Sally Pearson (Qld.) has won her highly anticipated Australian Athletics Tour showdown at the AIS Athletics Track with rival sprinter Melissa Breen (ACT) at the Canberra Track Classic and in the process recorded qualifying times for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in both the 100m and 200m, as well as a new personal best in the latter.
The rematch between the pair had been much hyped as they faced off almost a year to the day that local favourite Breen had set a new 100m national record for the short sprint of 11.11. In the process Breen had defeated Olympic 100m hurdles champion Pearson for the first time in her career.
Whilst both downplayed their ability to run fast times tonight due to their heavy training loads, Pearson scorched the track in the 100m to record a time of 11.16 (wind: +1.8) and win the rematch by a little over a metre from Breen, who clocked 11.27.
Both athletes bettered the World Championship qualification standard of 11.33 in the process, with Pearson also clocking the second fastest time of her career.
Pearson and Breen then backed up in the women’s 200m just over an hour later in the climactic event of the meet, and the Queenslander once again took the honours. Pearson broke the tape in 22.97 (+0.8) to break the 23-second barrier for the first time in her storied career, bettering her previous personal best time of 23.02 set in 2009. Breen ran a time of 23.47 to finish in third behind Ella Nelson (NSW), who clocked 23.33.
Despite her new PB, Pearson felt she could have run faster and predicted some big performances in the season ahead.
“Obviously (I’m) happy (with a) PB and second fastest time ever in the 100m,” said Pearson. “I’m not satisfied with the time I ran [in the 200m] because I felt I could go a lot faster. I think we’ll see some really fast times this year.
“I want to make sure I come home with the gold medal. It’s a very good starting point.”
Despite her success as an athlete, Pearson said she still faced fear every time she lined up.
“Fear’s always there, every time I race I’m scared. I think that’s the passion coming out of you, you want it so badly that it scares you if it doesn’t go the way you want it to,” she added.
Despite not taking the win in front of her home crowd, Breen said that she was still ecstatic to have registered a World Championship qualifier.
“It’s obviously awesome to have Sal come here, it obviously brought out the best in me,” Breen said. “I ran 11.50 a few weeks ago, so to come out and run 11.27, which is the A qualifier for Worlds is pretty awesome. So yes, I didn’t get the win but I was able to execute a really good race and run 11.27, so I am exceptionally happy.”
The performances of Pearson and Breen were just some of the many highlights in a meet packed with fast times and long distances.
Kelsey-Lee Roberts (ACT) thrilled her home crowd when she won the women’s javelin competition and also recorded a World Championship qualifier. Roberts threw 63.78m in the second round and held off Kathryn Mitchell (Vic.) by just 8cm. Mitchell also broke the World Championship qualification mark of 61.00m with her final round throw of 63.70m but fell just short of the win.
Glasgow Commonwealth games bronze medallist Roberts said she was “very, very pleased” with her efforts.
“Obviously that was one of the aims for this evening (to get the qualifier),” said Roberts. We weren’t putting too many high expectations on tonight. I just kind of wanted to get out here, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the Canberra meet. I’ve got two more comps coming up in Perth and Adelaide so I had the opportunity there to try and punch out the qualifier there if I needed to as well.”
The men’s 800m was won by Australian record holder Alex Rowe (Vic.) in yet another World Championship qualifying mark. Rowe ran 1:45.38 to comfortably better the required standard of 1:46.00.
“The pacemaker really did his job, it was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better and I really just went for it from the gun and tried to hold on as best as I could, and the last 200 I was a little bit lactic and struggling a bit but I was lucky that I went out hard enough and could hold on and still run a good time.”
Para-athlete Evan O’Hanlon (ACT) barely missed a world record for his classification in the men’s 100m. Running against able-bodied athletes in the men’s 100m B race, O’Hanlon had stated before the meet that he was aiming to better the 10.83 time required to qualify for the Australian Athletics Championships in Brisbane in March. O’Hanlon did just that, and his time of 10.80 (+0.8) also missed out on his own world record of 10.79 by a mere 0.01 of a second.
A similar margin also plagued hometown hurdler Lauren Wells (ACT) in her 400m hurdles race. Although Wells easily took the win, her time of 56.21 was 0.01 seconds off the World Championship qualifying mark.
In the women’s 100m hurdles, Michelle Jenneke (NSW) moved into fifth place on the Australian all-time list by clocking a new personal best time of 13.04 (wind: +0.8). Jenneke improved on her previous lifetime best mark of 13.23 by 0.19 of a second.
“I’m very excited about that, I wasn’t expecting to run anywhere near that today,” and elated Jenneke said. “I was thinking 13.3 would be a bit of a reach for me today, but really what I wanted to go for. To run 13.04, I honestly didn’t believe it when they called it out. I thought there must’ve been a problem with the photo. I’ve got no idea what to say, I’m gob smacked.”
In other meet highlights:
– Brooke Stratton (Vic.) leapt 6.64m (0.0) to narrowly win the women’s long jump from Chelsea Jaensch (Qld.), who jumped 6.63m. Both were close to the World Championship standard of 6.70m.
– Alex Hartmann (Qld.) ran a huge personal best time of 20.59 (+1.8) to win the men’s 200m in a time just outside the World Championship qualification mark of 20.50.
– Nicholas Hough clocked a time of 13.68 (+0.1) to take out the men’s 110m hurdles.
– Matthew Denny (Qld.) recorded a PB of 68.44m to win the men’s hammer throw.
The Australian Athletics Tour continues next Saturday 14 February in Perth at the Jandakot City Track Classic.
For full results from the Canberra Track Classic, click here.
To watch the replay of the live stream of the Canberra Track Classic, click here.
To download vision of the women’s 100m race click here.
To download vision of the women’s 200m race click here.
To download vision of the men’s 800m race click here.