The thrill of competition is back – open men race review

Published Mon 20 Jul 2020

20 July 2020

The thrill of competition is back – open men race review

The men’s state open 5km race yesterday in West Dapto, encapsulated the return to athletics competition in NSW – excitement, nervousness and strong interest with quality fields.

“I was pretty nervous coming in as I hadn’t raced in so long,” said the winner Rorey Hunter (BAN). “It is not a huge race, but there are a lot of great guys here and good talent and you want to put on a show with them. It was real good fun.”

“I think this is the best short course field I can remember,” said silver medallists James Nipperess (SYU).

“That was awesome, painful, but really good. Great to be back racing,” said bronze medallist and Olympian Ben St Lawrence (RCR). “I thought it was so exciting leading up to it. We have really miss this. We loved it.”

On March 13 within hours for some, and days for others, the event which would be the climax for the 2019/20 season for them, was cancelled due to COVID-19. For some it was the NSW Little Athletes State Championships, for others the Australian junior and senior national championships. But yesterday (July 19) in West Dapto, the excitement of the return to competition was brimming over when Kembla Joggers club hosted the 106th NSW Short Course Cross Country Championships. It has been 75 years, since World War II, there has been such a long break in athletics competition in NSW. Read more about this


As training partners Rorey Hunter and James Nipperess knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Last season saw a rejuvenated James Nipperess post terrific times in the 5000m, 10,000m and in his pet event the steeplechase.

“I have been training well so I was confident coming into the race,” Nipperess said after the race. “But at the same time I respect a lot of what the competitors today have done, Rorey Hunter, my training partner, has two bronze medals over 1500m.”

How would Nipperess counter that speed?

“I wanted to take the sting out of his kick but I knew in doing that I’d be vulnerable against guys that are fitter than me and some of the Sydney guys are well credentialled more so that I am over 10,000m so I took a bit of a gamble going to the front with less than 2km to go and it didn’t quite pay off regarding a win but it was a solid result I’m proud of how I did today’” said Nipperess who placed second in 14:24, four seconds behind Hunter.

Hunter had been expecting Nipperess to be a challenge, and when it came it was solid.

“I knew Nipper was very very strong and I knew he would come for me and I didn’t know when it would be,” said Hunter. “He actually broke me with 2km to go and I thought let’s relax and try and rally and pick up the cadence. Then with 500m to go he was actually coming back and I thought it is in my domain now, I’ve got to start getting the arms up and just going to that next step of energy system and aerobic system.”

Hunter was able to respond with a winning kick.

“With 400m to go it is just like finishing a 1500m where you dig deep you know the lactic is going to come but you have to hold form.”

Hunter did pass Nipperess and claimed the 106th NSW Short Course XC title, Bankstown third ever men’s title in this event, following Lawrie Whitty’s wins in 1981 and 1982 – 38 years ago.

Run Crew’s dual Olympian Ben St Lawrence was never to be discounted.

“I thought it was so exciting leading up to it. Rorey probably went in favourite, but 10 guys could have podiumed had they run well and I was in that group,” said St Lawrence who grabbed the bronze medal in 14:34.

“Oh man it took everything I had. We have really miss this. We we really appreciate everything Athletics NSW and Kembla Joggers have done to put this on. We loved it.”

St Lawrence, along with co-coach Gary Howard, who himself won silver in his master’s division, brought their Run Crew squad numbering nearly 40 athletes to the event.

“We train together three or four days a week and it is great to come out and race together in that team environment and run on a course like this with our mates.”

With the great depth in the race, a top-10 was an achievement. Extraordinary five of the top-6 train together in Canberra with Dick Telford. Canberra-based local athlete (from Shell Harbour) Jye Edwards (BAN) was fourth in 14:47, ahead of Joshua Johnson (BAN) 14:49, defending champion Brad Milosevic (GIR) 14:54 and Ed Goddard (UTN) 14:57.


With three in the top-5 it was no surprise Bankstown won the team title, but the next three places were expected to be close. Run Crew, with three in the top-10, secured silver as Sydney University and UTS Norths, with all team members in the top-20 battled for the bronze. Sydney University took the medal with 47 points, ahead of UTS Norths on 50 points, a difference of just a few seconds or a few places.

David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW

Image: Rorey Hunter and James Nipperess (courtesy of David Tarbotton)