.82.
In the women’s 100m, Riley Day (Qld) was fastest qualifier in 11.76. Defending champion Melissa Breen (ACT) was equal third fastest qualifier with Olivia Eaton (Qld).
Anneliese Rubie (NSW) was the fastest qualifier in the women’s 400m, ahead of defending champion Morgan Mitchell (Vic) and Bendere Oboya (NSW).
Day 2 (Friday) competition has two sessions, with the morning commencing at 10.00am and the afternoon/evening program at 5.00pm. Highlights of the morning are the men’s hammer throw final featuring Queensland’s Matthew Denny and the decathletes commencing their gruelling two-day program, with Olympian Cedric Dubler (Qld). Other events heats/preliminaries include: women’s heptathlon, 400m hurdles (Lauren Wells – ACT), javelin (Kathryn Mitchell – Vic) and 800m. In the men’s events there are heats/qualifying rounds in the 400 hurdles and 1500m (Ryan Gregson – Vic).
From 5.00pm the program includes one of the most anticipated events, the men’s 100m (Jack Hale – Tas, Rohan Browning – NSW). Other men’s finals are the discus (Matthew Denny – Qld, Benn Harradine – Qld) and triple jump (Shem James – Qld). The women’s finals include 100m (Riley Day – Qld), 5000m, triple jump, hammer throw and the conclusion of the heptathlon with Celeste Mucci (Vic) and Alysha Burnett (NSW).