A home-town victory in the wheelchair mile to Kurt Fearnley (NSW) and a new meet record to Robbie Crowther (Qld) in the men’s long jump have headlined a bumper night of athletics at the Hunter Track Classic, the second leg of the Australian Athletics Tour.

Surging past the leader Josh George (USA, second, 3:22.99) on the home straight, the three-time Paralympic champion Fearnley thrilled a very excited crowd when he crossed to win in 3:22.57.

“It was awesome out there. Really, really good. Everybody got stuck in to it and we finished a fair bit quicker than I thought we would which is great,” Fearnley said.

“I’ve never raced like that before, with the crowd in the outer lanes on the track, and it made for an awesome environment. They were so close. It kind of felt like you were in a tunnel. It’s always good to race here in my home town of Newcastle.”


Not to be outdone in the women’s 400m, the national champion Morgan Mitchell (Vic) looked strong as she entered the straight to take the lead from Glasgow 2014 starter Caitlin Sargent (Qld, second, 53.56) and win in a season best time of 53.01.

Shaving more than a second of the time she ran at the Victorian Country Championships earlier this month, Mitchell’s performance gives her great confidence ahead of the Jandakot City Track Classic in Perth (WA) in February, and the Australian Athletics Championships in Brisbane (Qld), where she will push to earn selection to the Australian Flame team headed to the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN).

“That was awesome. The coach is pumped and my race plan has come off. To take so much of my time from my race in Bendigo is amazing and this early in the season it is where I want to be. The next stop for me is Perth and I can’t wait to get there now, the conditions are always great,” Mitchell said.


In the men’s 1500m, Jeff Riseley (Vic) was first past the post in a time of 3:39.77 to launch his Australian Athletics Tour campaign in style, while Brittany McGowan (Qld) took victory in the women’s 800m in 2:05.05. Riseley edged out Brenton Rowe (Vic, second, 3:41.80) and Josh Wright (NSW, third, 3:41.82) to earn his win, as McGowan came to the front through a large field of 15 to reign supreme from her Commonwealth Games teammates Katherine Katsanevakis (Vic, second, 2:05.41) and Anneliese Rubie (NSW, third, 2:05.48).

Soaring to new heights in the field was Crowther with his meet record 8.03m (w: +2.4) more than enough to win the men’s long jump from Angus Gould (ACT, second, 7.59m) and Nicholvan Gelder (NSW, third, 7.56m), with sprint sensation Jack Hale (Tas, 7.47m, w: +3.7) placing 5th.

The distance is his biggest ever season opener, a mere seven centimetres shy of the 8.10m required to stake his claim for selection to the 2015 IAAF World Championships and just nine centimetres shorter than his career best. His series also included a mark of 7.94m (w: +2.3), with the gusty conditions also resulting in four fouls.

“I’m very happy. I didn’t know what condition I was in coming into the competition so to come away with this is a great result. My coach was happy too so I can’t complain,” Crowther said.

“Everything in the gym has been going to plan, I’m getting a lot stronger and moving a fair bit quicker. It’s starting to show on the runway and that’s what it is all about. I can’t wait to get to Perth and jump again, and I’m going to have a crack at the 100m in Canberra next weekend too just to keep the sprinters on their toes. I don’t train for block starts so it will be good to test how my pace is coming together against everyone racing next week.”

Crowther went on to win the exhibition 2x100m relay alongside Alexander Hartmann (Qld) in a time of 20.71.


Launching her Australian Athletics Tour campaign at the Hunter Track Classic, Eleanor Patterson (Vic) cleared 1.88m to take out the women’s high jump. Making light work of the height with a first attempt clearance, the Commonwealth champion then raised the bar to the Beijing 2015 qualifier of 1.94m but was unable to progress further.

In the men’s discus throw, London Olympian Julian Wruck (Qld) threw a meet record of 62.25m to finish atop the podium in the able-bodied group from Matthew Denny (Qld, second, 58.30m) and Matt Stopel (Qld, third, 57.69m). His series also included throws of 61.37m, 59.60m, 60.33m and two fouls.

The performance of the event, however, was Guy Henly (NSW) on the para-athletics side of the draw, with the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships representative staking his claim for selection to the Australian team for Doha 2015 by throwing a B-Qualifying performance in the discus of 47.59m.

“It’s my first competition for the season and I was trying to get a few things with my technique together in the circle so I’m pleased with how it went. It’s a good result for this early in the year, and a great sign ahead of Nationals later this domestic season. I just want to keep building on it across the season and that should deliver strong results for me in Doha,” Henly said.


In other highlights:

–          Glasgow 2014 finalist Nicholas Hough (NSW) launched his Australian Athletics Tour campaign with a win in the men’s 110m hurdles in 14.27 (w: -3.4) from Justin Merlino (NSW, second, 14.29). The victory delivered his fourth win in the event at the Hunter Track Classic, making him the equal most successful athlete in meet history with Tamsyn Manou.

–          IAAF World Junior Championships representative Joshua Clarke (NSW) crossed in 21.31 (w: -1.3) to take line honours in the men’s 200m from Ben Jaworski (NSW, second, 21.50) and his Eugene 2014 teammate Ryan Bedford (Qld, third, 21.52).

–          Making her way to the front of a three-woman pack with 600m to go, Madeline Heiner (NSW) was the first past the post in the 5000m in 15:43.26. Australian junior champion Kate Spencer (NSW), who led from the front for much of the race, finished second (15:53.98) and Victoria Mitchell (Vic) third (15:55.60).

–          Competing in the men’s shot put, Damien Birkinhead (Vic) backed up his personal best throw at the Briggs Athletics Classic last weekend with a meet record of 19.14m to reign supreme at the Hunter Track Classic. His series also included two fouls and three throws beyond 18.90m.

–          Matthew Outzen (NSW) was victorious in the men’s javelin a meet record throw of 80.37m, as Hamish Peacock (Tas) placed second (79.85m) and Rhys Stein (NSW) third (72.69m).

The Australian Athletics Tour continues in Canberra (ACT) next Saturday 7 February, with the event marking the return of a national series meet to the nation’s capital for the first time since 2010.


Commonwealth hurdles champion Sally Pearson (Qld) will duel with national record holder Melissa Breen (ACT) in the women’s 100m at the event, with Kim Mickle (WA), Kathryn Mitchell (Vic) and Kelsey-Lee Roberts (ACT) all to open their season in the women’s javelin.

For more information, please visit the Canberra Track Classic event page at the #SUMMERofATHS hub by clicking here.

To view and download results from the Hunter Track Classic, please click here.