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Lawson to leap into Melbourne!

Athletics is in search of the next Usain Bolt and may have found him in US speedster Jarrion Lawson.

He was compared to the great Jesse Owens when he won the 100m, 200m and long jump titles at the NCAA Championships in 2016, and this year, US athlete Lawson has been picked for Usain Bolt’s All-Stars for Nitro Athletics Melbourne.

In Melbourne the pocket-rocket will be a key weapon for Bolt’s team, both on the track and in the sandpit, where he will launch against Australia’s Diamond League champion Fabrice Lapierre. With a windy 9.90sec (+2.7) and a heat run in Rio with the US 4x100m team after making the final the straight dash at the US Trials, Lawson is multi-talent and well suited to the Nitro Athletics team format.

Eighty years after Owens won his college titles, 22-year-old Lawson, competing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, became the first person since Owens to win the same three NCCA titles exciting the athletics world with his natural sprinting and jumping talent.

In 2016 Lawson made his first Olympic team, qualifying for the long jump at the US Olympic Trials with a personal best leap of 8.58m (w+1.8).

In an incredible long jump final in Rio, sitting in fourth, Lawson’s final jump of the night had seemingly put him into the gold medal position before it was revealed that his trailing finger scraped the sand, reducing his jump and agonisingly finishing in fourth place.

Lawson will join the Bolt All-Stars for Nitro Athletics Melbourne in a series that kicks off next month and will see Australia take on Usain Bolt’s All-Stars, China, England, Japan and New Zealand in a new look athletics format at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on Saturday 4th, Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th February 2017.

Bolt will be joined by four fellow Olympic champions including Rio 400m hurdles gold medallist Kerron Clement, Jamaican relay teammates Asafa Powell and Michael Frater along with 2008 Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper Nelson from the United States.

“Rio was a great experience for me – I loved it,” Lawson said.

“It was my first Olympic experience so I made sure I took every bit of it in. The long jump was a great competition with great competitors. Of course I thought I had won at the end, but that finger kept me from moving onto the medal stand. However, I felt that I did my best, and I captured the moment as best as possible,” Lawson said.

A world junior bronze medallist in 2012, Lawson plans to continue to develop both his sprinting and jumping abilities in the future.

“I plan to make a big leap in my sprinting events. I plan to set some new personal records, and yes, I plan on going under 10 seconds and hopefully under 20 multiple times!”

Coming from a team-minded environment in the college system, Lawson is looking forward to the prospect of a team-based competition at Nitro Athletics.

Given his versatility Lawson will be a huge factor in the Bolt All-Stars line up, with the capacity to sprint, run relays and long jump with world class abilities across a range of events.

“I love the team aspect! I’m a big team player, like I was in college. It makes the sport a little more fun but also keeps the competition at a high level.

“I think I can bring my team background to Usain’s team. I always give my best for myself and for my team.

And I think we will have a decent team. We certainly don’t plan on losing.”


Jarrion Lawson (USA)
Age: 22
Personal Bests: 100m: 10.04        200m: 20.17        Long jump: 8.58m (+1.8)
Titles: Long jump 4th at Rio Olympics, 4 x NCAA Champion (100m, 200m, long jump, 4x100m relay), World Junior Championships Bronze medallist

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AV/AA in Sri Lanka!

In Australia it’s easy to take things for granted. In athletics terms we actually have it quite good, with Melbourne alone having 20+ synthetic tracks, 40 senior clubs, hundreds of qualified coaches and organised competition on almost a weekly basis.  Everyone likes to have a whinge about the state of athletics, but let’s face it, ours are literally first world problems.

Through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Athletics Australia has embarked on a program to assist and develop athletics in Sri Lanka. With a population base just under that of Australia, all contained in a land mass the size of Tasmania, Sri Lanka sits as a gem shaped island below the sub continental land mass that is home to nearest neighbour in India.

With a rich agricultural heritage and fertile lands, Sri Lanka is far from being a third world country, however the scars of 30 years of civil war are still evident both physically in the limited infrastructure & maimed bodies, and emotionally through the memories of conflict that touched most families, both Singhalese and Tamil. With the conflict concluding in 2008, the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Sri Lanka as a united entity began.

Across the world sport is now seen as not just a physical pursuit but also a way to engage communities, provide healthy outcomes for the entire population and develop self worth – peace through sport being a common catchphrase in developing nations. With this in mind, Athletics Australia is not targeting high performance or talent spotting through their program, it is solely aimed at building capacity for Sri Lankan athletics to improve on existing structures and systems.

After a preliminary visit by AA staff in November 2016, four Melbourne based coaches made the trip to Sri Lanka on January 2nd to deliver coach education courses in Gampaha, Hettipola and Jaffna. Each site was selected for different reasons. Gampaha is an existing athletic centre not far from the capital Colombo, but still under-developed in terms of the range of coaching available.  Hettipola has a more rural village feel with limited opportunities for school children and village communities to engage in sport.  Further north, Jaffna was the epicentre of the civil war, so the strain 30 years of conflict brought to the community and the region’s infrastructure is ever present.

A two prong approach was taken with this visit – basic coach education that encompassed the Level 1 Community Coach, Recreational Run Leader and IAAF Kids program up-skilling covered those with little or no formal athletic coaching experience, while the Level 2 Intermediate Club Coach course was delivered to those currently coaching in some capacity.

As a first attempt at the program AA had no real concept of how many coaches to expect, what courses they would be interested in or how they would respond to courses delivered in English and translated to Singhalese in both Gampaha & Hettipola, then Tamil and Singhalese in Jaffna. A close working relationship with the Ministry of Sport, Ministry of Education and the Army did however ensure each venue worked well.

Through the support of these various departments, the final day’s activity at each centre involving a practical demonstration by the Sri Lankan coaches of the IAAF Kids Athletics and Youth Athletics programs involving local school children was amazing to see.

So after 10 days in the country involving 9 days of education, 400 newly accredited coaches are now released into the Sri Lankan schools, villages, military and urban centres. By anyone’s standard this is a tremendous result.

The work in Sri Lanka however is not over. A third visit for this financial year is planned in a few months with the emphasis being IPC Para classification and recruitment together with the potential for one Level 2 Advanced coaching course. There is some hope that DFAT will continue funding into a second year as continuity of the programs being established is essential to long term success.

In terms of the impact of the program so far, this may be hard to judge, but if the words of one participant in Hettipola are anything to go by, then things are looking positive. ‘We were a desert until you came, but Athletics Australia has provided the water for us to grow.”

Tim Crosbie – Athletics Victoria – Recreational Running Coordinator

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Nitro Team Australia Confirmed!

An Australian team full of young guns and rising stars are relishing the opportunity to take on Usain Bolt and his international band of super stars at the inaugural Nitro Athletics Melbourne.

Headlined by Olympians and Olympic finalists including Ryan Gregson, Morgan Mitchell, Genevieve LaCaze, Fabrice Lapierre, Brooke Stratton, Kathryn Mitchell and Michelle Jenneke the team also includes Paralympic gold medallist Scott Reardon and bronze medallist Ella Pardy.

Rising sprint stars Jack Hale and Riley Day get the opportunity to experience big-time international athletics for the first time, and world junior championship silver medallists Kurtis Marschall and Liz Parnov will also be crucial to Team Australia’s success in the pole vault.

With an average age of just 22 the team represents Australia’s athletics future and includes rising stars such as national 400m champion and Olympic 4x400m finalist Anneliese Rubie.

“I’m looking forward to the fast-paced program of Nitro,” Rubie said.

“It’s super exciting to have so many different types of events on the one night such as the 300m and the mixed relays,” Rubie added.

The team represents 15 members with Olympic or Paralympic experience including Ryan Gregson, who in Rio became the first Australian to make the men’s 1500m final in 40 years.

“This is something that’s never happened before and I’m I just so excited to be a part of it,” Gregson said.

“The main thing is that we are going to have to try and beat the Bolt All-Stars – that’s the goal.

It’s going to be fun to be a part of a team with a lot of my friends that I get along with so well.”

“The elimination mile is going to be interesting,” Gregson said.

“I really don’t know what to expect because I know how to race a mile when we are all just focussing on the last lap but this time we’re going to see someone eliminated after each lap – it’s going to mean that there’ll be some very tired legs on the last lap which means it’s going to be very entertaining for the crowd to watch. I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

“From what I know Nitro Athletics is going to be non-stop action. At Lakeside the crowd is going to be so close to the action and it’s going to be great.”

Exuberant Olympic hurdler and regular Sydney University Athletics Club contributor Michelle Jenneke said she thought Nitro Athletics Melbourne would be full of surprises.

“I think new innovations in any sport which engages the general public and increases the profile of the sport and its athletes is great,” Jenneke said.

“I hope the Australian public will get behind it and get to experience some of the fun that I as an athlete get to experience. Team Australia is a great group of athletes with lots of young energy so hopefully with the crowd behind us, it will result in a whole lot of fun and a great night at the track for everyone.”

Young sprint star Jack Hale is equally excited about the opportunity to be a part of the ground-breaking series.

“It’s an amazing opportunity – it’s going to be huge for me and my development of my career going forward,” the 18 year old said.

“Athletics is a long game and it’s all about progression over the years so to be one of the youngest in the team is really good and hopefully being part of Nitro will give me some great new experience.”

“The chance to line up against someone like Usain Bolt will be amazing – he’s the pinnacle of sprinters. While I look up to him – I’m excited to create my own future,” Hale said.

Team Australia Selector Tamsyn Lewis said the team is hungry to take athletics into a new era.

“This team recognises the opportunity to compete along-side Usain and his team of Olympic champions but also the chance to compete in an Australian meet on prime time TV for the first time in nearly a decade,” Lewis says.

“They are young guns ready to put on a show and we are thrilled that they will get this opportunity – it’s a world first. Usain Bolt is racing in Australia and they will all be part of it.”

Team Australia for Nitro Athletics Melbourne
Alex Hartmann QLD 23 Sprints Morgan Mitchell VIC 22 Sprints
Jack Hale TAS 18 Sprints Anneliese Rubie NSW 24 Sprints
Aaron Stubbs QLD 26 Sprints Riley Day QLD 16 Sprints
Luke Stevens VIC 22 Sprints Christine Wearne NSW 29 Sprints
Justin Merlino NSW 30 Hurdles Michelle Jenneke  NSW 23 Hurdles, sprints
Ryan Gregson VIC 26 Middle distance Genevieve LaCaze VIC 27 Middle distance
Jeff Riseley VIC 30 Middle distance Linden Hall VIC 25 Middle distance
Luke Mathews VIC 21 Middle distance Heidi See NSW 27 Middle distance
Fabrice Lapierre NSW 33 Jumps Brooke Stratton VIC 23 Jumps, sprints
Kurtis Marschall SA 19 Pole vault Liz Parnov WA 22 Pole vault
Hamish Peacock TAS 26 Javelin Kathryn Mitchell VIC 34 Javelin
Scott Reardon ACT 26 Para-Athletics Ella Pardy  WA 26 Para-Athletics

Nine-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt will headline the Bolt All-Stars for Nitro Athletics Melbourne in the series that kicks off next month and will see Australia also take on China, England, Japan and New Zealand in a new look athletics format at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on Saturday 4th, Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th February 2017.

Bolt will be joined by four fellow Olympic champions including Rio 400m hurdles gold medallist Kerron Clement, Jamaican relay teammates Asafa Powell and Michael Frater along with 2008 Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper Nelson from the United States.

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Olympic champion will bring showbiz to Nitro

It is not unusual for an Olympic champion to be talented in a number of areas and that’s certainly the case for Bolt All-Stars Olympic champion Kerron Clement who has made a name for himself on and off the track.

Olympic gold, Beyoncé film clips, modelling and a cameo on Young and the Restless are all part of the Clement resume.

The Rio gold medallist will join the Bolt All-Stars for Nitro Athletics Melbourne in the series that kicks off next month and will see Australia take on Usain Bolt’s All-Stars, China, England, Japan and New Zealand in a new look athletics format at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on Saturday 4th, Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th February 2017.

Since winning his first global championship in Osaka nearly ten years ago in the 400m hurdles the 31-year-old American finally achieved the ultimate in Rio last year, claiming the 400m hurdles Olympic gold.

In his third Olympics, a second-place finish in Beijing in 2008 along with relay gold and then a special effort to make the final in London after a year of injuries made victory in Brazil in a time of 47.73 seconds all the more sweeter.

“Gold in Rio has more significance than my other gold medals at the world championships,” Clement explained.

“Not saying I don’t value and appreciate my efforts but it was something about the journey leading up to 2016 summer games.

“Having dealt with many setbacks and injuries, and having to hit the refocus button and perform at the highest level possible while being under pressure – not many athletes can handle such pressure.

“That’s why it means so much to me to win and finally add that elusive gold to my collection.”

Clement also won a second world championship 400m hurdles title in Berlin, while winning gold in the US 4x400m relay teams at those championships and in Osaka.

Unsurprisingly, the American was picked to compete for the Bolt All-Stars at the upcoming Nitro Athletics series given his exceptional running resume.

Clement will join a team that includes Bolt and Jamaican Olympic gold medallists Asafa Powell and Michael Frater along with 2008 Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper-Nelson from the United States.

The trio will be joined by 2008 Olympic 100m silver medallist Richard Thompson from Trinidad and Tobago, American hurdler Ryan Wilson and rising young American sprinter Jenna Prandini.

Athletically Clement is perfectly suited to be on Usain Bolt’s team as he similarly enjoys the glitz and glamour professional sport can provide nearly as much as the big Jamaican himself.

“I’m really excited to be a part of this meeting,” Clement said.

“Anything that involves being a part of a team I’m always excited about because I consider myself a team player and I like to think I can motivate my other teammates to reach their full potential.

“It’s always good to be on a team with a global superstar (Usain Bolt), and right now the face of track and field.

“I think it will give other athletes a boost to give their best. I am a versatile athlete and can run any event.”

A flick through his Instagram account will show that Clement has as much confidence in front of the camera, if not more than when he is wearing American colours on the track. And he has even appeared in a Beyoncé music video clip (1:48) and an episode of Young and the Restless.

“The Beyoncé thing is funny to me,” Clement laughed.

“I did that gig eight years ago… and to this day people still talk about it. It’s something that I love to do, being in entertainment, in whichever capacity.

“Modelling for Sean John, acting in Young and the Restless, well actually it was a small cameo – and even photographing agency models.

“I dabble in photography as well… I’m a man of many skills.”

Looking beyond Nitro Athletics the day-to-day goals for Clement remain simple and largely revolve around staying injury free so he can perform to his best at every meet.

“As always, my aim for 2017 as any other year would be to injury free, and consistently winning,” he explained.

“Being an Olympic champion, I know I will have a target on my back but I am fully aware of that and I embrace the challenge by anyone.

“With that being said, I’m looking to be world champion again. Adding a third individual gold in the hurdles, making me the only hurdler in history to ever do so.”


Kerron Clement (USA)

Age: 31

Personal Bests – 100m: 10.23; 200m: 20.49; 400m: 44.48; 110m hurdles; 13.77; 400m hurdles: 47.24s

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Gregson and Mitchell jump into the New Year in winning form!

Nitro Athletics Team Australia squad members Morgan Mitchell and Ryan Gregson have raced into 2017 in winning form with both taking victories at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals.

The 130-year-old professional running, cycling and wood chopping carnival is a traditional Christmas-New Year event in Tasmania and the Australian Olympic team stars made the most of the opportunity to prepare for the 2017 season and Nitro Athletics Melbourne events next month.

Rio Olympic 1500m finalist Ryan Gregson became the first man in 50 years to win the Burnie Mile from scratch, with Harold Davies the last to achieve the feat in 1967.

Meanwhile Rio 400m semi-finalist Morgan Mitchell followed in the footsteps of her mentor Cathy Freeman, producing three podium placings, including wins over her favoured 400m at the Devonport Carnival, a sprint victory over 120m at Latrobe before a second place in the Burnie Gift 120m final yesterday.

Gregson’s winning time was 4:03.97 and whilst the aim was a sub four-minute time, Gregson said it was the wind that ultimately stood in the way of becoming just the eighth Australian in history to run sub four-minutes for a mile on grass.

“It was windy. It was really tough.  The guys did a great job in making it come up nice, I saw the lawnmower go out just before the race. So that gave us every opportunity to run fast.

“I’m a big fan of the sport, and especially mile running. I know all the history, so it just makes a win like this even more special. It’s just so humbling to go down in the record books with some of the greats,” he added.

Earlier in the carnival Mitchell followed Freeman’s footsteps by winning the Devonport 400m from scratch.

After already scoring a win over 120m at the Latrobe carnival, Mitchell returned to the track on Thursday night over her more favoured one-lap distance to record a narrow win in 54.29.

The win replicated the feat of Freeman, who won in Devonport off scratch 23-years ago and also matched the effort of Jamaican Sandie Richards who was the last to win off scratch in 2000.

“I took it a bit easy down the back and when I saw them kick up the front at the 200 metres I thought I was in trouble,” Mitchell said.

