With temperatures sitting in the low 20’s, the Victorian Half-Marathon team ventured to the Sunshine coast to contest the Australian Half-Marathon Championships.
With injuries striking the women’s team of Virginia Moloney, Erchana Murray-Bartlett and Jessica Lees (all Collingwood Harriers) late in the week, the Victorian men’s team remained healthy enough to storm home with the national team title.
Three scoring athletes are used to determine a state versus state scoring system, the Victorian Men’s team of Mitchel Brown (Essendon), Michael Kernahan (Mentone), Zachary Newman (Melbourne University) and Toby Rayner (Glenhuntly) led a medal hopeful charge, with Melbourne University’s Nick Earl a late withdrawal due to illness.
A 6am race start greeted competitors for the 21.1km journey, in the team competition Victoria comprehensively defeated all other states, with Queensland 2nd on 23 points, Victoria’s 11 points were secured by 3rd, 5th and 7th place runs from Mitchel Brown (1:05:40), Toby Rayner (1:08:03) and Zachary Newman (1:09:15) respectively.
Athletics Victoria spoke with Brown following the race, Brown remarked that the race and early pace was dictated by individual entrant, two-time Australian Olympian Collis Birmingham.
Returning from a European training stint, Birmingham was targeting Pat Carroll’s 23-year old Australian all-comers record of 1:01:11.
Whilst Birmingham has run faster, clocking 1:00:56 in Marugame, Japan in 2013, the national championship setting ensured Birmingham’s run was completed without pacers. Brown told Athletics Victoria the early pace was strong, as only Chris Hamer (ACT) decided to chance going with Birmingham, a tactical move indicative of the former Box Hill runner’s current form, early bravery that paid dividends with a finishing time of 1:04:08, taking over 4 minutes off Hamer’s 2009 personal best.
Birmingham finished well clear of the field, victorious in a course record of 1:03:18, making a substantial breakaway following the early feature hill, appearing at 5km. Birmingham told the Sunshine Coast Daily that whilst he felt strong throughout the race, “When we turned around and were coming back there was a little bit of wind and it was pretty hard work but I’m happy with the effort.”
Brown elaborated on the race following Collis’ big move, suggesting that tactics quickly encouraged a race for 3rd place, as Brown engaged in a long-distance stoush with Queenslander Isaias Beyn, as New Zealand’s Aaron Pulford, a Zatopek 10 regular, set an honest pace for the chase group until fading after the 11km mark.
Brown kicked home over the final 400 metres, finally detaching himself from Beyn’s determined shadowing routine, whilst pleased with his tactical acuity, the Essendon stalwart mirrored Birmingham’s sentiments, in finding the second half of the race difficult in moderately windy conditions.
Athletics Victoria’s focus turns to Wollongong this weekend, with the Australian Cross Country Championships providing a grassy battleground for over 130 of Victoria’s best junior and open cross country runners, be sure to stay tuned to AV’s news and social media streams to keep up to date.
Notable Victorian Performances:
1st Collis Birmingham (Eureka) – 1:03:16 Course Record
3rd Mitchel Brown (Essendon) – 1:05:39
6th Toby Rayner (Glenhuntly) – 1:08:02
7th Dejen Gebresellassie (Mentone) – 1:08:59
8th Zachary Newman (Melbourne University) – 1:09:15
9th Michael Kernahan (Mentone) – 1:09:39