Brett Robinson (ACT) and Eloise Wellings (NSW) have taken out the Australian men’s and women’s 10,000m national championships respectively at the Zatopek:10 athletics meet at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium this evening.
Running in windy conditions, Robinson battled Eureka Athletics Club teammate Duer Yoa (Vic.) and international runner Samson Gebreyohannes of Eritrea over the last few laps before Robinson was ultimately able to pull away for the win in a new personal best time of 28:45.36. Yoa crossed second in 28:46.46 ahead of the Eritrean in the third (28:49.42). Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechaser James Niperess (NSW) was third Australian to finish, clocking 28:53.13 in his first attempt at 10km on the track.
Robinson, who came 15th in the 5,000m at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, became the first Australian to win the Zatopek men’s race since Victorian Collis Birmingham in 2009.
“I was comfortable to about 18 laps probably, then it started to hurt a little bit,” said Robinson. “The pace wasn’t on too much, it was a little bit back and forth. I didn’t lead at all. I didn’t want to. Everyone was looking around at me and trying to get me to lead and I was like ‘nah, no way’. When I made my move, that was the first time at the front. At about four and a half laps to go I went pretty hard. I did a little bit of on and off just to test everyone and then with three laps to go I really tried to wind it and luckily could sprint still at the end.”
The national title win puts him in the box seat to claim a place on the Australian Flame team at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN) if he can now record a qualifying time of 27:45:00 but Robinson says his focus remains the 5000m.
“Definitely stay at the five,” he replied when asked about the possibility of him running the 10,000m in Beijing. “If I was to maybe qualify during the Australian season for the 5k, I’d consider running a 10 in May but to be honest I just prefer the 5k. I think I can at least compete in that. There’s guys running sub-27 and I just can’t do that yet so at least if I can run a low 13 (minutes) I can at least compete in most 5k races.”
Eloise Wellings took out the Australian women’s 10,000m national title after finishing second behind international visitor Veronicah Wanjiru of Kenya.
In just her first track 10,000m Wanjiru battled Wellings right down to the bell lap before surging away to win in the time of 32:22.22. Wellings crossed the line shortly after in 32:26.59 to claim second and the national crown for the third time in her career. Wellings has previously won back-to-back national 10,000m titles in 2009 and 2010.
Madeline Heiner (NSW) finished as second Australian and third overall in the time of 32:44.71, while Celia Sullohern (NSW) ensured New South Wales swept the medals in the women’s race by finishing as third Australian and fourth overall in 33:05.89.
Wanjiru was delighted to get the win in her first try at the distance on the track.
“This is my first time to run the 10,000m. I want to qualify for 10,000m at the Olympics and I want to qualify for the World Championships next year,” the quietly spoken African said.
Wellings said the surging tactics of the Kenyan suited her, but she just couldn’t outkick Wanjiru at the end.
“I just tried to really settle in early and relax as much as I could. Always (follow) coach’s orders in the 10k, like just try and relax in the first 10 to 15 laps as much as you can and cover any moves and hope that it will slow down eventually and it did. It was fast-slow-fast-slow, which is good because that’s what I’ve been practicing in training. Just that change of speed.
“I’m happy with the race. It’s my third national 10k title on the track. It would have been really good to win but just the sprint finish gets me.”
With the national title under her belt, Wellings now can concentrate on reaching the World Championship qualifying standard of 32:00:00 which would secure her selection to the Australian Flame World Championships team.
“I want to go to the World Championships obviously and I’ll have a crack at the 5000m as well,” Wellings said. “If I’m at home, I’ll probably have a crack (at the qualifying time) in maybe April or May, a bit closer to the World Champs. This is obviously a long way out, so it would have been a big ask to run under 32 (minutes) tonight, especially with the windy conditions.”
Earlier in the night Australian 800m equal record holder Alex Rowe (Vic) comfortably took out the men’s Open 800m event in the time of 1:46.96. Rowe sat comfortably behind a pacemaker in the first lap before taking the lead for good with 300 metres to go. It was an impressive first outing for Rowe, who is coming back from the hamstring injury which saw him miss the 2014 Commonwealth Games shortly after he equaled Ralph Doubell’s long-standing 800m national record.
“It was a little bit windier than I wanted but you can’t control the conditions, and you can only control the race that you run,” Rowe said after his race. “So I felt that I ran quite strongly into difficult conditions and came out here and did what I wanted to do.
“(It was) exactly what I wanted. It’s just good to know that, despite adverse conditions, I can still come out and run 1:46 in my first race. So it is about a second-and-a-half quickest season opener that I’ve ever had, so if I can run a second-and-a half-quicker than I did at the end of last (season) then it’ll be pretty good.”
Athletics competition continues in Melbourne on Sunday morning as Australia’s triple Olympic medallist Jared Tallent (SA) will take on a field of seven for the 2014 Australian men’s 50km race walking title.
Tallent, who has won two Olympic silver medals at the 50km distance (Beijing 2008 and London 2012) as well as a bronze at 20km (2008 Beijing), will be the hot favourite as the field tackles the 25 laps of the 2km course at Fawkner Park in South Yarra.
Should Tallent be able to win the 2014 national title on Sunday in a time better than the Athletics Australia standard of 3:51:00, thanks to his 2013 bronze-medal at the 2013 world titles Tallent would secure guaranteed selection for the Australian Flame team to compete at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN).
Beijing holds fond memories for Tallent and the 30-year-old is looking forward to the prospect of competing there again in 2015.
“The Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing has been very special for me with three races and three times on the podium there,” Tallent said. “I won the Olympic test event before my Games success, so the stadium has so many special memories for me. I enjoy competing in the hot conditions in Beijing and the Chinese really support our event, so naturally I look forward to racing there again and hopefully having similar success as before.”
Tallent expects stiff competition on Sunday from a field that includes dual Australian OlympiansChris Erickson (Vic.) and Adam Rutter (NSW) but hosed down expectations of a fast time.
“I’m still in the early stages of my preparation for the World Championships and therefore not expecting a big performance this weekend,” Tallent said. “However, with a great field lined up with plenty of Aussie contenders for selection I am hoping that we can all work together early on in the race and get a full team qualified for the World Championships.”
The Australian men’s 50km race walking championship starts at 7:00AM local time on Sunday, with additional men’s and women’s Open 20km walks, as well as a men’s and women’s Under 20 10km race and a women’s Under 18 5km event also on the schedule.