16 January 2012
US stars throw out Hunter challenge
The Hunter Track Classic this Saturday night will be vital in the preparation of many athletes with Olympic aspirations.
With the Olympic trials in early March, time it ticking for athletes to record qualifying performances and impress the national selectors.
The presence of American throwers Mike Hazle and Russ Winger enhances already strong domestic fields in the shot, discus and javelin events. On the track the men’s 1500m and women’s 400m look the most interesting.
Mike Hazle, 32, a World Championship and Olympic Gamesjavelin representative, will be challenged by a good domestic field, fresh from a quality competition in Brisbane on Saturday night. Tasmanian Hamish Peacock and NSW’s Matt Outzen are in promising form following throws of 77.34m and 75.75m, compared with Hazle’s season opening throw of 74.05m. Hazle, who has thrown seven times over 81m and had a 2011 best of 81.09m should be capable of approaching those distances in Newcastle. The one to watch will be Brisbane’s Josh Robinson, on the comeback after a break. This 80m thrower opened his season with 72m in Brisbane and will be looking to improve in Newcastle. Local interest will surround former national champion, Ben Baker who has a best of 77.13m.
Russ Winger (USA) will be ideal competition for Australia’s rising shot put star Dale Stevenson (Vic), who is the country’s third best ever with a personal best of 20.05m. Winger, who has 10 career putts over 20.50m, reached 20.94m last season. Sydney-based Samoan, Emanuele Fuamatu, is in career best form following a putt of 19.40m last month. Paralympic hopeful, Guy Henley will be aiming to raise his best of 11.75m.
In the discus Winger may have a tougher battle to beat World Championships finalist Benn Harradine. Winger’s has a best of 66.04m, while Harradine set a national record of 66.45m in 2010. World women’s champion, Dani Samuels, a 65m thrower, will also line up in the quality field and will ensure a close three-way battle.
The men’s 1500m field has been boosted by the inclusion of Great Britian’s Commonwealth Games 1500m finalist Nick McCormick, 30, who has a personal best of 3:35.74 and last season competed at the European Indoor Championships. The main interest will be on how James Kaan opens his 2012 domestic season. The national 800m champion looks to be chasing Olympic selection in the longer 1500m. Jeremy Roff, who finished a few places behind McCormick at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, will be looking for a good start to the season. Others of interest include half-mile specialist Lachlan Renshaw and a rejuvenated James Nipperess thanks to the new challenge of the steeplechase. Teenage Victorian Jordan Williamsz, with a personal best of 3:40.96, will be competitive. The biggest improver this season has been the former Australian junior 1500m/5000m champion Cameron Page. A Central Coast athlete, Page has slashed his personal bests this season including a stunning solo 13:54.41 in the 5000m.
The women’s 400m is a tremendous field with half the field owning personal bests faster than 53.4 and the remainder under 54.3. Fastest is Tamsyn Manou (nee Lewis), who always runs well in the hometown of her mother Carol, a national high jump champion. But she will face a tough challenge from Pirrenee Steinert, the home town favourite, who after missing most of the 2010/11 season due to injury, has run herself into top form Last month she clocked a 200m personal best and her third fastest 400m time. Two Queensland Caitlins, at the opposite ends of their career, also provide quality competition. Teenager Caitlin Sargent, won silver in the 2011 nationals, while Caitlin Pincott, 29, is looking to add Olympic selection to her tremendous career which has seen her run at two World Championships, the World Cup and win a Commonwealth Games gold.
NSW’s powerful sprint stocks will be out in force at Hunter. In the men’s 100m, Tim Leathart, who has twice run 10.48 this season, will challenge Isaac Ntimoah a two-time World Championships representative. But greatest interest will surround the return to his home of Josh Ross. Australia’s third fastest 100m runner ever at 10.08, Ross, now based in Melbourne, will return to the area where he was raised and developed into one of Australia’s finest ever sprinters.
Central Coast Commonwealth Games 400m gold medallist, Kevin Moore, faces quality competition in the men’s 200m. The fastest Australian this season, Qld’s Andrew McCabe and NSW’s best, Nick Hough, 18, who last season was the first Aussie to cross the line in the Sydney Track Classic 200m, will lead the charge.
Other leading events and stars include:
- 800m: can anyone challenge James Gurr after his great early season win in Brisbane in 1:47.31?
- 1500m: Last season, at just 21, ACT’s Zoe Buckman clocked 4:05.06, the third fastest 1500m in Australia history. Can she clock an Olympic A standard of 4:06.00 in Newcastle?
- 400m hurdles men and women: World Championships training partners have nearly identical tasks to qualify for the London Olympics. Brendan Cole and Lauren Boden both have personal bests exactly 0.15 under the Olympic standards of 49.50 and 55.40 respectively. They will also try to impress selectors with their 400m speed to earn relay selection.
- High jump women: Three World Junior Championships team aspirants, Tasmania’s Katilin Morgan and NSW pair Amy Pejkovic and Emily Crutcher will be battling for just two team places this season.
- High Jump men: A legend of the sport and local athlete, Nick Moroney will aim to continue his amazing longevity here. Moroney has leapt 2.10m for the last 22 years, since 1990, and in Newcastle will be looking for that height for his 23rd consecutive season.
Other feature of the meet are:
- A prize money pool of $10,000 for athletes.
- A Little Athletics under-14 teams competition.
- A junior coaching clinic the following day.
First event starts at 4.30pm. Ticket prices are: General admission - $10, child (U/16) - $5 and gold reserve seating - $15
More information is available on: http://huntertrackclassic.com.au/
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: men’s 800m 2011 Hunter Track Classic – won by James Kaan (courtesy of David Tarbotton)