“But I remembered why we came here, got my act together, ran hard and just got there.

“I wasn’t really expecting that result before today, so I am really happy with it, especially the time.

“I did want to hike up Cradle Mountain but that’s off the cards now with the trifecta in play. It would be great to get a result at Burnie as well,” Mitchell said, referring to New Year’s Day assignment at the Burnie Carnival.

The 22-year-old fell just short of a stunning treble, finishing second in the big Burnie sprint final.

Gregson’s win rounded out a successful Tasmanian sojourn for a handful of Australia’s top line athletes ahead of the Nitro Athletics and Summer of Aths events in 2017.

Mitchell now returns to Melbourne whilst Gregson and Genevieve LaCaze head to Falls Creek to join the hundreds of runners assembled in the Victorian high country for their annual summer pilgrimage.

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Buscomb Upsets Wellings in Melbourne – Tiernan Romps in 10,000m Debut

Camille Buscomb produced the shock of the night on Thursday (8) when she upset the favourite Eloise Wellings to take the first New Zealand win in the Emil Zatopek 10,000 metres for 10 years.Australians – Melburnians especially – are accustomed to New Zealanders crossing the Tasman to win Australian distance races. It has been a feature of the famous Melbourne Cup (horseracing) carnival for many years.But not since Jessica Ruthe won the women’s Zatopek in 2006 has a Kiwi won Australian athletics’ most famous distance classic and you have to go back a further 12 years to Robbie Johnston in 1994 for a men’s winner.

Wellings was seeking her fourth victory, which would have pushed her ahead of three other women who have won three Zatopek titles. But she was never a factor, dropping some 20 metres behind pacemaker Genevieve LaCaze and Buscomb just before half-way into the race.

Patrick Tiernan made his debut 10,000m an occasion to remember with a win and a sub-28 minute clocking in the men’s race. Looking supremely comfortable throughout, Tiernan pulled away from Rio Olympic 5000m finalist Brett Robinson with seven laps to go and went on to win in 27:59.74.

Tiernan, who won the US NCAA cross-country championship at the end of November, was one of the favourites coming into a fairly even race. But he stamped his authority on the race with impressive confidence, always sitting comfortably in the lead group for the first 5000 metres before taking control soon after that. It was his move that dislodged Stewart McSweyn in the seventh kilometre and then he went to work on Robinson.

Buscomb overwhelms favourite Wellings

Coming into this year’s race Wellings was one of four women to have won the women’s Zatopek three times and the overwhelming expectation was that by race’s end she would be the only one with four wins to her name. She had finished tenth in the Rio Olympic 10,000m and ninth in the 5000m and looked a class above any of her opponents.

It did not work out that way, however. Wellings was in trouble as early as half-way when she had dropped back behind Buscomb and pacemaker Genevieve LaCaze. In the end, she did not even take the national title as Bridey Delaney, making her debut at 10,000m, worked her way through to finish second across the line.

Wellings was at a loss to explain her performance. She said she had rolled her ankle training at Falls Creek in the Victorian high country a few days before the race. She did not use that as an excuse, however, saying that she just never felt in a good rhythm at any stage of the race.

Buscomb finished second to Wellings in last year’s Zatopek race and narrowly missed qualifying for New Zealand’s Olympic team. She will again have to chase a qualifier this year as her time of 32:34.41 is short of the London 2017 standard.

Delaney took the Australian title with her 33:04.72 performance and Makda Harun Haji, an Ethiopian national who has settled in Australia, was third in 33:19.85. Wellings was next in 33:19.85, but she has the qualifying time for London and will almost certainly wind up in the team.

Delaney works full-time as a public servant in Newcastle, New South Wales. She said she probably would not chase a qualifying time for world championships but, like Tiernan, is keen to make the Australian team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017 next March.

Tiernan on cruise control

The women had the worst of the conditions on a night which was punctuated by squally rain early in the program. Conditions had settled by the time the men’s race was run.

With Sam McEntee and Jordan Williamsz setting the pace, Tiernan, Robinson and McSweyn went through the first half of the race in 14:07. As the last of the pacemakers stepped off the track, Tiernan was immediately into the lead and the tempo picked up.

With seven laps to go Tiernan was clear and it was only a matter of whether he could break 28 minutes. Maintaining an impressive rhythm to the end, he crossed the line in 27:59.74. McSweyn held on well to take second place in 28:29.65 and Chis Hamer also got past a tiring Robinson to take third in 29:02.00.

“I felt pretty smooth through the first seven kilometres or so, having a few on my tail helped with that, but it’s a very big difference running on track compared to grass,” Tiernan said. “I was feeling it in my legs at the end there but we got through it.”

Len Johnson for the IAAF

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Wellings Can Create History!

Plus many chances in the Men’s 10,000m…

Eloise Wellings comes into the 2016 women’s Zatopek 10,000 metres as one of four women to have won the race three times. She could emerge as the only one to have triumphed four times in the famous race.

There will be plenty of competition, but Wellings looks the pick in the women’s race provided there are no lingering effects from her Rio Olympic and late season racing in Europe. The 56th edition of the men’s Zatopek, on the other hand, looks a wide-open affair.

When the Victorian Marathon Club inaugurated the Emil Zatopek race back in 1961, the longest distance available to women was 800 metres – and that had just been returned to the Olympic program in Rome the previous year, 32 years after an ill-fated debut at the 1928 Games.

The VMC was at the forefront of the move to expand distance opportunities for women. Lavinia Petrie became one of Australia’s women marathon pioneers when she completed the club’s annual marathon in 1977. Women were also running in the Zatopek from that same time.

When it came to adopting the 10,000 metres, however, the VMC faced a practical problem: it was already promoting the best non-championship women’s 3000 metres on Zatopek night.

