The Hunter Track Classic gets underway on Saturday evening at the Hunter Sports Centre in Glendale with another opportunity for our athletes to put their hand up for Gold Coast 2018 nomination.
One athlete competing with a host of Commonwealth Games A qualifiers already to his name is Rio Olympic Games shot put finalist, Damien Birkinhead (Vic). The 24-year-old will face a stacked field on Saturday with Aiden Harvey (NSW), Matt Cowie (WA) and NSW young gun Alexander Kolesnikoff also stepping into the circle.
“Aiden Harvey is in great form at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how he goes,” said Birkinhead. “It’s exciting for the sport of shot put to see them come up. My training partner, Matt Cowie is trying to make the Commonwealth Games as well so it’s all happening.”
Birkinhead has so far logged no less than 19 A qualifiers, his best to date 21.35m, from Zagreb last August.
“I just always want to throw further and just get more and more qualifiers to help me a long a little bit,” he explained, hopeful that this weekend brushes away any cobwebs accumulated over Christmas. “The goal at the moment is to try and stay uninjured at the moment and hopefully get selected.
“The next goal for me is to throw 21.50m and then just go up in increments from there up towards 22 metres and be throwing alright by Commonwealth Games.”
Birkinhead is one of several Olympians in action at the Hunter Track Classic with Morgan Mitchell (Vic) making her debut for 2018 in the 400m, Jenny Blundell (NSW) in the 1500m, Linden Hall in the 5000m while Paralympian Jaryd Clifford (Vic) steps out in the men’s 5000m where he’ll go head to head with Jack Colreavy (NSW) and Brad Milosevic (NSW).
Blundell will get a re-match against Lauren Reid (NSW) who caused an upset in the 800m at December’s Albie Thomas Mile with the 23-year-old ramping up her program with less than a month until the Australian Athletics Championships & Nomination Trial on the Gold Coast.
“The Hunter Track Classic is the one I’m targeting as my one competition before Nationals,” said Blundell. “It’s just about keeping it simple. I haven’t been on any training camps, I’ve just stayed in Sydney.
“The plan is to run as quick as I can – if I can pop out a quick one just before or at Nationals that’s an added bonus. Ideally, I’d like to be running those times prior to April anyway.”
Blundell already has an A qualifier for the 1500m in the bag from May last year and with another rival, Linden Hall choosing to race the 5000m, was unsure of how Saturday will play out.
“It’s hard to know but regardless it will be a good sprint finish,” Blundell said. “I’ve been working a lot on that. Whether it’s in an A qualifying time or a B qualifying time, or a slow and tactical race it will be exciting in both the men’s and women’s.”
The men’s 1500m sees 2017 world championship representative Morgan McDonald go head-to-head against one-time beer mile world record holder James Hansen (Tas) and Jack Stapleton (NSW).
In what’s sure to be an intriguing race, Hall along with Emily Brichacek (ACT) and Melissa Duncan (Vic) highlight the women’s 5000m.
The Hunter Track Classic will be live streamed on the Athletics NSW Facebook page from 1700 AEDT. Athletics Australia will have guest coverage across Twitter and Instagram from the event, with Dave Robertson keeping fans informed – you can follow #RobboReports.