“That was tough, such a grind. It was just tough.”
His performance aside, Brett Robinson (Vic) was struggling to find a good word about the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships in Guiyang (CHN).
His run, however, he did like that. And Robinson’s finish place, 28th – one higher than in Bydgoszcz (POL) two years ago – was the product of a hard, tough effort. He came through from back in the 40’s after the first of six laps and was inside the top 30 at half-way, but could not make significant further ground.
As Robinson acknowledged, this was a course that just kept hitting you. There was nowhere to get into a sustained rhythm.
The loop started and finished on the flat of a racecourse. But that was as flat as it got, the greater part of the 2-kilometre loop winding up and down a hill opposite the main grandstand. It made it great for television, great for spectators, but damned hard for the runners.
Each lap started and finished with a significant obstacle. A couple of hundred metres into the loop there was a ditch which was immediately followed by a steep climb over an earth mound. Near the finish of the lap, a similar double whammy lay in wait, this time two mounds separated by only 10-15 metres.
Robinson’s 28th place was the best obtained by an Australian on a day which was again dominated by Kenya, Ethiopia and other east African teams.
Senior Teams pack well but miss at pointy end
Two laps into the senior women’s 8km race two things were evident: the Australian team was packing well, but needed someone to push into the top 20 to get a good team result.
As it was, little more than a dozen places separated the five Australians most of the race, but with no-one high up in the race the team could finish no higher than 11th.
Trials winner Victoria Mitchell (NSW) again led the team home, this time in 40th place.
“It was a hard course,” Mitchell said, “but I think my steeplechase experience helped me through it.”
Mitchell’s only problem was a mid-race stitch which briefly saw her drop from leading Australian to last of the five. But she charged back up through the field in the final lap.
Behind her, Courtney Powell (Vic) finished 42nd, a commendable effort given she had tripped during a drill and cut her head a few days before the race.
Gemma Maini (Vic) had a fine international debut finishing in 50th place, the exact half-way point of the 100-strong field. Jess Trengove (SA) was the final scoring member in 55th place with Emily Brichacek (ACT) fading a little in the second half of the race after being prominent early to finish 61st.
It was a similar story in the men’s race, with Robinson and Dave McNeill (Vic) most prominent early, followed by Liam Adams (Vic) and then Mitch Brown (Vic) and James Nipperess (NSW) running close together in the mid-60s.
Adams came through the field impressively to finish just inside the top 50 at 49th place. Brown (64th) and Nipperess (69th) completed the scoring team with McNeill finishing 87th.
Pompeani leads Junior Women
Two days before the race, Leanne Pompeani (ACT) wasn’t even sure she would be running. A twinge in her hip after a training run on Monday still had not cleared up by the time she left Australia on Wednesday, but the forced rest of the day-long plane trip and some good work from the team physiotherapist ensured she got to the line.
Just fourth in the Australian trial, Pompeani was always to the fore on race day, finishing 47th and leading home teammates Sophie Eckel (SA, 58th), Karlie Swanson (NSW, 63rd), Amy McCormick (WA, 64th), Jessica Hull (NSW, 69th) and Brianna Thomas (Qld, 88th) in the field of 100.
“It was tough,” she said, a remark which would echo through the day. “I was back and just slowly worked my way through with each lap.
“It’s the toughest race I’ve ever run. I’ve never run one of this size. I was so nervous (about the injury), but it’s amazing what adrenalin can do.”
The junior men’s results remained problematic, but one thing that was clear was that Morgan McDonald (NSW) was the top finisher in 40th place. Now at university in the American state of Wisconsin, McDonald was running the junior race for the second time.
“I guess I just wasn’t really ready,” he said. “I was injured a little while back and just haven’t been back into full running long enough.”
The other junior men found it tough going.