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Athletics Australia announce key competition dates for 2015/16

Athletics Australia has today announced key competition dates for the upcoming track and field season, which starts early in December. Victoria will play host to the first four competitions of the calendar, including the extremely popular Zatopek:10 competition at Lakeside Stadium. The December period also includes the Australian All Schools Championships and the 50km Race Walking Championships.

The 94th Australian Athletics Championships will be held in Sydney in late march, spanning a four day period. The competition, which is set to conclude the Australian domestic season, is a critical opportunity for athletes seeking to be selected in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Teams.

“Athletics Australia, its member associations, athletes and fans Australia wide are excited about the upcoming Australian Athletics season,” Tracey Gaudry Athletics Australia’s General Manager, Commercial & Growth, said.

“In a most important Olympic and Paralympic year, the Australian Athletics season provides the optimum platform for our elite athletes to prepare and qualify, whilst putting on a great sporting show for athletics fans and providing competition opportunities for emerging athletes of the future. Our mission is to engage all our stakeholders, from athletes and coaches, to fans and commercial partners, for mutual benefit. The new condensed calendar format provides that opportunity.”

Wayne Loxley, the Athletics Western Australia Chief Executive Officer, agrees and eagerly awaits the return of the Australian Junior Athletics Championships to Perth, supported by the Western Australian Government.

“Considerable effort has been made to ensure that the upcoming season strikes the right balance between providing both a vital competition opportunity and a vibrant platform to promote the sport and engage the Australian athletics community,” Loxley said.

The newly designed tour has a specific focus on delivering a competition structure that optimises performance late in the domestic season at the Australian Athletics Championships which will double as a trial for the Olympic Games.

“This structure of the season is optimal because it prioritises the Australian Athletics Championships, while providing an important series of competition opportunities in the lead up. The two-week break before the national championship is the best outcome we could have hoped for in terms of ensuring athlete preparedness for the trial,” Simon Nathan, Athletics Australia High Performance Director, said.

KEY DATES: 2015-2016 Australian Athletics Season 

AA Tour Dates 2015/16

 

NOTES:
–           Events in bold are Australian Championship events
–           Events in italics are Australian Athletics Tour events
–           The Zatopek:10 will feature the Australian 10,000m Championship for men and women
–           The date for the Briggs Athletics Classic in Hobart (TAS) is to be confirmed
–           There are two double-headers: 20 February (Adelaide & Canberra) and 19 March (Brisbane & Sydney)
–           The IAAF World Indoor Championships will be held 17-20 March in Portland (USA)
–           The 94th Australian Athletics Championships incorporates the Oceania & Australian Combined Events Championships for open and junior athletes

10 Years Ago: Mottram and Troop spar; McGregor is a knock-out

Len Johnson

The 2003 Zatopek men’s 10,000 metres showcased a race between Australia’s best track distance runner and Australia’s best marathoner but, if you were to believe the lead-up talk, neither of them much fancied their chances.

Craig Mottram, already a star at distances from 1500 to 5000 metres, was stressing his lack of track distance credentials.

“I like a challenge,” Mottram said pre-race, “and there are quite a few athletes in the field who have run much faster than I ever have for 10,000, so I thought it would be interesting to see what it would be like t keep up with them for as long as possible.”

He did allow that running against “more experienced guys . . . can work to my advantage as well.”

That, of course, and the fact he had already won a Zatopek 10,000 two years earlier in 2001 and had come back from an injury lay-off to achieve an Olympic qualifying standard for 5000 metres, run the fastest-ever lap of Melbourne’s Tan track and win road races in Noosa, Burnie and Melbourne (the latter two at 10km).

Troop, the defending champion and the man who had broken Ron Clarke’s national record at 5000 metres a couple of years earlier, was talking up his marathon ambitions for the Athens Olympics.

“Whether I win the race, or come in fifth, I really want to have a good Zatopek,” he said, online “(but) if it doesn't happen, it doesn't change too much of where I'm going though, because the marathon is a different event again, and this isn't Athens after all.”

Perhaps ‘Troopy’ gave more away when he remarked: “I have a rivalry with everyone and I always thrive on competitive races as well and what better way than having two Aussies go head to head.”

