The cream of Australia’s athletics talent will be on show at the ACT Athletics Championships starting Friday, as a number of key pre-selection battles for this year’s Commonwealth Games take shape.
Reigning 100m hurdles world champion Sally Pearson (Qld) will hit the AIS Athletics Track on Sunday’s final day of competition with key match-ups emerging across track and field events on all three days. Pearson will line-up against Michelle Jenneke (NSW) and Brianna Beahan (WA).
Friday’s women’s 400m promises to be electric with three-time national champion Morgan Mitchell (Vic) and 2015 champion Anneliese Rubie (NSW) going head-to-head alongside Bendere Oboya (NSW) who snagged two gold medals from last year’s Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.
Rubie said that she was excited by the showdown.
“I’ve had a few races and it’s good to solidify my race plan in my head but you always want someone battling with you in that last 150m so that will be good to have a few of the girls with me this weekend,” she said. “I think everyone’s going to try and come out and use it as a bit of a pre-Nationals hit out and show their form.”
Rubie “didn’t have much of a break after London” with the Commonwealth Games falling in April and so has been quite strict in maintaining balance given her training load.
“It sometimes gets a bit crazy when you’re training towards the Commonwealth Games,” with Gold Coast 2018 potentially her second. “You’re racing towards that and everyone’s talking about it and it’s all over the news and it can be all-consuming. I hang out with some of my friends from school – they love that I run, and they support it, but we don’t talk about it at all. We talk about normal stuff and hang out at the beach. That’s really important mentally to escape it a little bit. You want to stay focused when you’re at training and you want to make sure you eat well and rest well, but you also want to make sure that you’re not burnt out when it actually comes down to the Commonwealth Games.”
It’s an approach that Rubie believes is working well, recording faster times in training than what her coach, Peter Fortune, has her targeting.
“I feel like I’m training the best I ever have been which is exciting,” the 25-year-old said. “I just have to put it all together in a race… He’s [Fortune] always a little bit chuffed that I’m going a bit quicker than what he thought. It’s pretty positive.”
Meantime, Saturday’s men’s 800m battle promises to be another of the many highlights. As it currently stands, Victoria’s Peter Bol (1.45.21), New South Wales’ Josh Ralph (1.46.14) and Victoria’s Luke Mathews (1.46.44) have all hit the A qualifying standard of 1:46.50. Mathews will find himself against a handful of rivals who have met the B qualifying standard including Joseph Deng (Qld), Stephen Knuckey (Vic) and Australian record-holder, Alex Rowe (Vic). Three-time Olympian Jeff Riseley (Vic) will no doubt be hoping to make himself a factor in the race, off the back of his win at last weekend’s Canberra Track Meet.
Mathews, who will be chasing a third-straight Australian title in the 800m next month, said that he’s not expecting his defence to be easy.
“I’m very conscious of how those other guys are going because it seems pretty competitive,” he admitted.
Mathews is expecting the current list of A qualifiers to swell over the next few weeks as athletes attempt to give themselves the best chance possible of qualifying, with the first two across the finish line with an A qualifier earning auto nomination to the Australian Commonwealth Games Team.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time Nationals comes that every starter has an A qualifier,” he admitted. “I’m pretty aware that whether I do the 800m or 1500m at trials it’s going to be pretty competitive. It’s probably going to be the first time where coming top three at Nationals actually means something whereas in the past, winning Nationals has been the only kind of thing that matters because if you get the time, it’s a guaranteed start.”
Other highlights across the three days of competition include –
Men’s 100m - Jack Hale (Tas), Rohan Browning (NSW), Trae Williams (Qld), Josh Clarke (NSW), Nick Andrews (NSW), Joseph Millar (NZ).
Women’s 100m – Melissa Breen (ACT), Riley Day (Qld), Ashleigh Whittaker (Vic), Maddie Coates (Vic).
Men’s shot put – Aiden Harvey (Vic).
Women’s 1500m – Linden Hall (Vic), Jenny Blundell (NSW), Abigail Regan (NSW).
Men’s 1500m – Jordan Gusman (NSW), Isaac Hockey (Vic), Jeff Riseley (Vic).
Men’s 200m – Rohan Browning (NSW), Trae Williams (Qld), Joseph Millar (NZ).
Women’s 200m – Riley Day (Qld), Jessica Thornton (NSW), Morgan Mitchell (Vic), Larissa Pasternatsky (NSW), Melissa Breen (ACT).
Men’s long jump – Angus Gould (ACT), Darcy Roper (Qld).
Women’s long jump – Brooke Stratton (Vic), Chelsea Jaensch (Qld), Jessica Penney (ACT), Naa Anang (Qld), Lauren Wells (ACT).
Women’s 400m hurdles – Lauren Wells (ACT).
Men’s 400m hurdles – Ian Dewhurst (NSW), Cameron French (NZ), Leigh Bennett (NSW).
Women’s javelin – Kathryn Mitchell (Vic), Kelsey-Lee Roberts (ACT).
Men's javelin - Hamish Peacock (Tas), Luke Cann (WA), Cruz Hogan (WA).
Men's high jump - Joel Baden (Vic), Brandon Starc (NSW), Lee Hup Wei (MAS), Nauraj Sing Randhawa (MAS)
Women’s 800m – Georgia Griffith (Vic), Keely Small (ACT), Brittany McGowan (Qld), Abbey de la Motte (Vic).
Men’s 110m hurdles – Nick Hough (NSW).
Women’s hammer throw – Alex Hulley (NSW)
Men's 5000m walk - Evan Dunfee (CAN), Quentin Rew (NZ), Declan Tingay (WA).
Men's pole vault - Angus Armstrong (NSW)
The ACT Athletics Championships will be livestreamed on the Athletics ACT Facebook page
More information can be found here.