Country girl Paige sprints away in cross country – open women race review

Published Mon 20 Jul 2020

20 July 2020

Country girl Paige sprints away in cross country – open women race review

A four-month break from competition has been of benefit, rather than a hinderance, for medallists in the NSW Short Course XC Championships held at West Dapto on Sunday. The forced break, due to COVID-19, is the longest break in athletics competitions in NSW in 75 years, since World War II.

The warm favourite for the 2020 open women’s 5km title was Warren-based physio student Paige Campbell (Sydney Uni). A few niggles in late summer of the 2019/20 season were a thing of the past as Campbell was a comfortable nine second winner in 16:36. But as she explained it was with the encourage of second-placed Marnie Ponton (Bankstown) she took the lead and the eventual win.

“They went out really hard and Marnie and I were hoping it would slow down a bit, then they eventually came back and we tried to push it a little bit,” said Campbell. “Marnie said ‘go’ – cheers to her for that, and I just tried to hold strong down the back there.”

Campbell and Ponton had planned before the race to work together.

“We met up before the race and decided that we were going to stick at it together,” said Ponton who was a team mate of Campbell at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships. “Then at about 3km I told Paige she needed to go now.”

Ponton held on for a good second in 16:45.

“I’m glad to get the second to Paige – never disappointed when Paige beats me. It was so good to be out racing.”

A close third in 16:51 was Canberra junior half-miler, Keely Small (KEJ), showing very good form over the longer distance. She is another to have benefitted enormously from the COVID-19 break.

“It has been really nice to do some longer stuff at the moment,” she said. “It has been two or three years doing 800m training back to back year’s so it has been a blessing in disguise what is going on at the moment. I’ve been able to have a really good base work season. I’m really fit and running a lot more than I usually have which has been really good and increase my kms per week.”

Even with the extra mileage, until she raced she was not sure how she would fair.

“I have been maintaining it really well and wanted to see how I was going - I really didn’t know. You can do so much in training but until you get out and race you don’t really know how you are going. So I’m stoked with that.”

Paige Campbell, who is under the same coach as Small, Philo Saunders, certainly noticed.

“Keely is super fit and she ran really well so we better watch out.”

After graduating from school in 2019, Small’s performance is obviously the result of a good structure she has setup.

“I’m studying science part-time at Uni of Canberra and have a really good balance between work, uni and running.”

Like the men’s race, it had good depth with track specialist Lauren Reid (Delta) impressing with fourth (17:32), in fifth Sarah Marvin (SYU) 17:39, 2:42 marathoner Katie Conlon (RCR) with 17:44 in sixth and 2017 world cross country representative Lexy Gilmour (SUT) 17:55.



It was an historic win for the Run Crew women taking the title with 39 points, ahead of Kembla Joggers (55 points) and Bankstown Sports (59 points).

The Run Crew squad was a mix of foreign athletes. Sydney-based American marathoner Katie Conlon, led them in placing sixth in 17:44, with South African world cross country competitor Aynslee Van Graan in eight with 17:59. Top-15 places by Rosie Weber and Bethany Scott, ensure a comfortable win for Run Crew.

David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW

Image: Paige Campbell (courtesy of David Tarbotton)