In the third of our series of previews of the 2018 Australian Athletics Championships & Nomination Trial at Carrara Stadium, February 15-18 we shine the spotlight on the men’s field events. Follow the championships online using the #AthleticsGold and #ThisIsAthletics
A number of the men’s track races and battles for Commonwealth Games berths are going to be some of the best racing we have witnessed in Australia for a decade.
Australian’s sprinting depth is at record levels. When the three fastest this summer Rohan Browning (NSW), Jack Hale (Tas) and Trae Williams (Qld) met in Canberra on Australia Day, just 0.003 seconds separated them. Individually Browning is the fastest in Australia this season (10.19), Hale is the fastest wind-assisted (10.10), while Williams is the defending national 100m champion. Additionally, there is the fastest Australian for the last decade, Josh Clarke (NSW) with his 10.15 from 2016. But wait there is more. Just over a week ago at the NSW Championships, Anas Abu-Ganaba (NSW) shocked with his massive personal best of 10.28 to win his state title. In second was the veteran Isaac Ntiamoah (NSW), who was a member of the Australian 4x100m relay record in 2012. Add to that Rio Olympian and 2016 national champion, Alex Hartmann (Qld) along with Perth’s national relay squad member Aaron Bresland (WA) who has run 10.25w this year and something exceptional is in the making.
Australia’s only 200m Commonwealth Games qualifier, Tom Gamble (Qld) has been troubled by an Achilles injury, but made a tentative start to his season in the 100m heats at the Queensland. The form athlete this summer has been Rohan Browning with a couple of personal bests, 20.94 and 20.71 and a quick windy time of 20.54w. The question remains whether he stop three-time national 200m champion, Alex Hartmann, who is looking to extend that record.
“Yes. Most definitely in the 200m,” noted Hartmann after he won the Queensland sprint double last week. “There is going to be a bit more competition in the 100m. I’m looking forward to and expecting about three or four guys to run 10.1 and obviously myself as one of them. It is going to be a challenge but I’m definitely going to try and take it out. I’m finally starting to run into a bit of shape.”
Over the last few weeks, many of the sprinters, including Hartmann, have spoken about their keenness to be a member of the Commonwealth Games relay team and its potential at the Games.
“Everybody gets behind a relay and we have some really good guys both on the track and personality-wise, we really get on well and there is a really good chance we could do some damage and possibly medal at the Commonwealth Games.”
With the news that Steve Solomon (NSW) won’t defend his 400m title, it has opened the door for one of a group of emerging talent. On paper the fastest this domestic season is Queensland’s Daniel Mowen with a series of 46.3 times. How does favouritism sit with him?
“I’m very positive toward it,” he said. “At nationals it will come down to the day. We have some great Queensland boys coming through, so it should be a good race.”
One of those Sunshine State athletes is Gold Coast-local Murray Goodwin, who ran 46.37 in Canberra in January, but it is clearly an open race.
Over the last two seasons Luke Mathews (Vic) has emerged as the leading two-lap athlete in Australia. Prior to this Jeff Riseley (Vic) had dominated but a planta facia injury ruined his high hopes at the Beijing 2015 World Championships and continued to linger. The great news for Australian half-miling is that Riseley is back, indicated by his 1:46.35 in Canberra in January. In the interim, a couple of 1:45 athletes have also emerged in Josh Ralph (NSW) and 2017 world championships representative Peter Bol (Vic).
Australian middle-distance running is in fine shape and this is clearly illustrated by the fact 12 athletes possess 1500m qualifiers for the Commonwealth Games ahead of the trials. Four are sitting comfortably on an A qualifier, while eight have a B standard. Among those 12, a win can secure a berth for the Commonwealth Games. Lead-up form has been no help as few have raced, but when the chips are down it would be hard to go past national record-holder and Rio Olympic finalist Ryan Gregson (Vic) as favourite. World championship semi-finalists, Jordan Williamsz (Vic) and Luke Mathews (Vic) will be chasing podium places. The other A qualifier is Sam McEntee (Vic) who competed in the 5000m in London.
The B qualifiers include rising junior star Matthew Ramsden (WA) and the consistent Jordan Gusman (ACT) who has run eight times under the standard.
There is a quality line-up of athletes for the wheelchair T54/53 1500m highlighted by five-time Paralympian and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Kurt Fearnley (NSW). He has announced the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as his international swan-song, but the A qualifier needs to overcome a field including two-time Paralympian Jake Lappin (ACT) and Paralympic gold medalist and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Richard Coleman (Vic).
Commonwealth Games selection gets no easier in the 5000m where we have four A qualifiers and three on a B standard. Patrick Tiernan (Qld) and Stewart McSweyn (Tas) face the starter’s gun comforted by the fact they are already on the team via selection in the 10,000m. London world championship representative, Morgan McDonald (NSW) looked most impressive in his one outing over 1500m in the Hunter Track Classic last month, while Sam McEntee (Vic) cruised to a 4:01.6 mile in Melbourne last week. A major threat is Brett Robinson (Vic) who returned from injury in late 2017 to nail fourth at Zatopek along with 2010 Commonwealth Games 5000m representative David McNeill (Vic).
Last week’s rush of B qualifiers in the 3000m steeplechase sets up an intriguing race on Sunday at the nationals. Favourite is London world championships representative McSweyn. But can the late qualifiers and particularly the rapidly improving Max Stevens (SA) challenge?
In the high hurdles Nick Hough (NSW) looks a safe bet to secure his fourth national title and an automatic Commonwealth Games berth on the strength of his impressive NSW Championships winning time of 13.51w. In the 400m hurdles, Perth-based Ian Dewhurst (NSW) looks a strong bet to win and book his second Commonwealth Games team. He opposition is the veteran Leigh Bennett (ACT) who ran a personal best of 50.34 last month.
Women's field events
Men's field events