Indeed, the race came at a time when the feelings between Mottram and Troop ran deeper than just competitive tension, adding a piquant touch to a match-up between the top two Australians.

Maybe, though, both were right to downplay their ambitions for the 2003 Zatopek because, come the night, the star was Haley McGregor who won the women’s Zatopek with what was then the second-fastest performance ever in the big race, and remains the fourth-fastest.

McGregor’s was a solo run through the second half of the race after being paced through the first 5000 by Eloise Wellings. After slowing initially from the 15:55 half-way pace, she surged home to such effect that she ran 31 minutes 43.14 seconds, almost two seconds under the Olympic qualifying standard.

“I don’t know how to describe it, but I was close to tears of joy tonight,” an elated McGregor said. “That last 100 metres really kills, but you forget about that as soon as you cross the line.”

McGregor lapped the field with Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games marathon silver medallist Krishna Stanton finishing second in 33:19.20. Her performance made her an almost certain selection to join Benita Willis in running the 10,000 metres at the following year’s Olympic Games.

“It’s a dream, it will hit home some time soon. The prospect of going is awesome,” McGregor said.

The big match-up in the men’s race was a bit of a fizzer. Troop led through the first part of the race before Mottram moved away with a sub-64 second lap from the 5000 mark. He ran the next lap as fast to open up a winning advantage. His winning time was 27:50.55, just over a second outside the Olympic qualifying standard, but he was aiming at the 5000 anyway.

“I had a rough patch from 6000 to 9000 metres,” Mottram said, a rather significant “patch” usually.

“It was hard. I would have loved to run sub-27:30. Then I had the other goal of the A-standard, but I just missed that, too.”

Still, the run continued the build-up in momentum for Mottram after he had missed the world championships in Paris earlier in the year as he recovered from a prolonged bout of ilio-tibial band syndrome.

The momentum continued all the way to Athens as Mottram set three national records for 5000 metres in Europe, culminating in his 12:55.76 finishing centimetres behind Haile Gebrselassie in London, before finishing eighth in the Olympic final.

Mottram’s 27:50.55 remains the most recent occasion on which an Australian has broken 28 minutes in the Zatopek, David McNeill with his 28:03.02 win in 2008 coming closest.

Troop finished second in 28:13.96 with Steve Moneghetti, running his 19th Zatopek at the age of 42, third in 28:42.93.

Chapple and Birmingham nominated for Glasgow 2014

Recently crowned Australian 10,000m champions Nikki Chapple and Collis Birmingham have been nominated by Athletics Australia to the Australian Commonwealth Games Association for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Jessica Trengove (SA) and Martin Dent (ACT) join Chapple and Birmingham as nominations by Athletics Australia for Glasgow 2014.

Birmingham and Chapple earned their automatic nomination for Glasgow after winning the men’s and women’s Australian 10,000m Championships respectively at the recent Zatopek:10 meet in Melbourne.

Under the selection criteria, any athlete who wins the 10,000m national championship and has at least a B standard (28:31.25 for men, 33:24.00 for women) qualified for automatic nomination.

Both Chapple (32:56.25) and Birmingham (27:56.22) recorded B qualifiers and were first Australia’s across the line in this months Zatopek:10 at Lakeside Stadium.

Trengove and Dent were both nominated after their performances at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, qualifying them for automatic nomination under Athletics Australia’s selection policy.

Under that policy, any athletes who finished in the top twenty-four in the marathon at last year’s world championships and who have achieved at least the B standard within the qualification period received automatic nomination for the team for Glasgow.

Trengove finished 11th in the women’s marathon in Moscow, while Dent placed 23rd in the men’s race. Both recorded times in Moscow which bettered the B standard, with Trengove’s 2:37.11 easily under the required 2:42:30 and Dent’s 2:17.11 also under the men’s B standard of 2:18.00.

“The nomination of these athletes is the start of what we hope will be a very strong Australian team for Glasgow,” Athletics Australia Chairman of Selectors Dion Russell said.  “All of these four athletes essentially nominated themselves by virtue of their performances, and we look forward to many more athletes doing likewise throughout the upcoming season.”

The other nominations for the marathon and 10,000m are scheduled to be decided later in May 2014. The bulk of the Track and Field athlete nominations will be made to the ACGA following the 92nd Australian Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games Selection Trials – April 3-6.

Through its ‘Go Glasgow’ program, the Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA) is distributing $8 million of its own funds to support athlete preparation in the 18 Games programs sports in addition to meeting the full costs (approximately $7 million) of sending the Team to compete in Glasgow (SCO) at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. 

Australian athletics is a major beneficiary of the ‘Go Glasgow’ program and is grateful for the ACGA’s ongoing support.

Clarke world record fires up the Zatopek

Len Johnson

Fifty years ago this year, in winning the third edition of the Emil Zatopek 10,000 metres, Ron Clarke set world records for six miles and 10,000 metres.

There are a million stories about the 1963 Zatopek race. If you have been around long enough, you’ve heard most. Some are even true.

Briefly, the facts are these. Clarke won his third straight Zatopek. His target, officially, was the six miles Victoria record held by Dave Stephens at 27 minutes 54.0 seconds. That had been a world record when Stephens set it in sensational fashion at Olympic Park early in 1956.

Achieving that goal would almost certainly see Clarke also break the Australian record held by Melbourne 1956 Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist Dave Power at 27:52.8.

Unofficially, Clarke was aiming even higher, at the world record 27:43.8 set by Sandor Iharos of Hungary.

Finally, given the 376 yards extra distance between six miles and 10,000 metres, Clarke would have to break Iharos’s record by a considerable margin to have a chance at the 10,000 world record of 28:18.2 held by Rome Olympic champion Pyotr Bolotnikov of the former Soviet Union.

Melbourne’s Olympic Park then had a 440-yard track. This meant that the starting line for the 10,000 metres race was 376 yards from the finish line, making the 10,000 race 24 laps plus 376 yards.

This may explain some of the subsequent confusion about times. One thing for sure, no-one seems to have kept their head in the hectic final few minutes of the race.

We’ll get to that. First, some of the other stories. One that has been revised many times over the journey is the number of spectators present. Well, the figure of 23 came from Clarke himself, who is quoted by Age journalist Graeme Kelly that there was that number present – “mostly relations of mine.”

At least one was. The back-page photo in The Age the day after the race showed Ron shaking hands with his brother, Jack Clarke, captain of Essendon Football Club at the time. Whether there was another 22, or 222, who knows. Point is, there wasn’t many.

Clarke had been on a record run coming into the Zatopek, breaking Victorian records for 2000 and 3000 metres, two miles and three miles already that season (state records had to be set in the state and national records set in Australia, back then). At Olympic Park the Sunday before the Zatopek race he had lost narrowly to the late Albie Thomas over 5000 metres, with Thomas setting a national record 13:51.4.

Whatever his private thoughts, Clarke’s ambitions were obvious from the start. He tore through the first four laps (one mile) in 4:24, with his great mate and training partner, Tony Cook, already struggling to hang on two seconds back.

At two miles – 8:58 – Clarke was eight seconds ahead, leading Trevor Vincent to reassure Cook that “Clarkie’s gone mad.” According to Vincent, he may have said this, but only to encourage Cook that he was also well on the way to achieving his own target of an Olympic Games qualifying time (28:30 for 6 miles or 29:25 for 10,000).

The third and fourth miles flew by at record pace. Only in the fifth mile – covered in 4:40 – did Clarke slacken, but a 4:28 took him to six miles in a world record 27:17.8.

Then the confusion set in. Clarke slowed to a jog to complete the final 376 yards, apparently thinking he had no chance of breaking Bolotnikov’s world record. Quickly told by friends  – one advantage of a small crowd being that he could hear them clearly – to “get going, you can get the other one” – he launched a belated effort to reach 10,000 in 28:15.6.

What a race. Not one, but two world records. The Victorian marathon Club had set the Zatopek up to foster Australian distance running, but this was surely beyond their wildest expectations.

