Over 3500 athletes will converge on Sydney next week for the massive week-long Australian Track and Field Championships. The culmination of a year’s training and preparation is on the line for open and juniors as they pursue national medals, titles and selection in numerous national teams.
While the open event runs Thursday to Sunday, the 57th Australian Junior Championships span the entire seven days. Competition in the juniors is in age groups under-20/18/17/16/15/14 with para and able-bodied events.
Inspired by the Commonwealth Games, we have a strong group of teenagers set to become our next generation of Olympians and Paralympians.
Here are just a few to watch out for during the week.
Sasha Zhoya (WA) sprints/hurdles/PV
The talented allrounder has entered for five events across the week. The 16-year-old, who holds the Australian under-16 and 18 pole vault record and vaulted a best of 5.40m this year, will contest the open and U20 vaults. It will be a steep ask for Zhoya to, at this meet, add the U20 record to his collection, set at 5.70m by training partner Kurtis Marschall. However, a record he could take down is his own U18 110m hurdles mark of 13.24, set amazingly 15 months ago. He will also run the U20 200m and open 100m.
Ellie Beer (QLD 200m/400m
The 16-year-old multi-Australian champion commenced the year with a 400m best time of 53.55, but at the Queensland Track Classic last week – dropped her PB another second to 52.53 to become the eighth fastest in Australian junior history.
“I don’t know how I did it,” said Beer after her breakthrough race. And the nationals next week? “I have no idea, hopefully maybe another PB? I don’t know, but I’m just super stoked I got a PB tonight.”
She will contest the U17 200m and 400m in Sydney.
Men U20 100m – Jake Doran (QLD) & Ed Nketia (ACT/NZL)
What a showdown we have here. The fastest juniors ever for Australia and New Zealand go head to head and this season they have run the same time of 10.30. Jake Doran who ran 10.15, last year in Europe, has been matching it with the seniors this season. Nketia, based in Canberra, ran within 0.01 seconds of Jack Hale at the Sydney Track Classic. Also running is Korean Lee Jae-Sung who has a PB of 10.41.
Joshua Atkinson (NSW) U17 400m & 800m
This summer Joshua Atkinson has been smashing records and taking massive amounts from his PBs. Originally an 800/1500m athlete, his coach Graham Garnett has brought him down to 400s and 800s with successful. In November he broke the NSW under-16 800m record, set in 35-year-old in 1983, when he clocked 1:54.50. Since then he has lowered his PB to a staggering 1:50.82 and also his 400m has come down to 47.83. He runs in the U17 age division next weekend.
Fraser Symons (VIC) U20 400m hurdles
In December, Fraser Symons, a Year 12 Bendigo student, won the national all schools 400m hurdles (84cm) title in Cairns in 53.60 seconds. A months later he graduated to the senior height hurdles (91cm) and impressed with 53.17 seconds. In February he was down to 52.94, then a very fast 51.94 at his state championships. In Sydney he will run just the U20 400m hurdles and hope to follow his coach, Dan Martin, who won five national junior titles in the 100m, 200m and 110m hurdles. No Australian athlete has run under 52 seconds in this event at the national championships for 20 years.
Men U20 Para Throws – Corey Anderson (QLD) & Jackson Hamilton (WA)
Both athletes have had amazing seasons setting records galore and will compete against each other in the shot, discus and javelin. Jackson, visually impaired, has set over 30 records and in an amazing achievement at the Australian all schools in Cairns, placed on the podium in the able-bodied discus. Corey last Saturday in Brisbane broke the T38 javelin world record with a mark of 53.96m. He will start favourite in the javelin, while Jackson will be strongest in the shot and discus.
Sophie White (WA) U18 100m and 100m hurdles
Youth Olympic Games medallist Sophie White, 16, starts favorite in the U18 100m and 100m hurdles. After not racing for two months after she won the 200m/100m hurdles double at the all schools in December, Sophie has resumed competition. During this year she has in her sights the national U18 100m hurdles record of 13.14 she jointly owns with Sally Pearson.
Women U20 Pole Vault
This event has an extraordinary lineup of emerging Australian and New Zealand talent. NZ’s Olivia McTaggart and Imogen Ayris with quality PBs of 4.46m and 4.20m should be in the medals. WA’s Lauren Hyde-Cooling has made a successful return to competition this season after competing at the World U20 Championships in 2018. She recently set a PB of 4.12m in Perth. Junior pole vaulting has been on the move in Victoria this season and two new members to the four metre club, Cassidy Bradshaw and Elyssia Kenshole will be pressing for a podium finish in this event.
Annie McGuire (QLD) U20 long jump
Over the last few years Annie McQuire has been making good progress, but the 17-year-old really stepped it up last Saturday night at the Queensland Track Classic where she added 16cm to her long jump PB, hitting 6.30m to move her to number 13 Australian junior all-time. Annie, who in 2018 graduated from West Moreton Anglican College is coached by Gary Bourne.
Stephanie Ratcliffe (VIC) U20 Hammer Throw
Making a late start to her 2018/19 season, Doncaster hammer thrower Stephanie Ratcliffe has been extraordinary in the last month. Her best at the commencement of the season was 55.52m and after a couple of 52 metres throws to kick-off the season, she nailed two 58 metre performances over one weekend to win the Victorian open and U20 titles. Her throws of 58.00m, then 58.96m, pushed her well clear of any other juniors in Australia and to number two on the open rankings.
The 57th Australian junior championships commence on Monday 1 April at 9.00m at Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush, Sydney.
Reminder – if you can’t get to Sydney for the Champs, they entire week of athletics will be livestreamed and shown on Kayo AA Facebook and YouTube. 56 hours of athletics will be shown across this week!
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia