Hurdler Justin Merlino and middle-distance runner Lachlan Renshaw pushed their claims for Beijing Olympic Games berths with winning runs at the Sydney Track Classic at Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre on Saturday.

Merlino, the national 110m hurdles champion, began the 2008 season where he left off last year, winning the event with a run of 13.69s.

The 22-year-old Sydney University Sports Scholarship holder won easily from Greg Eyears (14.13. 3s) and Jacob Holt (14.34s).

Merlino set his sights on the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games after winning the 110m hurdles title at the Australian Athletics Championships at QEII Stadium, Brisbane in 2007, when he set a personal best time of 13.55s to take the crown from New Zealander James Mortimer (13.71s) and Eyears (13.72s).

More importantly, Merlino’s time was an A qualifier, guaranteeing him entry to the World Championships and the Olympics.

Coached by Fira Dviskina, he is now the second fastest Australian over the 110m hurdles, behind 1996 Atlanta Olympic finalist, Kyle Vander-Kuyp, who set the Australian benchmark of 13.29s at the 1995 World Championships.

Renshaw, another SUS Sports Scholarship holder, also pushed his Beijing claims by taking out the 800m in 1:47.08 from Sydney University team-mate Werner Botha (1:48.39) and Nick Bromley (1:48.72). Another Sydney University runner, Mark Abercromby, finished seventh in the event.

In women’s results at the Track Classic meet, Sydney University’s Annabelle Smith finished fifth in the 400m and Lara Tamsett finished fourth in the 1500m.

By Graham Croker