Two new Australian 10,000m champions have been crowned at Zatopek:10 at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne, with Celia Sullohern and Stewart McSweyn first across the tape in their respective events.
The wins earned Sullohern (32:31.22) and McSweyn (28:37.28) automatic nominations for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games despite their times ranking as B Standards. Both athletes will still need to be selected by Commonwealth Games Australia.
The women’s 10,000 saw a cruisy opening half of the race (16:39.48) before Jess Trengove, searching for her first Zatopek win with four podium finishes to her name, cranked up the pace. The move forced a definitive quartet to emerge at the front of the race with Sullohern, four-time Zatopek winner Eloise Wellings and Emily Brichacek able to follow.
Trengove maintained the pressure, eventually forcing Brichacek to lose contact, with Wellings also dropping off the pace with three laps remaining. As the bell sounded, Trengove was running confidently, with Sullohern fighting to stick with the South Australian and fight she did. Sullohern eventuallly overcoming her more-fancied rivals by sprinting down the front straight to victory.
It was a moment that Sullohern, who claimed a breakthrough win at the Melbourne Marathon in October, struggled to bring into focus.
“I’m still trying to comprehend it a little bit I was just keen to have a hit out and see if my legs were on track because I haven’t run shorter distances at all for a couple of years,” the 22-year-old admitted. “It’s very exciting to be out there with the girls and to come away with the win is just a bonus.”
In fact, Sullohern who hails from NSW, had raced just one 10,000m event before and it was Zatopek in 2014. As such, it was only in the final metres before the finish line that she allowed herself to believe she had won.
“Maybe 10m before, I was just giving it everything I had,” she said.
Trengove meanwhile was satisfied with her performance, with her focus on the marathon for Gold Coast 2018. Her surge, which saw consistent 76-second laps, chip away at the field was a planned move.
“I wanted to run that second 5km to the best of my ability,” Trengove said having finished 3.84s behind Sullohern. “I certainly did everything I could to achieve that, and just in those final laps where I hoped to pick it up, to come out on top, I just didn’t quite have it. It gives me something to work on but at the end of the day, I’d like the marathon to be my focus, and if that was a positive step forward for that, then I achieved what I wanted from it.”
Wellings was left to rue a slip in her concentration with three laps to go, eventually finishing in third place surrounded by clear air, nearly 11 seconds in arrears of the winner.
“It was a bit of a rookie error on my behalf,” the 35-year-old said. “I’m happy to get through another 10k on the track. It’s all experience, even at my age now. It’s one of the things about the sport, and as long as I’m still having fun, I’m just going to keep going.”
In the men’s event, McSweyn timed his run perfectly, overcoming defending champion Pat Tiernan. Like the women’s race before them, it took some time for the pace to ramp up with a leading group of 11 split after 14 laps. Tiernan appeared well within his comfort zone in second or third position, with McSweyn maintaining close contact.
With five and a half laps remaining, Tiernan made his move, with McSweyn hot on his heels with the countdown on at a little over a minute per circuit of the track. Tiernan may not have looked troubled as he continually pushed the pace, but neither did McSweyn – the latter’s upper body the only indication of the effort as the duo hit the back straight for the final time. McSweyn’s mastery was in his timing, as he moved alongside the 2016 winner on the bend heading onto the front straight and sprinted to the win, saluting the crowd. David McNeill finished in third place.
A race over a mile leading into this year’s world championships gave McSweyn hope that he could take on Tiernan should it come down to a sprint.
“I just knocked him off there, so I thought if it came down to a kick it was my best chance,” he said, proven correct.
McSweyn was not thrown by the sluggish pace over the majority of the race.
“I feel like my speed’s going pretty well. It was a weird race, no one wanted to get after it, and we were just jogging around for the first probably 16 or 17 laps,” he said.
“I was confident. I’ve got good mile speed, so I knew if it went to a lap I had a good chance, but obviously, with Pat Tiernan so strong, he wasn’t going to make it easy so I just had to try and hold on for that final lap.”
With a guaranteed seat on the plane bound for the Gold Coast, McSweyn now has a conundrum given the 10,000m is one of his three events.
“I think the 10k in the long term will be my best but at the moment I’m just focusing on the 10k, 5k and steeple and whatever I can do well enough to make the teams in I’m happy to go with,” he mused. “I’m working on them all at the moment.”
Tiernan was full of praise for the winner.
“It was a great effort by Stewy, he responded to my move,” he said. “The last lap I thought he might be hurting a bit, but he came home strong like he always does so all credit to him. He responded to everything, he had a great run and deserved the win.”
Qualification for the Commonwealth Games was not only on offer in the 10,000 events on Thursday night.
In the open men's shot put, Damien Birkinhead scored the only Commonwealth Games A qualifying mark of the evening. The Victorian threw 20.32m.
The solid competition across the program at Zatopek:10 also provided opportunities for some of Australia’s emerging athletes.
Joshua Torley’s 14th place finish in the men’s 10,000m in a time of 29:58.94 was a qualifier for next year’s IAAF World U20 Championships in Finland.
Amelia Mazza-Downie, was another, clocking 9:26.87 in the Ondieki women’s under-20 3000m.
Full results for Zatopek:10 can be found here.
Video of the entire meet program can be found here.