By the nature of things, young athletes have limited chances to perform at their peak in the U20 3000 metres races. The majority don’t even get the chance to compete more than once.
In this context, the 2014 men’s Robert de Castella and women’s Lisa Ondieki 3000s could be exceptional with the respective favourites, Zak Patterson and Kate Spencer, looking at multiple achievements on Zatopek night.
World junior championships representative Spencer will be chasing a second win in the women’s race, a feat achieved only by Melissa Rollison in the 18 editions of the race.
To achieve that, Spencer must first see off the challenge of Courtney Powell. Indeed, it looms as a similar competitive challenge to when Rollison set the record in defeating Georgie Clarke and Eloise Wellings (then Eloise Poppett) in 2001.
Spencer’s 9:18.64 last year was exactly 15 seconds shy of Rollison’s record. She has already run 9:09.29 in taking the New South Wales Open title last month, so any further improvement would put her within touch of Rollison’s mark.
On track times, Spencer has a clear edge – 9:09.29 to 9:25.28 – on Powell, but the latter performed better at the World Junior Championships (7th v 11th in the 5000 metres) and has won the senior titles at the Australian and Oceania cross-country championships since.
It should be a cracker of a race.
Zak Patterson has placed second in each of the last two men’s races, losing narrowly to Declan Wilson (NZL) in 2012 and to Jacob Birtwhistle last year. This looks to be his year.
Patterson has the twin targets of Ryan Gregson’s meeting and national records in sight. Gregson holds the national U20 mark at 7:57.45 while his 2009 race record stands at 8:02.56.
Gregson holds a marked edge on Patterson for times at junior 1500 metres, but both finished fifth in the world junior championships. Patterson is in good form, having won the Victorian senior title at 5000 metres last month and then run in the 4×800 relay at the Victorian state relay championships 10 days ago when his Jeff Riseley-anchored Knox team won a thrilling victory over a St Kevin’s quartet anchored by co-Australian record holder Alex Rowe.
In short, Patterson is certainly capable of running a pace which would take him to either of Gregson’s records. Whether that would bring him the win at his last chance in junior ranks and against quality opposition led by the likes of Jack Stapleton, Luke Matthews and Reilly Shaw is another matter.
Lakeside Stadium – 31 Aughtie Drive, Albert Park, 3206
Gates open: 4:00pm – First event – 5:45pm, Thursday 11 December, 201
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 or at the gate.