Green and gold singlets were on the line as over 100 athletes arrived at Stromlo Forrest Park to compete at the host venue for the 2019 World Cross Country trials. They were aiming to win a spot on the Australian team at the IAAF World Cross Country races in Denmark in March 2019.
The recent heat wave in Canberra eased as upon arrival there was strong cloud cover keeping the temperatures down.
OPEN MEN – 10KM
With two automatic places offered from the trial, the men’s race was of a particularly high standard. A large pack remained intact for the first two 2.5km laps of the 10km event. But eventual winner, Brett Robinson, was biding his time.
“The first two laps felt fairly comfy,” Robinson said. He then broke away, but it did not happen as he had hoped.
“The plan had been to break away with Jack Rayner, but Harry Summers kept up. It wasn’t until about 3km to go that I felt I had enough gap on Harry and Jack.”
Robinson won in 30:05, ahead of Rayner (30:14) who secured the second automatic selection place, with Summers third in 30:18.
Times were a little slower than the 2017 race, where Robinson won in 29:42, ahead of McSweyn (29:45) and Rayner (29:53).
Rayner achieved his race goal.
“I knew I just had to be in that top-4. I have a harder race next week (half marathon in Japan), so I wanted to go as easy as I could and get through, so really happy with the second,” Rayner said. Despite an outstanding 2018 on the road, where he claimed the inaugural Commonwealth Half Marathon title, Rayner found the grass to his liking.
“I love it. It is like running on a golf course and almost not cross country, I liked that as I can get into a rhythm more than a muddy cross country course and that works in my favour.”
Robinson, despite making his marathon debut in December, which involved an increased in road and distance work, was confident with his ability over 10km.
“The way I train I’m always good at 10k even if I am training for the marathon or 5k, I’m always solid over 10k.”
Now automatically selected for the IAAF World Cross Country he has factored this into his plan which includes the London Marathon one month later.”
“I’ll be using this (XC) as a hit out prior (to the marathon) to see where I’m at and I’m aiming to finish higher than in China (28th). This is Robinson fourth consecutive World Cross Country team.
In fourth and in possible World Cross Country selection was Queenslander Jack Bruce. The Zatopek medallists has recently returned from college in America where he studied Science/Business/Finance at Arkansas University. While at Arkansas he placed an impressive best of 13th in the NCAA XC Championships.
OPEN WOMEN – 10KM
British marathoner Charlotte Purdue caught breakaway leader, Melissa Duncan, to win in 34:49, with Duncan recording 34:55 to win the title. The win, as the first Australian to place, was in complete contrast to the last occasion she ran here.
“It is nearly 10 years since I came here to run 6k as a junior to try and make the team for Jordan (2009),” recalled Duncan. “I stopped, walked and consequently came last. So, I’m really happy to turn that around today and be the first Aussie to cross the line.”
Tactically today Duncan seemed really sound, despite her limited cross-country races in recent years.
“I haven’t done this before only run some longer road races for fun. But my coach told me to relax for the first part. You can waste so much energy by thinking too much. So, I sat behind everyone and felt comfortable and then started to increase the pace, just a little bit, not dramatically, and I found no one came with me so I kept pushing from there.”
It was only in the later stages, the longer distance athlete, Purdue, a 2:29 marathoner, caught Duncan.
The second automatic Australian place for the World Cross Country was claimed by Adelaide’s Caitlin Adams, who had won silver at the national XC championships last August.
Adams was prominent throughout the race.
“I was up front for a lot of the race and just kept hanging on and then it was the finish line. So I was happy with that.”
Third Aussie was Orange-based physio student, Paige Campbell in 35:11, with race favourite Emily Brichacek the fourth Aussie across the line in 35:22.
U20 MEN – 8KM
In the men’s under-20 event, race favourite, Jackson Sharp, didn’t disappoint, but it was not smooth sailing for the Blue Mountains athlete.
“About 4k in I dropped off the pack and was a bit spent,” Sharp said. “I got back onto the pack with about 2km to go on a downhill section.”
As he started to make his own break, Sharp still had company in the form of Queenslander Chekole Getenet and Tasmanian Sam Clifford.
But Sharp, who had missed selection for the 2018 World U20 Championships, was too strong winning by 12 seconds in 25:19, 11 second quicker than the winning time in 2017. Getenet was second in 25:31 and Clifford third with 25:41.
U20 WOMEN – 6KM
Seemingly very comfortable, Sarah Schiffmann won the women’s race with ease - a staggering 57 seconds quicker than the winner in 2017. The NSW mid-north coast athlete, who was a surprise winner at the nationals in August, where she won the under-16 race, defeated a strong field in a see-sawing win in a time of 20:42.
“I got a good start and then keep going. On the first hill I went a little faster and a few dropped off, then on the next hill Rudy caught up. I then broke away on a downhill,” and went on for the win.
In second, hometown favourite, Ruby White was overtaken by Queensland’s Nikita Moore as they finished in times of 20:57 and 20:59 respectively.
Full results: http://www.athletics.com.au/Portals/56/Competition/Documents/2019/World%20Cross%20Country%20Selection%20Trials%20-%20Results.pdf
The athletics action continues in the ACT with the Canberra Track Classic on Monday, commencing at 1.00pm.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia.