21 January 2018
McDonald back from US and on track for the Games
Two NSW rising distance stars, Morgan McDonald and Paige Campbell, have shared the limelight with Australia’s premier metric-miler, Linden Hall, at the Hunter Track Classic.
After his breakthrough 2017 season which saw him make the Australian team for the 5000m at the London World Championships, Morgan McDonald is ensuring he gives himself the best possible chance to be selected in the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games.
Last night he kicked off his season in the Hunter running over 1500m.
“I was a bit nervous as it was basically my first race since the world championships. It was the perfect race to start my season with a solid field. The race was well paced, and I made a move at the bell, but at 300m was passed by Josh Johnson (ACT) and James Hansen (Tas), so was in a real race for the line, but fortunately I found another gear at the end.”
He clocked a personal best and CG B qualifier of 3:39.14, ahead of James Hansen (Tas) with 3:39.56 and Tom Fawthorpe (Vic) 3:40.60. McDonald lowered his best of 3:41.01 set in a mile race last year.
But is he contemplating a move to the shorter distance?
“The 5000 metres is my best distance, but I like the 1500s and want to race more of them and see how fast I can go. I also don’t want to run too many 5000s.”
It was a surprise to see the business student at University of Wisconsin back in Australia and well ahead of the Commonwealth trials. He had arrived back in Sydney on December 24 and raced off 12 days training at altitude at falls creek.
“It is a unique situation. I’m taking my classes ‘on-line’ and redshirting the cross country and indoor seasons. They (the uni) have been very flexible. My coach (Mike Byrne) has been very supportive and understanding that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity a home Games and I couldn’t pass it up.”
So, McDonald will be returning to the US in either February or April and let’s hope it is the later. He will then compete in the college outdoor season.
One of the performances of the night was the steeplechase run by Sydney Uni’s Paige Campbell. She defeated Olympian Victoria Mitchell and most of the domestic contenders for the Commonwealth Games. She clocked a nine second personal best of 9:49.60, elevating her to seventh fastest in Australian history. Behind national recordholder Gen LaCaze, as the only athlete with an A qualifier, Campbell last night defeated all those sitting on B quals including: Mitchell, Brianna Ilarda (WA), Stella Radford (Vic) and the new qualifier and former NSW athlete, Charlotte Wilson (Vic)
“I was very happy with last night’s run and was able to stay in a good rhythm and then finish strong.”
How does she account for this great form under coach Philo Saunders.
“I am coming off a good consistent winter base and hoping to keep improving with each race.”
No surprise she is a happy athlete.
“I am very much enjoying my running at the moment.”
Victoria Linden Hall was on fire in the Hunter with a 35 second PB in the 5000m and an A qualifier to sit alongside her preferred event, the 1500m.
Australian shot put record holder, Damien Birkinhead (Vic) won the shot put with a modest 19.55m, ahead of WA’s Matt Cowie (17.79m) and two NSW teenagers Aiden Harvey (SYU) 17.65m and Commonwealth Youth champion Alex Kolesnikoff (TRI) 16.72m. For Kolesnikoff it was a metre personal best.
Rio Olympian Jenny Blundell (SYU) took a nice win in the 1500m in 4:12.55, just defeating Abi Regan (RBH), who continues to impress upon her return from college in the US. Regan, now training in the Ben St Lawrence/Gary Howard stable, ran 4:13.95, a two second personal best.
Victorian Morgan Mitchell cruised to her fourth consecutive 400m win in the Hunter clocking 52.77, while teenager Carley Thomas (UTN) ran 54.83, not far outside of her PB.
In the men’s 5000m, won my NSW champion, Ed Goddard (UTN) in 14:07.24, two NSW teenagers took a good shots at the IAAF World Under-20 standard of 14:15.00. Jackson Sharp (BLM) and Zac Facioni (RBH) both ran 14:25.
Slowed by a headwind of 2.1m/s Nick Hough (SYU) had his second run for the season clocking 14.11, ahead of Ivor Metcalf (14.63) and former national champion Justin Merlino (14.64). World championships representative, Nicola McDermott (SYU) was over 1.80m to win the high jump.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Ahletics NSW
Image: Morgan McDonald winning the 1500m (image courtesy of Getty images)