“I didn’t thrash myself in the 5000 against Albie Thomas last Sunday because I felt I could run really well tonight,” Clarke told Graeme Kelly in something of an understatement.

Robert Ward was second in 31:28 and the late Tom Kelly third in 31:56, both of them lapped twice by Clarke.

But the hard-luck story was Tony Cook’s. He pulled out after five miles thinking he was not going to reach his target. In fact, he was right on it.

“There was a mess-up in the time calling and I thought I was a minute over my schedule,” Cook told Graeme Kelly.

It was the third of Ron Clarke’s record five Zatopek wins and the first and second of his 18 or 19 (depending how you count them) world records as he set about re-defining distance running in the next few years.

Tony Cook did qualify for the 1964 Olympics. He went on to finish eighth in the Olympic final as Clarke took the bronze medal after a terrific last-lap struggle with Billy Mills of the USA and Mohamed Gammoudi of Tunisia, the gold and silver medallists. He also got his Zatopek win, the next year.

40 Years Ago: Scott wins race, loses trophy and Games’ chance

Len Johnson

For want of a dollar, Bill Scott won the 1973 Zatopek but did not receive the trophy. For want of a few seconds, he missed out on the 1974 Commonwealth Games team.

The dollar was the cost of becoming a Victorian Marathon Club member. Neither Scott, nor second-placed Peter Fuller, was a financial member so they were ineligible for the club trophy which instead went to the third placegetter, Arch Sansonetti of the famous cycling family.

The few seconds – 4.4 of them, to be precise – was the margin by which Scott failed to get under 29 minutes, the time he needed to press his claims for selection for the Games in Christchurch in January, 1974.

“If I had got under 29 minutes people would have had to sit up and take notice,” Scott told The Age’s Glenn Lester. Scott had run third in the selection trial a few weeks earlier to Brenton Norman and Derek Clayton, who had both been selected in the marathon as well.

Scott must have been referring to people outside the sport, as he was already being noticed within athletics. Uncompromising in his racing approach, he was the vanguard of the post-Clarke generation of Australian distance runners, leading the way for the likes of Chris Wardlaw, Robert de Castella, Dave Fitzsimons (who did make the 1974 team) and Gerard Barrett to follow.

At 21, Scott broke the mould of Zatopek winners, too. In its early years, the race was won by experienced distance runners but in its next 10 years the race was won by Barrett (just short of his 20th birthday when he took the first of his two victories in 1976), de Castella (22 in 1979) and Andrew Lloyd (also 22 at the first of his four wins in 1981).

The 1973 race was held at Essendon’s Aberfeldie Track, as Olympic Park was in one of its several redevelopments. Fuller, a teammate of Scott’s at the Box Hill club and a middle-distance specialist, helped him set the pace early before dropping back to finish in 30:08.

Sansonetti finished third in 30:30. He was the only one of the three placegetters who would have a direct link to the 1974 Commonwealth Games: his older brother Maurice ‘Remo’ Sansonetti, took a bronze medal in the cycling road race.

Scott, too, eventually found his way into an Australian team. He made the final of the 10,000 metres at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, finishing ninth despite a painful foot injury.

Scott went on to run 28:18 the following year, then 28:01 in Europe in 1975 in a race in which he finished second to 1972 Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter. He was leading finisher in Australia’s first team to a world cross-country championships in 1975.

An untimely groin injury sidelined Scott through 1976, costing him almost certain Olympic selection, but he came back late in 1977 to begin a productive second career phase. In 1978, Scott made his marathon debut with a win in the Victorian title followed by another in the inaugural Melbourne marathon. He made his second world-cross country team in 1979, ran a personal best 27:48 for 10,000 in Brussels and a marathon ‘pb’ in Fukuoka to finish the year.

Scott began the 1980 Olympic year with an Australian all-comers’ record for Buy Cheap SketchUp Pro 2016 – BuyOEMSoftOnline.com 5000 metres followed by a 27:46.71 for 10,000, both in Melbourne, the latter in a thrilling race against world record holder Henry Rono. Between those runs, the nationals, then the marathon trial in Adelaide he aggravated an existing foot problem. Despite that, Scott made the 10,000 final in Moscow and was with the leaders until late in the race before finishing fifth.

