Nitro – Opening Night!

Usain Bolt left Lakeside as he arrived… a winner, with his All-Stars taking a narrow victory over Team Australia on the opening night of the inaugural Coles Nitro Athletics series at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The action on the track went by in a flash, just like the Jamaican who stormed down the back straight in the final event to help his side edge the well-supported locals to finish the night on top of the ladder.

Not even a second-placed finish in that relay for Australia, who earned double points with their power play, could prevent an inevitable All-Stars win that sent the 7039 fans who came to watch the King into a frenzy.

Team Points
Bolt All-Stars 1080
Australia 1050
China 845
Japan 810
New Zealand 795
England 795

“I love it and the kids love it, it’s just fun.”

The sight of former world record holder Asafa Powell lining up for a relay leg against four women highlighted precisely what Nitro Athletics is all about and by the crowd’s reaction it did not disappoint.

“Yeah it was a lot of fun,” Bolt said after his relay win.

“I was excited to run, and next week we might change it up just for the fun of it.

“I really enjoyed it, even the elimination mile race for me was just spectacular.

“For me, this is what I expected and over time we’ll figure out ways to make it better but it’s started off good and we’ll be looking forward to the weekend even better.”

The new concept on track and field had fans of sport lining up for entry at the gates in Albert Park ready for a night of athletics that many could barely imagine what was about to unfold.

Fans and youngsters lined the front straight as athletes started their warm up in the afternoon sun while signing autographs and taking selfies before the action started on the track.

When the action started it was a festival-like atmosphere during the first event, a mixed medley relay that was dominated by Team Australia with co-captain Ryan Gregson storming to victory and a flex of the biceps past the finish line.

“There wasn’t actually much for me to do in the end, Morgan ran great, Luke ran amazing and Anneliese just pulled away so much,” Gregson said looking up at the packed front straight.

“So by the time I got the baton I just had to have a decent run and we were going to win by a long way.

“That’s what it’s all about (celebrating the win).

“We had a team meeting yesterday and that’s the thing we all wanted, first night, first event to set the team up with a win and the whole of next week.

“We wanted to win and win convincingly to show Usain Bolt and everyone else it’s not a one-man show.

“It’s amazing the crowd, I think it will build next week.”

Former college star and Olympic sprinter Jenna Prandini has competed on the biggest athletics stages around the world and she was impressed with what Nitro Athletics provided to the athletes and the crowd.

“Yeah it’s so much fun and just to be a part of a team – you never get to do that in track anymore so it’s really fun,” Prandini explained after winning the 150m.

“It’s awesome the crowd’s into it and it’s really fun because we get to be on a team and we’re cheering each other on – I love it.

“It’s incredible (to be on Bolt’s team), he’s the fastest man on the plant so any opportunity I get to run with him and do stuff with him is cool.”

In the field events Olympic long jumper Jarrion Lawson took the win with a jump of 7.94 metres just ahead of Team Australia star Fabrice Lapierre who managed 7.89 metres.

The points were shared at the top in the pole vault with Team Australia youngster Kurtis Marschall and Chinese vaulter Xue Changrui both clearing 5.40 metres.

The three-minute challenge was another popular event that got the crowd involved when Team Australian miler Luke Mathews kicked away from Kenyan Elijah Kipchirchir.

He skipped away from the Bolt All-Star as time was about to expire and produced a winning celebration when the siren went that had the Lakeside crowd screaming with joy.

“That was one of the more unique races I’ve done,” Mathews said after commending co-captain Genevieve LaCaze on her efforts in the first three-minute leg of the race.

“This crowd right now, this is almost what it was like when Usain Bolt ran at the Olympics, it was bloody incredible, incredible.”

Interaction between athletes and the fans was encouraged even before the event but seemed to happen even more often naturally as athletes roamed the infield and outskirts of the track supporting their teammates.

“I had so much fun, seriously, all the athletes are great and getting around it,” Team Australia sprinter Morgan Mitchell said.

“No not in Melbourne (see a crowd at athletics like this), every time we start we just say, ‘guys this is incredible and we’ve got to thank everyone here supporting it.”

Victorian Multi Championships – Preview

So apparently there’s this big event happening on Saturday night…

I’m not too sure what it’s all about. But I think think there’s a famous Jamaican athlete competing.

