The national Cross Country and Winter Walking Championships included junior events ranging down to 10 years in the cross country and under-12 in the race walks. The juniors provided high quality competition with some events attracted fields of 100 competitors.
Australian Cross Country Championships
The huge fields in the cross country events also brought depth and quality and such is the high standard, if you were to line them up over a different course a day later, you could get a different result. The course provided a real cross country challenge for the thousands of competitors.
For the first time in 11 years, the under-20 men’s 8km event was defended, when Victorian Haftu Strintzos, extended his nine seconds winning margin from last year in Wollongong to a comfortable 22 seconds on the Sunshine Coast as he defeated local athlete Chekole Getenet and 2017 under-18 champion Jackson Sharp (NSW).
In January next year, the younger athletes, Getenet, Sharp and others will chase selection in the under-20 section of the Australian team for the IAAF world cross country championships.
In the women’s under-20 6km event, there was a surprise winner, when Port Macquarie runner, Ella Heeney defeated one of the stars of the very successful World U20 Championships team, Bri Erbacher (QLD).
In the teams battle, Victoria and NSW were split on countback with Victoria taking the title.
The girls under-18 event was stacked with class. Youth Olympic Games bound athletes Keely Small (ACT), Jamie Hiscock (QLD) and Jaylah Hancock – Cameron (NSW), along with Sophie O’Sullivan (VIC), European Youth Championships 800m silver medallist, and defending champion Ruby White (ACT) all had credentials for a podium finish.
But Queenslander Nikita Moore would surprise with a rather comfortable 15 second win over Small, 14:40 to 14:55, ahead of a pair of New Zealanders Kristie Rae and Rebecca Baker.
“I’m pretty happy with that run it felt strong most of the way,” said Moore who had a distinct advantage having competed on the course on a few times previously. “I felt confident on the course and I liked the hills.”
Moore will be age-eligible to defend her title in 2019. “Pretty stoked to win and I can give it a go next year.”
Third and fourth placed Aussies were Hancock – Cameron and Hiscock, and along with Small it is great signs for all three who will be representing Australia at the Youth Olympic Games in October
With four athletes in the top-8, New Zealand had little trouble taking the teams title well ahead of Queensland and NSW.
The championships, which doubled as the Oceania championships in the under-18, 20 and open events, resulting in a number of athletes from our region participated.
They were most successful in the under-18 boys race, as New Zealander Murdoch McIntyre enjoyed a comfortable win over a trio of Queensland athletes, Matthew Rankin, Jude Thomas and Ky Robinson.
McIntyre was reasonably comfortable on the hilly course.
“The course was quite interesting, similar to the national cross country course in New Zealand and I thought there was going to be no course tougher than that. From the bottom the hill to the corner it was uphill, all the way, and I thought this was going to be a very tough course, but it turned out the whole back section was rolling and was quite nice and allowed me to get into my grove and smoothly.”
Tactics for McIntyre were key to his win.
“Running last year, I learned my lesson not to go out too fast, the Aussies go out mental, so I just stayed relaxed in the pack, and tried not to get jostled around too much.”
After a conservative start, he made a decisive move which took him to victory.
“I was surprised no one went with me, except my good mate Liam (Back) from New Zealand who beat me at the nationals.”
Next major competition for McIntyre is the Youth Olympic Games in October, where he will compete in the 2000km steeplechase.
View the full results.
Australian Winter Walking Championships
On Sunday the competition focus and venue switched to the national Winter Walks Championships held at Lake Kawana. Unfortunately, the conditions were far from ideal with rain, heavy on occasions, making race walking challenging under foot. But many of the favourites didn’t disappoint.
In the women’s under-20 event, World U20 championships fifth placegetter, Katie Hayward was a comfortable winner in the 10km event in 49:37.29, ahead of Tasmanian Alice Randall (50.39.84) and NSW champion Chelsea Goodhew (55:06.29).
Hayward was satisfied with the win considering her busy international program in 2018 which included the World Race Walking Teams Championships (May), World U20 Championships (July) and an overseas camp.
“Conditions were tough today, but the result was expected as I have had a break from training since world juniors and the Japan training camp. However, it was nice to come home with the win today and to see everyone that has helped and supported me in my journey towards my two international competitions this year.”
Hayward’s team mate at the World Race Walking Teams Championships, Canberra’s Mitchell Baker claimed an 18 seconds win in the under-18 10km event in a time of 46:36.72, from host state representative Nelson McCutcheon who stopped the clock at 46:54.86.
"I was happy with the race, considering conditions were a fair bit warmer and wetter then Canberra. I'm looking forward to Faulkner Park in December,” noted Baker, referring to the next major national walking event, the 50km walk and supporting events in Melbourne just prior to Christmas.
Victorian sisters Jemma and Alanna Peart both managed podium finishes in the junior walking events. Jemma Peart won silver behind Caitlin Hannigan in the under-18 5km event, as they clocked times of 24:40.64 and 25:45.84. The younger Alanna Peart battled a strong field in the under-16 5km event, walking quicker than her sister to claim the gold in 24:26.88 ahead of SA’s Olivia Sandery and NSW’s Allanah Pitcher, all under 25 minutes.
Tasmanian William Robertson recorded a quick time of 23:14.27 to take the under 16 5km title ahead of Katie Hayward’s brother Kris Hayward (Qld).
Western Australian Alexandra Griffin had recovered sufficiently from her 23rd place the day prior in the 13 years 3km cross country event, to take a 12 second win in the under-14 3km walk in a time of 14:18.49. Griffin will be back tomorrow for more competition in the state team road running relays.
View the full results.