All the problems notwithstanding, it was one of the best years by an Australian distance runner since Ron Clarke.

We were still six years away from having a stand-alone women’s Zatopek race, but 1972 Olympic 1500 metres finalist Jenny Orr made the back page of The Age for running – by ‘invitation’ – in the men’s veterans’ mile.

Geoff Warren, an early member of the Victorian Marathon Club and designer of the race trophy, won the race, with Jenny Orr beating her father, and coach, Theo, for second place.

Asked how it felt to be beaten by his daughter, Theo Orr replied: “Great.”

30 Years Ago: de Castella ‘wins’ front and back pages; loses race

Len Johnson

Kenyan triumphs in the Zatopek are nothing of a surprise now. Luke Kipkosgei won four times in six years and holds the men’s race record; Joyce Chepkirui set the women’s record in winning two years ago.

But the first Kenyan victory in the race, when Gabriel Kamau out-sprinted Robert de Castella to win in 1983 – now, that was a surprise.

It should not have been. Kamau held the US national collegiate record at 27 minutes 36.2 seconds, 36 seconds quicker than de Castella’s personal best coming into the race (and continued to hold it until Galen Rupp broke it in 2007). He was on scholarship at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

But Australian sports stories didn’t come much bigger than Deek in 1983. He had successively won the 1981 Fukuoka marathon (in a world record), the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games marathon (this time watched by millions of Australians over breakfast), the 1983 Rotterdam marathon (trouncing Alberto Salazar) and the 1983 world championships marathon (having dinner with the great Emil Zatopek after that one).

The 1983 men’s Zatopek featured on the front and back pages of The Age. It certainly didn’t hurt that the paper, along with Wang computers, sponsored the race, but it was the first time this had happened since Ron Clarke’s world record in 1963.

Pictures of de Castella and Kamau ran side-by-side on the front page, right next to a headline speculating that Prime Minister Bob Hawke might call an early election: “I’ve had enough of this recalcitrant Senate”; while the back page featured a race report with more pictures.

The women’s race had not reached such heady heights by 1983. Indeed, it was still held on a different night, the main women’s event on the big night being over 3000 metres, the longest Olympic distance then for women.

Sally Pierson, an accomplished race walker before she focused solely on running, won her first of two women’s Zatopek races in 33:31.4, comfortably ahead of 1980-81 winner Megan Sloane and Nicky Taws.

Pierson had turned 20 in March, 1983. That month she represented Australia for the first time in a world cross-country. She finished fourth in the Race Walking World Cup the same year and represented Australia again in the 1985 world cross-country.

It was the second year in a row de Castella had been out-kicked at the end of the Zatopek. The previous year, John Andrews had run away from him in the final 400 metres to win, 28:09.7 to 28:12.2.

‘Deek’ was not exactly shocked when Kamau sprinted by with 250 metres left to win in 27:59.14. He had led since the second lap, spread-eagling the field but never breaking away from Kamau. It was just the third time (after Australians Gerard Barrett and Steve Austin) anyone had broken 28 minutes in the Zatopek.

De Castella’s reward for his front-running performance was a new personal best of 28:02.73 and the confidence that his Olympic marathon preparations were coming along nicely.

“I have the strength and if I can get more speed that will give me an even greater asset for marathons,” de Castella said.

“You need speed in marathons these days,” ‘Deek’ added perceptively. You still do, many recent marathons would seem to suggest.

New South Wales runner Lawrie Whitty, running barefoot, finished third in 28:26.34. Whitty had upset de Castella in the previous year’s national cross-country championship, a wake-up call for ‘Deek’ on the road to his Brisbane marathon triumph.

Just as well de Castella ran a ‘pb’. It meant he went home with something as, earlier in the night, his national U20 record for 3000 metres had been broken by Mal Norwood, who won the junior race over that distance in 8:10.78. De Castella’s name is still inextricably linked with the junior race, however: it is now named after him.

Ultimately, de Cstella’s Olympic marathon ambitions were thwarted, too. In Los Angeles the following year he finished fifth behind the man he beat at Rotterdam, Carlos Lopes.