Consequently, the first female Zatopek competitors were graded into the race appropriate to their times and the ‘winner’ was the fastest overall. Joan Logan (nee Cameron) won two races on that basis and the first women-only Zatopek in 1979 to become the first three-time winner.

Carolyn Schuwalow, a 1988 Olympic finalist, won in 1982 (as a junior), in 1991 (in an Australian record) and in 1993, and Natalie Harvey won three times in a row from 1996 to 1998. Wellings has won three times – consecutively in 2009 and 2010, and again last year – and has a chance to make it four on Thursday evening at Lakeside, Albert Park.

Wellings’ efforts in Rio a few months ago entitle her to start favourite. She slashed her personal best by almost 30 seconds in finishing tenth in Almaz Ayana’s world record 10,000 metres, then ran her fastest 5000 in 10 years in finishing ninth in that event. To top it off, she ran almost as fast again in the 5000 at the Diamond League final in Brussels.

Camille Buscomb, Virginia Moloney and Makda Harun Haji – second, third and fourth behind Wellings in last year’s Zatopek – are all competing again on Thursday. Buscomb just missed making New Zealand’s Olympic team, Moloney slashed her marathon best in winning the Australian championship in Melbourne in October and Harun Haji won the Sydney marathon a month earlier again.

Others to keep an eye on include Bridey Delaney, making her track debut at the distance, Olympic steeplechase representative Victoria Mitchell, Leanne Pompeani, first Australian in the U20 race at last year’s world cross-country championships, and Kate Spencer, who ran 15:28.47 for 5000 metres earlier in the year.

Zoe Buckman and Genevieve LaCaze are also in the field, ostensibly to set the pace. Given the apparent ease with which LaCaze continued well beyond half-way last year, and her achievements in 2016, it would be an intriguing prospect if she decided to finish.

Speaking of intrigue. The 2010 Zatopek winner (and world’s fastest man that year), Josphat Menjo, has entered the men’s race. It remains to be seen whether he gets to the line, but his limited track appearances in 2016 include a 5000 metres at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku where he ran 13:20.51 ahead of Patrick Tiernan’s Olympic qualifier of 13:20.88 and David McNeill.

McNeill is also entered for this year’s Zatopek, but he has withdrawn after suffering from illness on a recent trip to the Delhi half-marathon.

Tiernan, however, will make his 10,000 debut in the Zatopek and, after his win in the NCAA cross-country championships a couple of weeks ago, will definitely be one to watch.

Brett Robinson and Brian Shrader of the USA, second and third behind McNeill in 2015, are back again this year. Robinson won in 2014 and improved his debut time by almost 20 seconds last year, but you get the impression that as a world championships and now Olympic 5000 metres finalist there is potential for still further improvement.

There are any number of good prospects scattered through the remainder of the field. Mitch Brown has three finishes in the top six in the past four years, Chris Hamer was fourth in 2013 and has struggled with injury since, Sam McEntee is national 5000 champion and an Olympic rep, Stewart McSweyn narrowly missed qualifying for Rio in the steeple and Jack Rayner and Joshua Johnson have both run impressive 3000s in the past month.

They probably won’t all feature in the finish on Thursday night, but if enough are there with five laps to go we should be in for a cracking race.

– Len Johnson

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Australian All Schools Championships – Recap

DAY ONE…

James Joycey (Vic) was the first athlete atop the podium at the 2016 Australian All Schools Championships this evening, with the hammer thrower hitting 62.34m to win gold and launch his campaign in style.

Joined on the podium by Conor McLaughlin (Qld, second, 60.41m) and Alexander Kolesnikoff (NSW, third, 56.16m), Joycey now looks forward to his preferred event, the boy’s under 18 shot put, on Sunday 4 December.

“After this today, I’m looking forward to the shot put now. I put a lot more work into that across the winter and it’s improved a lot. Hopefully that will keep improving to get me through to the IAAF World Under 20 Championships in 2018,” Joycey said.

“I want to make the hammer and the shot put in 2018 if I can. I’ve got 20 months to keep getting better and hopefully then I can get it done.”

Competition on day one also delivered a Commonwealth Youth Games qualifying mark of 7.28m (w: +0.7) to Zachary Nunis (Vic) as he won gold in the boy’s long jump from Zane Branco (Qld, second, 7.26m) and James Moloney (NSW, third, 7.00m). Grace Brennan (ACT) won the girl’s event with a 6.04m (w: +1.4) performance in the final round.

Meanwhile in the pole vault, a new generation of the talented Parnov family took to the runway in the girl’s under 14 event, with Alla Parnov (WA) and Natarsha Parnov (WA) delivering a one-two finish to join their sisters Liz and Vicky as medallists at the Australian All School Championships.

Coached by their renowned father Alex, the twins are aged 13 and soared over 3.05m and 2.95m to ensure their spot among the medallists alongside joint winners of the bronze Cassidy Bradshaw (Vic, 2.85m) and Georgia Tayler (Vic, 2.75m).

On the track in the boy’s and girl’s under 18 5000m walk, Declan Tingay (WA) and Katie Hayward (Qld) were unrivalled.

Maintaining four-minute kilometres throughout, Tingay crossed the line in a meet record 20:11.80 to take victory from IAAF World Under 18 Championships representative Kyle Swan (Vic, second) with Heywood also breaking the meet record with her gold medal winning time of 21:40.87.

