2015 IAAF world cross country representative Courtney Powell has the opportunity to be the first women since Victorian Anna Thompson in 2006-07, to win back-to-back Australian cross country championships this Saturday 29 August at Moonee Valley Racecourse.

I’m so excited nationals are in Melbourne this year, having the opportunity to try and win back-to-back national titles in front of a home crowd is very motivating,” Powell said.

20-year-old Powell lead Victoria to team honours at the 2014 edition in Albany, Western Australia with a winning time of 28 minutes and 0.3 seconds over a flat 8km course last August and, will once again lead the way for the Big V alongside team captain and Frankston athlete Gemma Maini.

“I’m really happy with my preparation for nationals this year. I have been lucky to have had a block of good consistent training since the Albert Park 10km,” Powell said.

Powell has since linked up with Melbourne Track Club coach Nic Bideau and developed into one of Australia’s hottest running prospects, breaking through at Athletics Victoria’s Albert Park 10km road race in June with a blistering time of 32 minutes and 33.6 seconds.

To put that into perspective the Rio 2016 Olympic Games 5000m qualification standard is 15 minutes and 20.00 seconds.

“I am so lucky to have Nic (Bideau) as my coach and be surrounded by so many athletes I look up to. I have faith in how he is developing me as an athlete, which does boost my confidence when I line up for important races. Unfortunately most of MTC has been overseas throughtout winter but, I have had a great group of guys to warm up and down with,” Powell said.

Powell sent a strong indication she is ready to defend her national title by winning the tough XCR’15 Brimbank Park 6km cross country event earlier this month.

“Anything can happen on race-day but over the past couple of months I’ve been feeling fit and strong…touch wood,” Powell said.

After a consistent season training and competing across track and road, Powell will turn her attention to Zatopek:10 later this year, with a potential step up to 10,000m.

“It has been mentioned by Nic recently that I may take on my first 25-lapper at Zatopek:10,” Powell said.

“Obviously I’m only 20 and even though the 10km will most likely be my best event in the future I’ve got to improve over the shorter distances.”

“Zatopek:10 will be an amazing opportunity to run against Australia’s best 10km runners and really test myself,” Powell said.

Victoria will once again go into the championships as favourites to take out both the men’s and women’s team categories with a number of XCR’15 regulars including; Nick Wightman (Deakin) and Toby Rayner (Glenhuntly) set to line up in the Big V singlet.

City to Surf second place finisher and Ballarat based Stewart McSweyn will step up to the open division this year, adding considerable depth to the Victorian men’s team.

The first recognised interstate meeting for cross country racing in Australia took place in 1908 at Victoria Park Racecourse in Sydney.

The event was only open to men and Ballarat Harriers Charles Suffren won the five mile race with Victoria also claiming the team’s event ahead of New South Wales.

The first recognised Australian cross country championships was held in 1910 at Elwick Racecourse, Hobart over 10 miles and was won by New South Wales athlete Andrew Wood in 60 minutes and 50 seconds.

The first women’s race was introduced in 1960 in Brisbane and was won by Victorian Jan McDonald over a 1.5 mile course.

Legendary distance runner Steve Moneghetti aged 20 first won a bronze medal in 1983 before winning the 2003 championships 20 years later.

Live results will be available online:

Victorian team:

Female: Gemma Maini (Frankston – Captain),  Karinna Fyfe (Glenhuntly), Sarah Waters (Deakin), Tracey Austin (Malvern Harriers), Alexandra Paterson (Old Xaverians), Courtney Powell (Box Hill).

Reserves: Virginia Moloney  (Collingwood Harriers), Amelia Aslanides (Glenhuntly)

Male: Nick Wightman (Deakin – Captain), Toby Rayner (Glenhuntly), Steve Kelly (Box Hill), William Potter (Box Hill), Nicolas van Raaphorst (Ballarat YCW), Stewart McSweyn (Eureka).

Reserves: Ryan Geard (Athletics Essendon)

Key information:
What: Australian Cross Country Championships, Melbourne 2015
When: Saturday 29 August, 2015
Where: Moonee Valley Race Course (Google Maps)
Webpage: Click here
Social media: @athsvic