20 Years Ago: ‘Mona’ chases Clarke, Staines chases Mona, neither catches Patrick

By LEN JOHNSON

Steve Moneghetti lined up for the 1993 Zatopek race having won the previous four Zatopeks. He hoped to equal Ron Clarke’s record of five wins in the big race and surpass Clarke by doing it in consecutive races.

Gary Staines, an English runner then based in Australia, wanted to stick with ‘Mona’ and get the qualifying times for the following years Commonwealth Games and European championships.

Ultimately, both were upstaged by Paul Patrick, an emerging young runner who all-but clinched Australian Commonwealth selection with a sensational win, breaking 28 minutes in his first 10,000 as a senior athlete.

There were no such upsets in the women’s race, Carolyn Schuwalow racing to her second victory in three years, and third overall, ahead of young Sydney runner Michelle Dillon and New Zealand’s Barbara Moore.

Moneghetti was already a Zatopek legend. Having run his first Zatopek in the lower grades in 1979, he was now lining up for his 12th. He had worked hard, as they say, to become an overnight sensation.

“It’s funny, at one stage I had run eight Zatopeks in a row without winning,” Moneghetti said pre-race. “Now, I’ve won four in a row.” Against his chances in 1993, he had run a marathoin in Beijing just eight weeks earlier.

Staines had been a silver medallist in the 5000 metres at the 1990 European championships and a finalist in the 5000 in both the Seoul 1988 Olympics and Tokyo 1991 world championships.

Patrick, however, was no mug. Just turned 22, he had finished fifth in the 5000 at the 1990 world junior championships. He had also run a 10,000 back then, but this would be his first as a senior. His form was good, having soundly defeated Staines and Moneghetti over 5000 metres just a couple of weeks before the Zatopek.

There was also a host of other contenders – Pat Carroll, four-time winner Andrew Lloyd and New Zealand trio Robbie Johnston, Kerry Rodger and Phil Clode.

Carroll, indeed, led for the first six laps before Moneghetti took up the pace. “I didn’t want to take the lead that early, but it was unfair to let Pat do it all,” he said post-race.

A series of surges broke up the field but could not dislodge either Patrick or Staines. Inevitably, it seemed, one of the two would finish quicker than Moneghetti. Surprisingly, it was not 3:53-miler Staines, but Patrick.

Taking the lead along the final back-straight, Patrick sprinted home to win in 27:59.64, with Staines (28:02.24) and Moneghetti (28:03.65) second and third, respectively.

Patrick became the sixth Australian to better 28 minutes (there are now 18) and the first to do it at their first senior attempt (he is still remains the only one).

“All credit to ‘Mona’,” said Patrick. “He did all the work. I sat on him and I knew I could outkick him. I was mentally strong. I felt fine, even through the surges.”

Schuwalow, too, ran with qualifying times on her mind, not an assault on her race record of 31:54.95 set two years earlier. She shared the pace with Michelle Dillon en route to winning, 32:28.50 to 32:35.40. Both women bettered the Commonwealth qualifying time.

“I’ve been doing 110 miles a week in training,” said Schuwalow, who was building towards a marathon debut.

The 20-year-old Dillon, running her first 10,000, was content to take up Schuwalow’s offer of pace-sharing. “She’s had a lot of experience, so I figured she knew what she was doing,” she said.

Patrick did not achieve his aim of selection in the 5000 metres for the Commonwealth Games the following August in Victoria (Canada). He finished eighth in the 10,000, one place ahead of a promising Kenyan named Daniel Komen who had run the first mile of the race in close to four minutes.

Steve Moneghetti won the marathon.

Injury kept Carolyn Schuwalow from running the Commonealth Games, but Michelle Dillon finished seventh in the women’s 10,000 in 33:19.01. She subsequently represented Great Britain in two Olympic triathlons, 2000 and 2004.

Gary Staines finished 15th in the 10,000 metres at the Helsinki 1994 European championships.

For Zatopek:10 2013 ticket and event information visit www.athsvic.org.au/zatopek.