In other results on day one of the 2016 Australian All Schools Championships:
–          Cara Jardine (Qld) ran a strong heat in the girl’s under 18 400m, clocking 56.05 to qualify fastest for the final ahead of Tess Kirsopp-Cole (Vic, 57.17) and Anna Musker (Vic, 57.28).
–          In the boy’s under 18 400m rounds, Tyler Gunn (NSW) crossed the line in 48.40 to advance to the round-of-eight fastest, with Christian Davis (Vic, 48.65) and Joshua Perdisat (Vic, 49.62) to join him.
–          Leaping 3.46m with her third attempt, IPC Athletics World Championships representative Carly Salmon (NSW) won the girl’s under 18 para-athletics long jump. The boy’s event was taken out by Declan Campion (ACT) with a performance of 6.16m.
–          Competition on day one also included the final of the girl’s and boy’s under 18 2000m steeplechase, with Queensland and Western Australia respectively taking gold and silver. It was Lucinda Crouch (Qld) who won the girl’s race, clocking 6:46.14 to edge out her teammate Brielle Erbacher (Qld, 6:58.67), while Luke Graves (WA, 5:53.92) crossed first in the boy’s race from MJ Jansen van Rensburghey (WA, 5:59.32).

Competition continues at the A.I.S Track and Field Centre tomorrow, with Riley Day (Qld) to make her debut on the track in the girl’s under 18 100m where she will be challenged by Kristie Edwards (NSW), Maisie Stevens (NSW) and Lateisha Willis (Vic).


DAY TWO…
It has been a sprinters paradise at the 2016 Australian All Schools Championships, with the reliable tailwinds of Canberra’s track delivering national and meet records for multiple athletes competing on the home straight.

Leading the charge in the girl’s under 16 90m hurdles was Sophie White (WA), with her time of 12.31 (w: +0.7) improving the national record of Rachel Pace (NSW) by 0.04 seconds. Mia Hemsworth (NSW, 12.52) won silver, and Hayley Wright (Qld, 12.63) the bronze.

Not to be outdone in the race that followed, Sasha Zhoya (WA) clocked an Australian record mark of 12.66 (w: +1.1) to win gold in the boy’s under 16 100m hurdles from Nicholas Dang (NSW, second, 12.81).

He then returned for the pole vault, competing for almost three hours before winning the event with a personal best leap of 4.25m off only six steps. The silver medal was won by Jack Downey (SA, second, 4.25m) and Simon Young (ACT, third, 3.95m).

“I’m absolutely stoked with the hurdles. It was a good start, got over the first one really well and then kept it going for the rest of the race,” Zhoya said.

“I love my pole vault, too. I came here with a 4.15m jump off six steps and I’m really happy with how it’s going. I’ve got the 200m tomorrow too, there are a few quick boys out there but I’ll be giving it a red hot go.”

Lateisha Willis (Vic) was also impressive in the girl’s under 18 100m hurdles, crossing the line in 13.43 (w: -0.2) recording a qualifier for the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games ahead of Nicole Reynolds (Vic, 13.59, second) and Tiana Death (NSW, third, 13.66).

“It’s great conditions out there. I ran pretty well today, the track is really fast. I was hoping for a PB, but just missed it. I got the Commonwealth Youth Games qualifier though, so I am happy,” Willis said.

“The Nationals in March are my main focus now, and then hopefully I get the chance to compete in Nassau. I just have to keep running well.”

The records continued to tumble in the 100m finals, with local favourite Eddie Osei-Nketia (ACT) winning gold in the boy’s under 16 100m in a meet record time of 10.63 (w +2.4). Osei-Nketia was joined on the dais by Manoa Veikoso (NSW, second, 10.73) and Travis Iles (Qld, third, 10.87).

Riley Day (Qld) then dominated the girl’s under 18 100m final to cross and win in a time of 11.36 (w: +4.0) from Maisie Stevens (NSW, second, 11.52) and Kristie Edwards (NSW, third, 11.59). Day’s performance improved the meet record of Lauren Hewitt (Vic), set at the Australian All Schools Championships in 1993.

The boy’s under 18 100m was won by John Gikas (NSW) in a time of 10.37 (w: +2.4), with Will Lloyd (NSW, second, 10.51) and Matthew McCouat (Qld, third, 10.56) rounding out the top-three.

In other results from Day 2 at the 2016 Australian All Schools Championships:
–          Luke Young (NSW) won the boy’s under 16 1500m in a meet record time of 3:55.02, with the silver medallist, Kiran Tibballs (WA, 3:55.89) and bronze medallist, Luke Shaw (WA, 3:57.41) also bettering the previous record mark.
–          Sarah Ringrose (NSW) threw 59.85m to win the girl’s under 18 hammer throw. Her series also included marks of 56.51m, 55.77m and 57.97m.
–          Paige Wilson (NSW) won the girl’s under 18 high jump with a clearance of 1.84m, with Emily Whelan (NSW) recording a qualifier for the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games by winning silver with a jump of 1.77m.
–          Cara Jardine (Qld) took line honours in the girl’s under 18 400m in 54.39, recording a 2018 Commonwealth Youth Games qualifier in the process.
–          Adding to his medal winning result in the hammer throw, Alex Kolesnikoff (NSW) reigned supreme in the boy’s under 18 discus throw with a best mark of 56.72m. Conor McLaughlin (Qld) won silver with a performance of 54.79m.
–          Queensland broke the meet record to win the girl’s under 18 Swedish Relay in a time of 2:10.62, with New South Wales claiming gold in the boy’s race in a time of 1:54.93.

Competition continues at the A.I.S Track and Field Centre tomorrow, with the overall state winner to be declared at the close of events.


DAY THREE…

Carley Thomas (NSW) has dedicated her 2016 Australian All Schools Championships gold medal to her recently deceased coach, the renowned John Atterton, as competition drew to a close in Canberra (ACT).

Competing in timed finals for the girl’s under 18 800m, Thomas moved past Cara Jardine (Qld) in the second lap to storm up the straight and stop the clock in a meet record time of 2:05.40. The silver medal was won by Jemima Russell (Vic, 2:07.88), with Sarah Eckel (SA, 2:07.94) rounding out the top-three.

