Some of New South Wales’ and Australia’s best athletes will take to the track at Homebush this weekend at the NSW Open & Under 18 Championships. The Championships come at an opportune time as athletes start to hit the top of their form following the start of the Telstra A-Series last week in Canberra.
The Championships will be highlighted by a number of clashes between athletes attempting to capture the NSW title and vying for fast times in the lead up to the remaining A-Series events in Sydney (17th February) and Melbourne (2nd March) culminating in the National Championships in Brisbane (9th – 11th March).
Competing for the first time this domestic season after a record breaking European season is Youcef Abdi (Randwick-Botany Harriers). Abdi, who climbed to equal second on the Australian All-time rankings in the 3000m Steeplechase with his NSW Record run of 8:21.98 in July, will face stiff competition from Queensland Olympian Peter Nowill, who is traveling down to Sydney to take advantage of the favourable evening conditions in anticipation of clocking a qualifying performance for the Osaka World Championships.
An exciting race will take place in the Men’s 1500m, with housemates and training partners Brad Woods and Jeremy Roff (Randwick-Botany Harriers) continuing their friendly yet fierce rivalry so far this season. After Woods had taken line honours in their first three encounters of the season, Roff turned the tables last week at an Australian Institute of Mathematics Allcomers Meet, scoring a three second victory with an impressive run of 3:41.17.
Also competing in the 1500m will be Commonwealth Games 800m finalist Nick Bromley (UTS Norths) and Mark Abercromby (Sydney University). Both athletes will first tackle the 800m, where they will come up against Werner Botha (Sydney University) and Matthew Hammond (Athletics Easts). The races appears to be wide open, with Hammond having made a big breakthrough this season, Abercromby in impressive form over 1500m and Bromley and Botha not yet showing the good form that they displayed last season.
The sprints will provide entertaining clashes with Ambrose Ezenwa (Bankstown Sports) and Daniel Batman attempting to surpass each other to claim the sprint double, while Queensland’s Melanie Kleeberg will be out to clock World Championships qualifiers after falling one hundredth of a second short of the ‘B’ standard over 100m at Canberra.
Starting favourite in the Women’s 400m will be Jaimee-Lee Starr (Athletics Wollongong) who has been a clear winner in her two outings over the distance this year. Starr will face competition from Annabelle Smith (Sydney University), Rebecca Irwin (Randwick-Botany Harriers) and Commonwealth Games relay gold medalist Rosemary Hayward (Wyong). The Men’s 400m will see Joel Milburn (Asics Wests) challenge Casey Vincent (AIS) who will be taking to the track for the first time this season.
The Women’s High Jump will see Commonwealth Games representatives Petrina Price (Athletics Wollongong) and Claire Mallett (Sutherland) in action, but on current form the pair will face stiff competition to record the highest leap of the carnival, with World Youth qualifiers Trudy Thompson (Wyong) and Mia Mackinnon (Illawong) tackling the U18 event.
Jane Saville (Randwick-Botany Harriers) and Luke Adams (Bankstown Sports) will use the 5000m Walk event as a bit of speed work following good hit outs over 20km last weekend in Canberra. Saville will face tough competition from current title holder, her sister Natalie, and Cheryl Webb (Blacktown).
Two Westfields enter their events by far the dominant performers. World Junior Champion Dani Samuels will look to capture the Discus and Shot Put double after showing form approaching her best when competing last weekend against New Zealand’s Beatrice Faumuina, while John Thornell will look to approach the 8 metre mark in the Men’s Long Jump.