Victorians David McNeill and Victoria Mitchell have taken out the men’s and women’s races respectively at the Australian World Cross Country Selection Trial at Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra (ACT) on Sunday morning.
Under the Athletics Australia selection policy, the first three runners in the Open men’s and women’s event at today’s trial earned automatic selection to the Australian team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China 28 March 2015.
Mitchell, an Olympian who primarily runs the 3000m steeplechase, was the surprise winner of the Open women’s 8km race after surging to the front and then holding off Glasgow Commonwealth Games marathon gold medallist Jess Trengove (SA) and reigning Australian junior 5000m champion Kate Spencer (NSW). Mitchell clocked a winning time of 26:35 to finish comfortably ahead of Trengove (26:58) and Spencer (27:04).
Mitchell only chose to enter today’s trial at the behest of her coach, Sean Williams, and was delighted with the win.
“Basically my coach conned me into it,” Mitchell said. “I was like ‘I’ve done World Cross before’ and I am really looking forward to World Champs but he was like ‘Have a go, you’ll do well’ and, as always, the coach is right.”
Mitchell ran the well-manicured course of the Robert de Castella Cross Country Running Track in barefeet, which is something she does regularly at training.
“This was a training run. We do this sort of work – barefoot – in Moore Park or Queens Park on a Saturday, so I was just like pretending I was with the boys doing my threshold (training).
Mitchell now faces a difficult decision over whether to attend the IAAF World Cross Country Championships or defend her national steeplechase crown in March.
“The World Cross Country clashes with the Australian Athletics Championships, and I’d be the defending champion, so if I go to World Cross I can’t do that so it is like a big decision. I was always ‘track, track, track’ but Sean is like ‘Do the World Cross’. He loves the Cross.”
In the men’s Open 12km race, McNeill crossed the finish line in 34:57, ahead of local runner Harry Summers (ACT) in 35:05 and Liam Adams (Vic.), who clocked 35:15.
“I’m obviously thrilled to get the win today, and it went as well as I could possibly have hoped,” said McNeill. “I knew I was in good shape coming into the race. I just needed to get through first three or four laps of the course feeling comfortable and, if I could, I knew I should have a good day.
“The field strung out ahead of the last two laps. I ran with Harry Summers for the second last lap. At the end of the second last lap I surged and managed to get the win.
McNeill said the win had served as motivation for him, but he still had other goals.
“I definitely hope so,” McNeill said when asked if the IAAF World Cross Country Championships would now become his focus. “I am definitely motivated after today to get there. It still needs to fit in with my other plans, as I want to try to get a 10,000m qualifier for the Olympics in May. I am in pretty good shape.”
The Under 20 women’s 6km race was won by Jessica Hull (NSW) in a time of 20:39. Sophie Eckel (SA) was second in 20:43 ahead of third-placed Karlie Swanson (NSW).
The men’s Under 20 8km event was taken out by Bryce Anderson (NSW) in 25:04, with Charlie Hunter (NSW) second in 25:10 and Matthew Ramsden (WA) third (25:18).
Full race results from the Australian World Cross Country Selection Trial are available by clicking here.