“I have been coached by John Atterton and he passed away from MND a couple of weeks ago to that’s been pretty tough. I’m still working off his program and today is definitely for him,” Thomas said.

“Oh gosh. I knew that Cara had ran a 2:06 recently and my best so far was 2:08 so I wanted to stick on her shoulder once I knew she was in my race, then sit and kick when I was comfortable. I wanted a PB so that’s really exciting. I felt really good out there and was so happy with my race.

The boy’s event was also won in a meet record time, with Christian Davis (Vic) crossing the line in 1:49.04 to better the previous mark held by James Kaan (NSW). Davis’ teammate Archie Wallis (Vic) won the silver medal in 1:49.51, and Jordan Doris (NSW, 1:50.70) the bronze.

Not to be outdone, New South Wales ran a national record of 1:58.10 in the boy’s under 16 Swedish Relay, with Manoa Veikoso, Mark Fokas, Luke Trevillian and Keegan Bell combining for gold.

Riley Day (Qld) also shone on day three of competition, adding the gold medal in the girl’s under 18 200m final to her victory in the shorter 100m yesterday.

Day’s wind-assisted time of 23.52 (w: +3.2) bettered the meet record of Sally Pearson (Qld), with Maisie Stevens (NSW) and Kristie Edwards (NSW) joining her on the podium in 23.66 and 23.94 respectively.

“I’m so happy with this weekend. I just wanted to go out there and run as hard as I could. I would have been OK with any place, but I’m excited to end up with this,” Day said.

“It’s hot out there, but the conditions are great. (I’m from Queensland) so I’m used to it I guess. This has set me up for the rest of the season. I just have to keep training hard and the times will keep coming I hope.”

Will Roberts (NSW) reigned supreme in the boy’s event in a time of 21.16 (w: +3.0), with Yadin Ngeng (NSW, 21.47) placing second and Joshua Perdrisat (Vic, 21.52) third.

In other results on day three of the 2016 Australian All Schools Championships:
–          Sailing over 2.14m, John Dodds (Qld) won gold in the boy’s under 18 high jump. He entered the competition at 1.95m, and also enjoyed successful clearances at 2.01m, 2.06m, 2.08m and 2.10m.
–          Joshua Torley (ACT) won the boy’s 3000m in a time of 8:25.62, with visually impaired Rio 2016 Paralympic Games representative Jaryd Clifford (Vic) taking home silver in a time of 8:37.13. The bronze was won by Callum Davies (Qld, 8:37.58).
–          Leaping an impressive 7.11m in the third round, Alex Willett (NSW) won the boy’s under 16 long jump. He shared the dais with Liam Mullen (Vic, second, 6.94m) and Josh Baker (WA, third, 6.02m).
–          Clocking a meet record 45.62, Kristie Edwards, Maisie Stevens, Sophie McGovern and Katie Devitt won gold for New South Wales in the girl’s 4x100m relay. The boy’s race was also won by New South Wales in 41.04.

At the close of competition, New South Wales were declared Australian All Schools Champions with a point score of 916, with Queensland (828 points) and Victoria (779 points) placing second and third respectively.

The Small State Trophy, awarded to the winner of all other states, was taken home by Western Australia after they scored 521 points from three days of competition.


A huge thanks to Cody Lynch (Athletics Australia) who was in Canberra reporting on the event!

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The Numbers Line Up (Zatopek:10)

The Emil Zatopek 10,000 metres is never short of historical parallels, but the 2016 edition of Australia’s most enduring distance classic throws up some meaningful numbers indeed.

The 56th running of the Zatopek coincides with a significant anniversary of the ’56 Olympic Games. Race day – 8 December – is precisely 60 years since the Closing Ceremony of the Melbourne Olympic Games.

The Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games was the only time Emil Zatopek competed in Australia. Four years after his unprecedented, and unrepeated, 5000-10,000-marathon Olympic distance treble in Helsinki, Zatopek ran the marathon only.

His preparation restricted by a hernia operation some two months previously, Zatopek finished sixth in the race won by Alain Mimoun. But if Zatopek’s endurance was lacking, his ability to make the enduring gesture was undiminished –  his come-to-attention salute to Mimoun, who had finished second to him so many times previously, and their embrace was one of the moments of the Games.

Those Games left the Olympic movement with a legacy: the mingling of athletes at the Closing Cermeony, which was suggested by a young Chinese-Australian. Distance running’s legacy was the Zatopek 10,000 metres.

The Emil Zatopek 10,000 metres race is one of the longest, continually run, track distance races in the world.

Inaugurated in 1961 as the 10,000 metres championship of the Victorian Marathon Club, ‘the Zatopek’ had its 50th running in 2010 and is now well on the way to 60, and beyond.

Though the Zatopek now usually carries the national title and the status of selection trial for major championships, for most of its history the only tangible reward to the Zatopek winner was a rudimentary trophy styled from a red-gum railway sleeper. Geoff Warren, one of the early VMC members, designed it; Les Perry, a foundation member, described it as “solid, tough and durable, as appropriate to such an event, and to perpetuate the name and contribution to world and Olympic sport by this greatest of all distance runners.”

Percy Cerutty, Les Perry, Bert Gardiner, Gordon Stanley, Bob Prentice, Fred Lester – the men who founded the VMC were men of stubborn endurance. The Zatopek:10, the race they named in honour of their hero, has proven to be just as tough and resilient.

For the 50th anniversary, I penned a tribute for Athletics Victoria which was published in the Sunday Age as one of its ‘High Five’ column. The article picked out five major themes in Zatopek history – The best: from Ron Clarke’s world record in 1963 on, the race has showcased the best of Australian distance running; Nations: champions from five different nations have won the race; Ron Clarke: a world record, a record five victories; Mr Zatopek: saluting Steve Moneghetti’s 20-plus-years involvement; and The man himself: Zatopek’s visit to Melbourne for the 1985 race.

Those themes are still just as apt in 2016. Staying on point, here are some of the highlights in the five years since.

Joyce Chepkirui, who has gone on to become one of Kenya’s best distance runners, broke Susie Power’s race record in winning he 2011 women’s race, while the classy Kenyan trio of Emmanuel Bett, Bitan Karoki and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Micah Kogo went 1-2-3 in the men’s race, Bett and Karoki running the eight and tenth-fastest times respectively in race history.

Neely Spence won the 2012 women’s race, joining Galen Rupp as the only US Zatopek champions. In 2013, Sam Chelanga became the 10th-fastest man in Zatopek history when he defeated Dave McNeill.

Brett Robinson and Veronica Wanjiru triumphed in 2014 and last year Dave McNeill and Eloise Wellings clinched Rio Olympic selection with Zatopek victories. Both went on to perform with distinction at the Games.

Whether any of that changes what I wrote in 2011, I will leave for the reader to judge.

1 The five best performances

Clarke’s world record unquestionably remains number one.

Clarke told few people of his world record ambition. Even some of his training mates didn’t know. He went through six miles in 27 minutes 16.8, 26 seconds faster than the previous world record, then raced onto the finish in 28:15.6, 2.6 seconds under the 10,000 world record.

Susie Power produced the next-best performance in world-ranking terms. Her winning time in 2001 was the fourth-fastest in the world that year. The gifted Power never quite fulfilled her potential at a major championship, but in this marvellous run she recorded 31:26.34 to beat Kerryn McCann and three-time Zatopek winner Natalie Harvey by almost two minutes.

Kenya’s Luke Kipkosgei put himself in the world top 10 in each of his 1997 and 1998 wins, the latter in a race record 27:22.54.

Carolyn Schuwalow broke the Australian record in 1991 and led Jenny Lund, Susan Hobson and Krishna Stanton to second, third and fifth on the Australian all-time list in what is still regarded as one of the best Zatopek races ever.

Finally, Gerard Barrett, another athlete who, like Power, never quite achieved his best on a world or Olympic stage, became the first Australian to break 28 minutes in Australia in winning the 1978 race.

 

2 The five nations

Gabriel Kamau, who out-sprinted Rob de Castella to win in 1983, was the first Kenyan athlete to win the race. Several Kenyan men and women have followed.

Rex Wilson was the first New Zealand winner in 1985, while Galen Rupp of the USA won the 2006 race in pouring rain.

Sonia O’Sullivan, then representing Ireland, won the 2001 women’s race in sweltering conditions to take the number of different nations to have provided a winner to five.

All of them, except Ireland, have provided both a male and female Zatopek winner.

 

3 The Ron Clarke Five

Clarke won the first three Zatopeks in 1961, 1962 and 1963, then won again in 1968 and 1969.

Eloise Wellings can join Steve Moneghetti and Luke Kipkosgei as four-time champions with a win in 2016. On three wins are Andrew Lloyd, Natalie Harvey and Joan Logan (two as fastest woman before there was a stand-alone women’s race). Dave McNeill can join them this year.

 

4 Steve Moneghetti: ‘Mr Zatopek’

‘Mr Zatopek:10’ has run (at least) 20 Zatopeks. His four wins on the trot were heroic. His start was inauspicious – fifteenth in B-grade. Not until 1985 was he top three.

From there, however, Moneghetti won four, finished second once and third five times before finishing fourth in his final appearance in 2005.

 

5 The real Mr Zatopek’s visit

The great man himself came to Australia for the 1985 Zatopek.

Zatopek didn’t just show up on the big night. He went to the lower-grade races – he didn’t just watch, he barracked and helped officiate too. He presented the trophies for the women’s race – run on a different night in those days – and was guest of honour at the main race. He had a word for each of the hundreds who met him.

– Len Johnson

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Australian All Schools Championships – Canberra

It’s the Australian All Schools Championships this weekend in Canberra, and we’re sending over 186 athletes, to represent the Big V!

So in order to get to know some of them, we thought it’d be a good idea to introduce a few who’ve been dominating on the athletics circuit this year…

Jesse Iese (U16 discus & shot put): The reigning National Junior Champion in both disciplines. Taught himself how to throw by watching YouTube footage of past Olympics/World Championships. Hails from Edenhope, which is on the Victorian and South Australian border, with a population of 976.

Kyle Swan (U18 5000m race walk): Placed 32nd at the World Team Race Walking Championships in Roma (Italy) this year.

Christian Davis & Archie Wallis (U18 800m – both competing at Zatopek this year): Davis is the reigning National Junior Champion and ran a time of 1:50.51 (PB is 1:50.47) at the Victorian All Schools Championships, beating Wallis, who ran a mammoth PB of 1:51.34. Both go into the 800m as favourites, with the event formatted as ‘timed finals’, which is likely to play into their hands.

Lateisha Willis (U18 100m hurdles & 100m sprint): Hasn’t lost a hurdles race in 2 years. Looking to test herself ahead of Commonwealth Games Youth selection in March.

Caytlyn Sharp: Will compete in six (6) para events across the course of 3 days. A bold program, but one that will be interesting to follow.

Bianca Hansen (U18 long jump, shot put & discus): Represented Australia at the Youth Commonwealth Games and World U20 level as a discus thrower. Jam packed program across the weekend with three (3) events.

Historically we’ve been extremely dominant in the relay division. At the National Junior Championships at Perth, we received medals in every event except for one. At the Australian All Schools held in Melbourne last year, we only missed out on one medal due to a dropped baton. Otherwise it was all gold and silver, with only one event resulting in a bronze. Thus, the Big V are extremely strong at this level, and should smash all other states. Particularly NSW!

It’s going to come down to who can stand the extreme heat better. Expected temperatures across the weekend range between 30 and 34!