Anyway, what I do know is that the Victorian Multi Event Championships are on at Doncaster across the weekend, where some of Victoria’s greatest multi-disciplined athletes will congregate and battle it out for the top prize.

Two competitors to keep an eye on are:

Australian Commonwealth Games representative Stephen Cain.

Australian World Junior representative Celeste Mucci. 

The weather is looking as good as the Australian Nitro team – which means fast times, long throws, long jumps, high jumps and a whole lot of slip, slop, slapping!

We can’t wait to see everybody out at Doncaster and good luck to all competing!

 


Full disclosure: The event on Saturday night is Nitro, where Australia will be looking to take down the Bolt All-Stars, England, New Zealand, China and Japan, in what is sure to be a thrilling evening of competition. If you haven’t already got your tickets to witness all our amazing athletes and the one-and-only Usain Bolt, you better get in quick as they’re selling out fast!

Go Australia!

Victorian Country Championships 2017

The weather was beautiful out at Casey Fields across all three days of competition, which saw a plethora of high quality performances, from athletes both young and old.

Regarded as one of the premier events of the season, the Victorian Country Championships sees athletes from all over Victoria come together to test their ability against one another, which also includes invitational metro athletes.

For a lot of competitors it’s their first real hit out for the year, and a chance for them to see how their training has gone throughout the summer break. Which in athletics isn’t really a break at all…

Some notable performances across the entirety of the competition included:

Eleanor Patterson always starts the New Year with the Country Championships, and she didn’t disappoint, dominating the whole High Jump field with a final height of 1.90m.

Damien Birkinhead was extremely solid during the Shot Put coming in with a final distance of 19.78m.

Teleah Hayes had an amazing Championship winning the 800m (2:14.40) and the 5000m (17:51.66).

Christian Davis and Will Johns had arguably the most exciting race of the whole weekend in the 400m. It was neck and neck during the whole lap, with Davis just pipping Johns at the finish line, recording a time of 47.88.

Mia Gross showed her pace and went the 100 – 200 double. Clocking times of 12.13 and 24.90.

Amazing individual performances are essentially what athletics is all about, however, the best thing about the Country Championships is the emphasis on the team competing. Each event gather points towards the athletes’ club and at the end of the weekend, a team is crowned champions!

This year the honours went to:

Men’s – Bendigo Harriers

Women’s – South Bendigo AC

A huge thanks to South Coast for organising the event, and of course the volunteers and officials, who put in their time to make the 2017 Country Championships such a successful competition.

Second Round Athlete Pathway Travel Grant – Applications Now Open

Applications for the second round of 2017 of the Athlete Pathway Travel Grants Program are now open and close on Thursday 23 February 2017.  This round covers travel from 1 July 2017.

The Athlete Pathway Travel Grants Program provides grants to improve Victorian athlete development pathways from community to national representation level. Support is available to assist community sport and recreation athletes, coaches, officials and teams with the travel costs of participating in training and competition, and for high performance Victorian athletes and teams to compete at national championships or selection events.

The program has two funding categories:

Category 1: State Sporting Associations: State sporting associations, State Sporting Organisation and Peak bodies recognised by Sport and Recreation Victoria (or if no state sporting association, the relevant Australian Sports Commission recognised national sporting organisation) can apply for up to five grants per funding round on behalf of Victorian teams or individuals for travel to compete at national championships and/or an event or series of events constituting national selection trials.
·        Grants of up to $6000 are available for teams with a maximum of $1000 per team member.
·        Grants for individuals are available up to a maximum of $2000.

Category 2: Community Organisations: Victorian community organisations delivering sport and active recreation opportunities can apply for up to two grants per funding round of $750 each to assist athletes, coaches, officials and teams with the travel costs of training and competition over a 12 month period. For example an athlete that is regularly required to travel to train with a state team, or a regional based Athlete that is required to travel to a number of other towns in order to compete in their local competition.  A maximum of two grants can be approved to any organisation in any calendar year.

Applications are to be made online at www.sport.vic.gov.au/grants-and-programs/athlete-pathway-travel-grants-program – go to sub heading Apply Now.

At the above link you can also find the guidelines for more information about the program and eligibility criteria.

If you have any queries or require assistance you can contact the Grants Information Line on 1300 366 356, using the National Relay Service 13 36 77 if required, or email grantsinfo@sport.vic.gov.au.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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