The stunning season of Nina Kennedy (WA) has continued at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships at Sydney Olympic Park, with the 17-year-old soaring to 4.50m, a Beijing 2015 qualifier, to win gold at in the girl’s under 20 pole vault.


Entering the competition at 4.00m, Kennedy sailed over the height with her first jump before passing at 4.10m and on second attempt clearing 4.20m. She then made light work of 4.40m and the IAAF World Championships mark, before raising the bar to what would have been a world junior record of 4.64m. She unfortunately missed her three gallant attempts at a new world mark.


Kennedy was delighted to deliver the performance she did given the trying conditions at Sydney Olympic Park today. She has consistency on her mind for the remainder of her Australian Athletics Tour campaign, and with the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge and 93rd Australian Athletics Championships around the corner she hopes that the world junior record will come.


“The wind and the chance of rain made it strange out there. It was nice to pull it all together. It was a bit like Perth. I came into it a little bit uneasy but when it is like that I focus on the routine and what I have to do, rather than thinking about the result, and that helped me a lot. I’ve just been learning so much from these experiences,” Kennedy said.


“This gives me so much confidence. Doing this here gives me a big boost before Nationals in Brisbane. Today was the first time I attempted the 4.64 height. I know that it is there. I just have to get it now. There is no pressure about that height for me, it’s not a qualifier, it would just be a great achievement. I try to keep it fun when I’m up that high.”


Kennedy shared the podium with her training partner Emma Philippe (WA, second, 4.10m) and the IAAF World Youth Championships bound Phillipa Hajdasz (Vic, third, 3.85m).

Philippe has jumped strongly this Australian Athletics Tour as well, clearing 4.30m at the Western Australia Athletics Championships last month and she will also compete in the coming fortnight in Melbourne (Vic) and Brisbane (Qld).


Ned Weatherly (Vic), Brandon Herrigan (Qld) and Tyler Jones (NSW) were also outstanding on day three at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships. Taking victory in the boy’s under 18 hammer throw, the boy’s under 18 110m hurdles and the boy’s under 20 10,000m walk respectively, the trio ensured their automatic selection to the Australian team bound for the IAAF World Youth Championships this July in Cali, Columbia.


A fixture on the podium at Australian junior events in recent times, Weatherly today hit a best mark of 78.26m with his fourth attempt to take home the national championship. Unrivalled from the outset, he opened his campaign with a throw of 75.67m and followed up with 72.56m, a foul, his winning mark, a 77.95m in round five and 72.66m to close.


Weatherly also competed in the boy’s under 20 shot put, winning silver with a throw of 17.26m. The national title headed home with two-time IAAF World Youth Championships medallist Matthew Denny (Qld). He threw a new personal best of 19.69m.


Taking to the start line for his sprint hurdles final on the back straight (due to the favourable tail winds on that side of the track) Herrigan was dominant from the sound of the gun. Stopping the clock at 13.89 (w: +2.4) to win the gold medal from Jarrod Twigg (NSW, second, 14.10) and Christian Devon (Qld, 14.26), Herrigan’s first place now sits alongside the silver medal he won behind Jack Hale (Tas) in the 200m yesterday.


“My coach Stacey (Taurima) and I have been working on my start a fair bit, but today it was pretty average so it’s an exciting result. I have to learn to cope with challenging conditions like the big tailwind out there today and that’s what I’ll be continuing to work on,” Herrigan said.


“At the start of the season I set the World Youth Championships in Colombia as a big goal, and since the state All-Schools last year I have done as much as I can to go for it and I haven’t looked back. Anything is possible now, the sky is the limit. To make a final in Colombia would be awesome and my coach and I will now go away and decide if that’s a realistic target, any strong result will be something to be happy about.”


Herrigan is scheduled for further competition at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships on Sunday, as he takes to the track to battle it out for the boy’s under 18 100m Australian title alongside Hale.


In the girl’s race, Celeste Mucci (Vic) was victorious in a time of 13.76 (w: +1.9). Mucci is a heptathlete and will attempt to qualify for selection to compete in the event at Cali 2015 when she takes to the field of play at the Australian Athletics Championships in two week’s time.


The silver medal was won by Danielle Shaw (Vic) in 13.80. She has two qualifiers to compete in the sprint hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships and will likely be selected discretionarily for Cali 2015 when Athletics Australia Selectors convene in the coming days.


Jones started in the longest event here at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships, and after twenty-five laps he recorded a time of 43:24.55 to earn his selection to the Australian team.


He had one qualifier under his belt before today’s race, and excitingly for the green and gold squad the second placed Kyle Bird (Vic, 43:50.85) finished quicker than the required time for the IAAF World Youth Championships to bring himself into contention for discretionary selection.


In other highlights from day three at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships:

–       Molly Blakey (NSW) delivered back-to-back national crowns in the girl’s under 20 400m, stopping the clock in 55.16, while IAAF World Junior Championships representative Sam Reiser (Vic) was first past the post in the boy’s event in 47.23.

–       Leaping 2.11m, John Dodds (Qld) improved the meet record in the boy’s under 17 high jump. Dodds entered the competition at 1.87m and his series included first attempt clearances at 1.87m, 1.91m, 1.94m and 1.99m, as well as his winning mark.

–       Victoria reigned supreme for both the boy’s and girl’s under 18 4x100m relays, with the boy’s team clocking 41.84 and the girl’s crossing in 46.58.

–       The Commonwealth Games representative Rae Anderson (NSW) threw 23.72m to win the girl’s under 20 para-athletics discus throw. Anderson has cerebral palsy.

–       Boasting two qualifiers for the IAAF World Youth Championships coming into today’s competition, Louis Stenmark (NSW) took line honours in his heat of the boy’s under 20 400m to advance fastest to the final in a time of 48.57.

–       IPC Athletics World Championships representative Brayden Davidson (SA) added to his gold medal in the para-athletics long jump by winning the 400m final in a time of 57.38. The silver medal was won by Jaryd Clifford (Vic, 55.56), who is in

The Australian Junior Athletics Championships continue tomorrow, with up and coming sprinters Rohan Browning (NSW) and Trae Williams (Qld) to duel in the boy’s under 20 100m. Louis Stenmark (NSW) will also compete, starting in the boy’s under 18 400m where he will push for automatic selection to the Australian team bound for the 2015 IAAF World Youth Championships.


Saturday 14 March also brings the first of two Australian Athletics Tour Finals to the Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre.


Arguably headlined by the men’s 800m, where world record holder and reigning Olympic champion David Rudisha (KEN) will duel with the equal fastest ever Australian Alex Rowe (Vic), the jam-packed program also includes national record holder Melissa Breen (ACT) versus Olympic champion Sally Pearson (Qld) in the women’s short sprints, Commonwealth Games finalist Jeff Riseley (Vic) on track alongside Ryan Gregson (NSW), Andrew Wheating (USA) and Jeff See (USA) for the men’s 1500m, the Commonwealth champion Dani Samuels (NSW) in the women’s discus throw, and no less than 34 other green and gold charges from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.


For more information on the Australian Junior Athletics Championships, including the event timetable, entry lists and live results, please click here.


For more information on the Sydney Track Classic, which doubles as the first of two Australian Athletics Tour Finals, which will be held on Saturday 14 March, please click here.