Three of Australia’s best distance performers at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games headline the women’s race at this year’s Zatopek: 10.
Marathon bronze medallist Jess Trengove, 3000 metres steeplechase fourth placegetter Madeline Heiner and 5000 metres fifth finisher Eloise Wellings will all have eyes on the dual prize of a win in Australia’s most prestigious distance race and qualification for next year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
The IAAF has introduced a single qualification standard for Beijing, which adds some complexity into most events. The pathway into to the 10,000 metres remains straightforward, however – simply achieve the qualifying standard of 32 minutes (women) and 27:45 (men).
For Australian athletes, first step is to win their national championship. For the 10,000 metres, this is once again the Zatopek: 10.
Wellings is no stranger to either the national title or the international stage. She is a two-time Zatopek: 10 winner and a member of three Commonwealth Games teams, a London 2012 Olympian and a world championships team member.
Trengove, too, has been a regular contender in recent Zatopek races. Along with Lisa Weightman, she has been Australia’s leading female marathoner over the past five years.
Heiner, though, will be making her debut in a track 10,000 metres, crowning a comeback which has seen her on the track in 2014 for the first time since 2006.
After narrowly missing the Melbourne Commonwealth Games team in the steeple, injuries and studies kept Heiner off the track for eight years. She returned to make the Glasgow team where she and Genevieve LaCaze took on three Kenyans among the very best in the world – Purity Kirui, reiging world champion Milcah Chemos and Joan Chepkemoi.
The two Australians were still in contention in the last lap of the gruelling race, with Heiner only denied the bronze medal in the final 50 metres. She was rewarded with a personal best.
Despite coming so close to a medal, Heiner was satisfied with the result.
“My immediate response when I crossed the line was: ‘Is that it’,” she says, “but I’m happy with the performance. It would have been great to have those extra few metres, but when I think where I was a year before, I’m very happy.”
Heiner also achieved the Glasgow qualifying standard in the 5000 metres and feels that now is the time to try the longest track distances. She has yet to run a track 10,000, but has run 15:27.75 for 5000 earlier this year and has a road 10km best of 32:50 (also this year, in Launceston).
“I feel better prepared than for Launceston,” she says, but is not planning to step up to the 10,000.
“No plans for a career change, I’m intending to step back down to the steeple and even the 5000.”
What if she wins in a qualifying time? “I’d probably re-assess.”
In top form, Wellings would be the one to beat. She, too, was a medal contender against high-class opposition in the Commonwealth Games, finishing fifth in the 5000 metres behind world champion Mercy Cherono, Janet Kisa (both Kenya), England’s Jo Pavey and Kenya’s, Margaret Muriuki.
Trengove has finished in the top four in the past four Zatopek races, with a personal best of 33:08.26 for second behind Nikki Chapple last year. Both Steve Moneghetti – her chef de mission in Glasgow – and Kerryn McCann were marathoners who were highly competitive at 10,000 metres. It would be good to see Trengove push herself into that company.
Last year’s third placegetter Milly Clark returns while others include Celia Sullohern, winner of the Lisa Ondieki U20 3000 metres in 2011 and Casey Wood.
Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu Gebrehiwet ran 15:42.71 for 5000 metres in 2013 and has a road personal best of 33:22 for 10km but the bigger international threat may come from Veronica Wanjiru of Kenya.
Wanjiru has just one listed performance on statistics site All-Athletics, a 34:19 road 10km. As that was in Bogota, Colombia, 2640 metres above sea level, it could be indicative of something considerably faster.
Commonwealth Games 800 metres representative Brittany McGowan and world junior championships 800 bronze medallist Georgia Wassall take on the women’s 1500 metres where there main opponents include Coreena Cleland and Amanda Paulin.
Lakeside Stadium – 31 Aughtie Drive, Albert Park, 3206
First event – 5:45pm, Thursday 11 December, 2014
The 2014 Zatopek:10 is Australia’s premier track distance meet attracting the nation’s best distance runners; supported by events showcasing the best up and coming talent from around Australia.
Tickets available via www.ticketmaster.com.au