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Griffith progress reassured after Portland pearler

Saturday, 24 June 2017 | Josh Papanikolaou

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Running a big personal best in the United States a few weeks ago gave Georgia Griffith more than a qualifying time for the London world championships, it reaffirmed to herself that she is still on course to fulfil her athletic ability.

The 20-year-old placed a credible fourth two years ago at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene over 800m, clocking a then personal best of 2:04.00 to make the final but had not dipped under that mark until this season, which has taken off to unexpected heights.

So far, the year has seen Griffith win a bronze medal at just her second Australian Athletics Championships running 2:06.00 behind Lora Storey in gold and Olympic 400m semi-finalist Anneliese Rubie – amongst five other runs under that 2:04 mark.

Included in this purple patch of form was an eye-catching 2:00.90 at the Portland Track Festival, which caused a wave of excitement domestically as currently, no other Australians have yet to hit the qualifying mark of 2:01.00.

“Running that 800 has not only been incredibly exciting but has also given me more confidence,” Griffith said after returning from her stint in the United States.

“Before this season my PB was from the world juniors in 2014 (2:04.00), not running a PB for a while definitely created a bit of doubt about myself and my goals.

“To have achieved the world championship qualifying time, and met one of my long-term goals is a really awesome feeling.

“It has definitely given me a lot more confidence and reassurance that I am heading in the right direction, as well as more belief in my long-term goals of making the Commonwealth Games and then Olympics at some point.

“A year ago, running under 2:01 seemed like a very long way off, it definitely still feels a little bit unreal that I am now so much closer to making my first Australian senior team.”

Only a week later Griffith took her form up a distance and set another big personal best over 1500m at the Portland Stumptown Twilight meet running 4:07.32, also a qualifier for London.

“With the 1500m there was no pressure and I was more relaxed with few expectations, so when I got the qualifier I was very surprised, to say the least,” Griffith added.

“It was an added bonus to a great experience in the US.”

Griffith’s running journey only started to get serious when she moved to Melbourne and joined a developing training group headed by Steve Ellinghaus based at Box Hill Athletics Club.

Her attitude towards training hard when required explains how the gains in recent seasons have been so big and that her ceiling as an athlete is far from being reached.

“Steve has created a squad that is very positive, relaxed and supportive,” she explained.

“I think what drives me, as an athlete, is trying to get the most out of myself and to keep pushing myself towards that next personal best.

“On the tough track sessions, I like to finish them knowing that I don’t have any extra energy left over.

“Quite often I will go out too hard in my first rep, much to the frustration of my coach and when I do this, it tends to disrupt the planned session.”

Did someone say Wholefoods 🏃‍♀️💨

A post shared by Georgia Griffith (@georgia.griffith) on

The squad is a mix of junior and senior athletes, many of which performed very well at the national championships in April, including promising half-miler Sarah Billings who has also made big strides this year.

Billings too set a personal best of 2:03.66 at the Portland meet after taking out the U20 800m national championship this year and travelling to the US with training partner Griffith.

“It is a great squad made up of junior and senior athletes, Sarah and I train together with Jess Mourney, Georgia Hansen and other regulars,” Griffith said.

“I was lucky enough to travel and train with Sarah in the US over the last two months.

“As Sarah is a 400/800m runner and I am an 800/1500m runner it works well, as we can play off each other’s strengths.”

Griffith is studying a double-degree at Monash University in Communication Design and Business, and has been selected to compete at the World University Games in Taipei which begins not long after the championships in the English capital.

Willing to put her focus on the track for the next couple of years, Griffith aspires to eventually to work in advertising, graphic design or some other creative field.

“Nothing has been booked yet, but the plan is to head over to Europe pretty soon in July and base myself in Cologne with some of the other Aussie athletes like Linden Hall and Isaac Hockey for another block of training and racing,” she said of her immediate running plans.

“I am definitely very excited about extending the season, and being able to travel again.

“Extending my season also means that I can avoid the cross country season for a little bit longer, as track season is definitely my favourite.”

The run over 800m in Portland puts Griffith thirteenth on the all-time Australian record list, less than half a second outside the top ten behind Lisa Lightfoot.

Just five Australian women have ever broken the magical two-minute barrier, a definitive goal for Griffith who idolises national record holder Charlene Rendina who clocked 1:59.0h in 1976.

“Running under two minutes is definitely a barrier I would love to break, however I think there is still a way to go and a lot more training to be done before then,” she reasoned.

“It’s a clear benchmark and I am lucky enough to have met Charlene Rendina and she is such a mentor figure to me.”

AUSTRALIAN ALL-TIME WOMEN'S 800m TIMES

1.59.0h

Charlene Rendina

Melbourne

28 Feb 76

1.59.21

Tamsyn Manou

Canberra

15 Jan 00

1.59.73

Margaret Crowley

Durham, USA

13 Jul 96

1.59.92

Madeleine Pape

Sydney

16 Feb 08

1.59.93

Judy Pollock

Montreal, Canada

14 Jul 76

2.00.17

Sharon Stewart

Oslo, Norway

6 Jul 91

2.00.32

Susan Andrews

Brisbane

3 Sep 00

2.00.50

Heather Barralet

Adelaide

14 Mar 84

2.00.56

Terri-Anne Cater

Rome, Italy

5 Sep 81

2.00.57

Kaylene Coster

Adelaide

14 Mar 84

2.00.68

Wendy Old-Abbott

Melbourne

1 Apr 90

2.00.80

Lisa Lightfoot

Melbourne

29 Feb 96

2:00.90

Georgia Griffith

Portland, Oregon

11 Jun 17

Not surprisingly 18-time national champion Tamsyn Manou, another one of the five Australian women to have dipped under two minutes, has provided inspiration for Griffith.

“Tamsyn is also someone else I really admire and who has been very supportive,” Griffith said.

“She has been a really supportive influence over the past couple of years, I particularly admire how she races, in terms of taking every race on from the start.

“To run under two minutes and to be in the class of those runners is something I would really like to work towards.”

Sub two might come for Griffith in the future, so too may the national record, or it might not, but her run is Portland was no flash in the pan and will likely produce more than just an excuse to bail on a cold Melbourne winter season.

 

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