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A Full House at the Canberra Track Classic

Thursday, 24 January 2019 | Rob Cumbrae-Stewart



The 2019 Athletics Australia Coles Super Summer Series gets down to business this Monday in Canberra with the first competition of the season the Canberra Track Classic.

The meet will feature Olympians, Paralympians and Commonwealth Games medallists across the events as they light up the track, jumping pits, throwing circles and run ups.  Kurtis Marshall, Georgia Griffith, Brooke Stratton, Sarah Walsh, Jake Doran, Vanessa Low, Damien Birkinhead, Hamish Peacock, Jack Hale, Scott Reardon, Chad Perris, Keely Small, Lauren Well, Alex Hulley and Nick Hough are just some of the names set to dazzle.

They have grown up competing against each other, previously resided in Adelaide and Sydney, but now three 21-year-old vaulters, living and training in Perth hold the future hopes in one of Australia’s strongest events, the pole vault.

Leading from the top is Kurtis Marschall, reigning Commonwealth Games champion and the highest Aussie for seven years with his 5.86m clearance last year in the Zurich Train Station. Originally from Sydney, Angus Armstrong placed fifth at the Commonwealth Games his fourth occasion wearing the green and gold. Formerly from Adelaide, Declan Carruthers is the current national leader with his recent personal best of 5.60m, elevating him to number eight Australian all-time.

Off his first full runup of the season, Marschall, particularly, will be targeting his first world championships qualifier (5.71m) a height he has negotiated on three occasions on home soil.

The women’s 800m is on the move in Australia with a young group not just running quick times, but also performing on the international stage. Teenagers Carley Thomas (silver World U20 Championships) and Keely Small (gold Youth Olympic Games) are chasing 22-year-old Georgia Griffith who ran 2:00.13 last June, the closest an Aussie has been to sub-two minutes for over 10 years.

But Griffith knows there is a strong group on her heels.

“The depth in the women’s 800m at the moment is really strong and such high quality. Particularly the juniors who are setting such a great precedent and standard, all round it makes for really exciting competition.”

In Canberra, Griffith will be just easing back into competition.

“Canberra will be my first race of the season and I am just really looking forward to getting back into competition and hoping to work up from there. Training hasn’t been as smooth as I would of liked due to a few little niggles, so it’s tricky to guess what race form I’m in at the moment.”

Another event with depth and youth in Australia is the men’s sprints. Teenager Jake Doran was the shock of 2018 when he took over half a second off his PB in two races prior to the World U20 Championships, eventually landing at 10.15 – a new Australian junior record.

He has commenced the 2018/19 summer impressively taking a half second from his 200m PB, clocking 20.93 in December 2018 and over his pet distance last week, running his second fastest ever time of 10.30 to lead the national rankings going into the first Track Classic of the summer.

“My 100m on Saturday was a good start,” Doran said. “It’ll take a few races to get into a good rhythm but I’m happy with a 10.30 season opener.”

No longer eligible for junior competition Doran must now compete with the open athletes.

“Running against the seniors presents a whole new challenge that I won’t be used to, however I’m just going to trust the hard work my coach and I have put in and take each race as it comes.”

He certainly will have his hands full with the line-up in Canberra. Jack Hale, whom he took the junior record from, is in good form following a significant 200m PB of 20.62 in December.

Olympian and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 200m semi-finalist Alex Hartmann will want to reverse the 100m result from last week where Doran defeated him 10.30 to 10.37. Others to watch will be Perth’s Aaron Bresland (PB 10.38) and 2018 Stawell Gift winner Jacob Despard who last week slashed his PB down to 10.43, also look out for Edward Nketia from the ACT who put in a stellar run to win the u18 All Schools Championship in December 2018.

Over 200m Hartmann will be tough to beat.

Australia’s furthest ever female long jumper Brooke Stratton enjoyed a super 2018. Commonwealth Games silver, Continental Cup silver, wins in Europe and a sixth World ranking. In her last competition of 2018, she reached 6.71m, just 1cm shy of the Doha world championships standard, but that is well within her capabilities this Monday in Canberra after she opened her season last week with a 6.61m leapt.

Also, in the women’s long jump will be two elite para-athletes. Sarah Walsh, a T44 leg amputee, who has twice this summer raised her Australian record, which now stands at 5.29m. Former German Paralympic Games T42 long jump gold medallist, Vanessa Low, now eligible to represent Australia will be looking to improve her own personal best of 5.22m.

·The men’s para 100m brings together two of Australia’s finest ever sprinters, Scott Reardon and Chad Perris. A leg amputee, Reardon is unbeaten in the T42 100m at global meets since 2013. Visually impaired Perris, known as the ‘white tiger’ has medalled at every global meet since 2015.

·Olympic shot put finalist, Damien Birkinhead is seeking his first world championships qualifier a distance he has surpassed in the last three years. Teenager Aiden Harvey is in form after a PB 18.20m earlier this month.

·A great of the event, 400m hurdler Lauren Wells is in good early season form in the 200m and 400m. Sarah Carli is set to continue her return. Last year she broke her six-year-old PB.

·Alex Hulley is the class hammer thrower in Australia and continues to make an impact as she graduates from juniors to seniors.

·Hamish Peacock is the class in the javelin field and the fifth ranked Australian of all-time and will be looking for a world championships qualifier of 83.00m a distance he has exceeded on over 10 occasions during his career.

·In the 110m hurdles Nick Hough has been pushed this summer by Jacob McCorry, but Hough should pick it up here. The form of Hong Kong's Chan Chung Wang is unknown, but at his best he could take the win.

·CG2018 long jump finalists Chris Mitrevski was brilliant on the Gold Coast. Boosting the event’s depth nationally it is great to see the return, at just 20-years-old of age, of Darcy Roper who won medals at the 2015 World Youth and 2016 World Juniors. Former Queenslander, Darcy, now based in Melbourne, has leapt a promising 7.82m and sprinted 10.87 into a 3.8m/s wind this summer. Making it a three-way-battle, Henry Smith won Zatopek with a windy 7.83 - the longest jump in Australia this summer.

·The women’s 200m is a very open race. Jacinta Beecher is the fastest this summer, Larissa Paternatsky has been racing over 400m and it is a season debut for Maddie Coates and 400m specialist Anneliese Rubie-Renshaw.

Competition commences at 1.00pm on Monday 28 January at the AIS Track, Bruce, Canberra. 

The event will be broadcast on Foxtel’s Kayo, as well as on Athletics Australia Facebook page and YouTube page.

For more information including tickets, timetable and entry list, go to:

David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia