Athletics World Relays wrap

4 May 2015

ATHLETICS: The Australian Athletics Team continue to add to the green and gold tally at the IAAF World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas. A top-eight finish in the relays it enough to secure automatic qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Day 2 wrap:

The Australian Flame have continued their stylish performance at the IAAF World Relays, with the women’s 4x800m relay and men’s distance medley relay adding bronze to the Australian medal tally.

Competing in the first final on day two in Nassau (BAH), the women’s 4x800m squad was led out very strongly by up and coming talent Abbey de la Motte (Tas), before IAAF World Championships representative Kelly Hetherington (Vic) took the baton in fourth to continue the Australian charge. Selma Kajan (Vic) maintained the team’s position in the middle of the pack across the third leg before national champion Brittany McGowan (Qld) stormed home in the closing lap to move up and maintain the third spot behind America (first, 8:00.62) and Poland (second, 8:11.36). Australia ran 8:13.97.

“I think we went out really strong, we were really confident and wanted to work well together as a team. We did that today,” Kajan said.

“I was really lucky to catch the Canadian girl early on and then sit behind her. There was a big head wind down the back straight, but I just had to go, I made the split second decision and I’m glad that I did because we’ve come away with a bronze medal,” McGowan added.

“Last year we questioned if it was all worth it with a small field competing, but this time around we have really proved ourselves and I am so happy for us. The Bahamas have really turned it on for the relays. We are so lucky to have it here.”

Three races later in the men’s distance medley relay, national 1500m record holder Ryan Gregson (NSW) led the team out powerfully over 1200m to pass the baton to one lap charge Alex Beck (Qld) in first place. Jordan Williamsz (Vic) continued the strong performance with a gutsy 800m run before the ever-dependable Collis Birmingham (Vic) brought the team home in the mile to claim bronze in 9:21.62 behind America (first, 9:15.50, WR) and Kenya (second, 9:17.20).

“We all executed. I had a good leg, Alex had a great leg, and then Jordy, I don’t know what he ran but it was incredible, he was keeping up with the 1:43 guys and we saw how hard Collis worked,” Gregson said.

“I think the performances here show that while we may not have the individual medalists, we do have good depth and hopefully one of the guys will be able to push through and win an individual event in the next few years.”

In the women’s 4x400m relay, the Australian team confirmed their automatic qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by placing 7th in final in 3:30.03. The time is an improvement on the heat yesterday, and the fastest by this squad from four starts this season.

Anneliese Rubie (NSW) opened the campaign excellently, before Jess Gulli (Vic) delivered another strong run in the second spot. Glasgow 2014 semi-finalist Morgan Mitchell (Vic) took the reins on the third leg, while Lyndsay Pekin (WA), who replaced Caitlin Sargent (Qld), was the last to run.

The Australian Flame close out the two days of competition with three bronze medals and a further two performances in the top eight. Accumulating a formidable 25 points, the team ranked fourth on the overall standings for the Golden Baton to improve on the fifth place they achieved last year.

Competition in Nassau (BAH) followed an impressive outing for Australian distance runners at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford (USA) late yesterday afternoon.

Once again proving to be a breeding ground for green and gold success, the event delivered IAAF World Championships qualifying performances to Ben St Lawrence (NSW) in the men’s 10,000m and Madeline Heiner (NSW) and Emily Brichacek (ACT) in the women’s 5000m.

St Lawrence has a great history of success at the Payton Jordan Invitational, clocking the national 10,000m record of 27:24.95 at the event in 2011. Crossing the line for third this year, the two-time IAAF World Championships representatives stopped the clock in 27:44.24 to stake his claim for a third appearance with the Australian Flame at Beijing 2015.

Both Heiner and Brichacek improved their personal bests to bring themselves into contention for IAAF World Championships selection.

Seventh placed, Heiner ran 15:11.17 to improve on the personal best she ran at the Sydney Track Classic earlier this season by ten seconds. Brichacek finished 14th, with her time of 15:19.06 bettering the qualifying mark by 0.96 seconds and improving on the personal best she ran in the event at the same event three years ago.

“I’m excited to have the 5000m time, I narrowly missed it in Sydney earlier this year. A ten second PB is certainly something to celebrate but I didn’t feel like I quite found my final gear so that’s encouraging as I get ready for another run in the next few weeks,” Heiner, who is coached by Adam Didyk said.

“The plan has always been to qualify for both the 5000m and the steeple. Last year I didn’t get that opportunity so this year I’m very keen to explore running both, and then making a call in 2016 about what I should focus on for the Olympic Games.”

In other Australian results from the Payton Jordan Invitational, David McNeill (Vic) ran 27:45.01 in the men’s 10,000m to miss the Beijing 2015 qualifier by an agonising 0.01 seconds, while Jess Trengove (SA) improved her career best mark in the women’s 10,000m, crossing in 32:17.67.

Meanwhile in Shizuoka (JPN), Lauren Wells (ACT, 56.26) and Melissa Breen (ACT, 23.67) took victory in the women’s 400m hurdles and 200m respectively. Brandon Starc (NSW) cleared 2.20m in the men’s high jump and Tristan Thomas (Tas) ran 52.98 in the men’s 400m hurdles after difficulty at the eighth barrier and recovering to finish.

Attention now turns to Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki (JPN) next Sunday 10 May.

Wells, Breen and Thomas will all compete once again, with the trio to be joined by Heidi See (NSW, 1500m), Brooke Stratton (Vic, long jump), Hamish Peacock (Tas, javelin) and Sally Pearson (Qld, 100m hurdles).

The IAAF Diamond League returns in Doha (QAT) one week later, with Pearson to start in the women’s 100m hurdles and Dani Samuels (NSW) to fly the Australian flag in the women’s discus throw.

Day 1 wrap

It was an impressive first day for the Australian Flame at the IAAF World Relays, with the men’s 4x800m relay team winning bronze and the women’s 4x400m squad winning their heat to advance to the final and all but ensure their automatic qualification to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Fourth across the line in 7:16.30 after a solid performance by Jared West (NSW), Josh Ralph (NSW), Ryan Gregson (NSW) and Jordan Williamsz (Vic), the Australian men were promoted to the podium after the second to cross Kenya were disqualified thanks to an illegal changeover (Rule 170.19). America won gold and Poland the silver.

“I think it was the changeover in my leg that brought Kenya undone, the runner was trying to get the baton before everyone else, but that’s the thing with relays, you have to know how to run them to do well in them,” Gregson, the national 1500m record holder, said.

“I ran a decent leg. I was in no man’s land at the outset trying to close the gap to Lewandowski (of Poland), who is a great runner, so I was up against it and I think I ran pretty well.

“We are only a small country and we are a long way away from here but it was well worth the trip.”

“It was a great surprise to win the medal. I was half way out (the door) and they called me back. It’s great. My run was good too, I was on my own for a lot of it, just trying to make sure that we stayed where we were,” Williamsz, who anchored his American university Villanova to victory at the Penn Relays last weekend, added.

The performance adds a second distance relay medal to the historical Australian tally after the women’s 4x1500m relay team combined for third at the inaugural IAAF World Relays last year. Gregson and Williamsz will return to the competition arena tomorrow, with the duo set to join Collis Birmingham (Vic) and Sam Baird (Vic) for the men’s distance medley relay.

Competing in the first heat of the women’s 4x400m relay, the Australian women were strong winners over France (second) and Cuba (third) in 3:30.73.

Led out admirably by Caitlin Sargent (Qld, split: 53.52), it was the Glasgow 2014 hurdler Jess Gulli (Vic) who clocked 52.47 on the second leg to hand the baton, and the lead, to Anneliese Rubie (NSW, split: 52.37). The team never relinquished the position, with Morgan Mitchell (Vic, split: 52.37) challenged on the home straight but strong enough to hold on.

The performance all but ensures Australia’s start in the event at the Olympic Games next year, with a top-eight finish at the IAAF World Relays in Nassau (BAH) this weekend enough to secure automatic qualification. Their position in the final tomorrow is now guaranteed, with Rio 2016 a reality if the team finishes without disqualification.

“We are super happy. Another bock ticked. All we have to do is execute the race tomorrow, and hopefully run a quicker time, and Rio is an option for us. We are in shock! We weren’t expecting to win the heat and to cross the line first was such an amazing felling for all of us. To possibly have the opportunity to run at an Olympic Games is just insane to think about,” Mitchell said.

“A quicker time tomorrow is the aim now. That will give us more confidence heading in to the World Championships later this year. We are just so grateful to have had the opportunity to race here. The support we have received from everyone back home, and Athletics Australia for getting us here, has been great and we’re so excited.”

Not to be outdone, the 2010 Commonwealth champion Fabrice Lapierre (NSW) has staked a claim for IAAF World Championships selection thanks to an impressive 8.16m (w: +1.7) leap for victory at the Longhorn Invitational in Austin (USA).

His first competitive outing since injury at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge forced his withdrawal from the Australian Athletics Championships in Brisbane (Qld), Lapierre fouled on his opening two attempts before finding his stride and jumping 7.97m, 8.00m, 7.95m in the following rounds, before the qualifying mark on his final attempt.

Lapierre is now coached by Dan Pfaff and Kyle Heirholzer, with the main aim in 2015 being to stay healthy and injury free.

“I absolutely happy. I have moved to a new coach and environment. Things have been going great in training and I was expecting to get close to the qualifying mark today,” Lapierre said.

“I was very upset that I slipped on the board in Melbourne and strained my hamstring then had to miss the Nationals because I knew that I was in good shape. From here I will keep training with the main focus of staying healthy. I’ve had an injury riddled few years and my coaches and I are working on making sure that I am injury free to allow for a successful year.”

Competition continues on the world stage late this afternoon, with Ben St Lawrence (NSW, 10,000m), David McNeill (Vic, 10,000m), Jess Trengove (SA, 10,000m), Madeline Heiner (NSW, 5000m) and Emily Brichacek (ACT, 5000m) all to start at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford (USA), while Lauren Wells (ACT, 400m hurdles), Tristan Thomas (Tas, 400m hurdles) and Melissa Breen (ACT, 200m) will all compete in Shizuoka (JPN).

The IAAF World Relays continue tomorrow, with Australia to compete in the women’s 4x100m relay and the finals of the women’s 4x800m relay, the men’s distance medley relay and the women’s 4x400m relay.

ATHLETICS AUSTRALIA

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