The next four days are set to shape the athletics lives of nearly 250 Victorian athletes as Melbourne plays host to the 92nd edition of the Australian Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games selection trials.
As the Australian summer season comes to a close the coming days at Lakeside Stadium presents athletes with the opportunity for automatic selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be staged in Glasgow, Scotland in 111 days.
And, if the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge last month is any indication the women’s javelin will be a must watch with Ballarat’s Kathryn Mitchell to reignite her battle with 2013 Moscow world championship silver medalist Kim Mickle.
The pair has gone head-to-head all summer with both recording personal bests and going beyond 66m, highlighted by Mickle adding the Australian national record of 66.83m to her name.
Box Hill pole vaulter Joel Pocklington has been one of the most consistent performers this season, setting nine ‘B’ qualifying standards with a season and personal best of 5.41m in Newcastle earlier this year a sure sign he is a good chance of claiming a spot on the Australian team.
There will be plenty of intrigue in how the men’s 800m plays out, with a tactical battle between Knox Athletics Jeff Riseley, St Kevin’s Alex Rowe and one of the seasons most talked about athletes, New South Wales Joshua Ralph set to lock horns again.
The trio last met in Melbourne for the first round of the IAAF World Challenge and it was Ralph who produced a personal best of 1:45.80 ahead of Riseley who crossed the line in 1:46.15 to add his first ‘A’ qualifying standard of the season.
2014 Sopot World Indoor finalist Collis Birmingham will head into the 5000m as the man to beat and will be hoping to add the crown to his 10,000m national title from Zatopek:10 last December.
Originally from Canberra, but, continuing the Ballarat theme 2013 5000m world championship finalist Brett Robinson will also be lining up a trip to Scotland later this year.
New South Wales’ athlete Ben St Lawrence is the likely threat to the two Victorian based athletes, but as Zatopek:10 showed, anything can happen and all three will be eyeing the national crown.
Old Melbournian’s Sam Baines stand out season has built up well to the nationals, recording a personal best of 13.69 in the 110m hurdles at the Sydney Track Classic with the only slight concern coming at last months IAAF Melbourne World Challenge where he opted to withdrawal after a slight injury concern.
Another exciting head-to-head battle is to unfold with Baines to face New South Wales young star Nicholas Hough, if conditions suit the pair could capture the 13.50 Commonwealth Games ‘A’ standard.
The women’s 1500m provides the opportunity for three Victorians to book trips to Glasgow. It will be Olympians Zoe Buckman and Kaila McKnight who resume their long standing battle, but don’t discount Melissa Duncan who could push for selection if an ‘A’ standard is produced from one of the three.
In another stand out season South Coast jumper and world youth champion Eleanor Patterson has opted to focus on the Commonwealth Games and will head into the Australian national championships as firm favourite to confirm her position as Australia’s number one female high jumper.
Victorian Institute of Sport athletes Brooke Stratton and Damien Birkinhead will both be focused on confirming spots on their first ever senior Australian team this weekend.
Long jumper Stratton came close to the ‘A’ qualifying standard in Perth earlier this year with a distance of 6.62m and will be in a battle with South Australian Margaret Gayen who also has a season best of 6.62m, Australian Capital Territories Jessica Penney who produced a 6.54m back in February and fellow Victorian Corinna Minko will also performed well at the Perth Track Classic to record a season best of 6.38m.
In form Birkinhead heads into the shot put off the back of an outstanding IAAF Melbourne World Challenge, claiming a personal best of 19.31m and there is every chance he could find the extra metres to claim the 20.10m ‘A’ qualifying standard.
Geelong’s 400m hurdler Jess Gulli has had a breakout season and is now right in the selection frame for Glasgow after an impressive 57.30 at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge.
Gulli will have strong competition from Canberra’s Lauren Wells who came close to the ‘A’ qualifying standard in Perth earlier this year with a 56.66 and will be favourite to claim the national title.
Good luck to all Victorian athletes competing at the Australia Athletics Championships.
92nd Australian Athletics Championships Information: