Near perfect conditions greeted the athletes on day two of the Australian Capital Championships, being held in Canberra this weekend. The athletes responded with a host of qualifiers, but none were more impressive and important than men’s 800m, where three athletes clocked Commonwealth Games A qualifiers, bringing the total to five now.
World championships semi-finalist, Luke Mathews (VIC) opened his season in the best possible form with a win in the 800m in a swift 1:45.83, his second fastest ever time and best for nearly two years. He led home Australian middle-distance legend Jeff Riseley (VIC) who went 1:46.33 and a third Victorian/NZL Brad Mathas (1:46.44). They were all under the 1:46.50 A standard for the Games.
“It was a bit nerve-racking, as it was the first proper track race since World Champs as well as under my new coach,” Mathews said. “So, I felt a bit of pressure coming into it. I felt that was like a pre-test of the nationals final. So, I wanted to come with the best intentions and race as best as possible. Jeff (Riseley) and I both pulled it off over a quality field with 1:46s down to third.”
Mathews didn’t ever feel he had the win secured.
“The pace requested was 51.5 and I went through pretty much on that. First 100m I felt like I was working harder than I wanted but after that is was not too bad. Then I made a bit of a move with about 250m to go, but I wasn’t sure I could win with 100m to go. But I gritted my teeth and held on.”
Extremely pleased with his performance and A qualifier was Jeff Riseley, who placed fifth in both the 800m and 1500m at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“I came here with one job and that was to get the A standard, so I can relax through to nationals now,” Riseley said. “It is difficult as it is the 27th January and I’m not normally under this much pressure to get out and not just race against good athletes, but have a time in the back of your mind. I missed all of last year except for Nitro. I’m in shape so it is more about getting my head back into racing and put myself in that uncomfortable state. That was the main challenge tonight.”
Local Olympian, Lauren Wells warmed up for her pet event the 400m hurdles with a third place in the long jump before turning her attention to the hurdles.
“I needed some time to mentally check out and get ready for the hurdles,” noted Wells. She then went about clocking her best time for over 18 months - since her heat at the Rio Olympics – stopping the clock at 55.78.
“It was a really good clean run. There were no mistakes but there is plenty I can work on as well.” She had her best ever opening season run two weeks earlier, clocking 56.20.
“Every time I step out on the track I want to improve on the last time, so to improve by nearly half a second today is great and I will be trying to go even faster in three weeks time.”
The 200 metres remains one of the closest races for Commonwealth Games team places. But Victorian Maddie Coates put her hand up for recognition this weekend with a strong win in 23.26 seconds, dipping under the standard of 23.40. She was joined with a qualifier by 400m specialist Anneliese Rubie (NSW) who clocked 23.40.
“It felt all a bit of a blur to be honest,” recalled Coates. “It just happened so fast. I knew I wanted to come close to this B qualifier that I needed so I just smashed the first 100m out and tried to be the first off the bend, then give it everything I’ve got in the last 50m. But I just didn’t expect it.”
Australia’s world class field of javelin throwers fell just short of the A standard. Kathryn Mitchell, who had opened the season last week with an astonishing throw of 66.73m, hit 61.05m in Canberra today, to defeat World Championship finalist , Kelsey-Lee Roberts (59.22m).
World Championship representative Nicola McDermott felt she made her best ever jump to win the open high jump. She equalled her PB clearing 1.90m, before coming so close on her three attempts at a Commonwealth Games A qualifier of 1.92m.
“It felt great. I have been waiting for this Canberra comp all season as it is my favourite track to jump at. We had the best field today, it was a little like nationals for me. A good taste of what is to come at the selection trials.”
After five-time national champion Eleanor Patterson missed her final attempt at 1.90m, McDermott sailed over the bar for victory. “I’m usually a third attempt jumper, although I wish I wasn’t, but it is the person I am. It was probably the best jump I have done in my career.”
There was a gutsy lead from the front win by Georgia Grffiths in the women’s 800m. Passing the bell is a quick 57/58 seconds, she strode to victory in 2:02.16, to win by one second over Abbey de la Motte who ran 2:03.14.
Brandon Starc (NSW) cleared 2.24m for yet another high jump B qualifier, but just couldn’t nail the 2.28m A standard, which was surprisingly achieved by his training partner, Malaysian Lee Hui Wei, who turned back the clock seven years to add one centimetre to his personal best.
New Zealand visitor Cameron French comfortably won the 400m hurdlers in a New Zealand national record of 49.33. He was followed in by Perth physio Ian Dewhurst who ran 50.04, ahead of 31-year-old Leigh Bennett with a personal best time of 50.34.
View the full results here.
Day three of the ACT Championships gets underway on Sunday at 8.30am. A feature will be world champion Sally Pearson running at 10.27am in the women’s 100m hurdles.