Six athletes have been automatically selected in Australia’s 2014 Commonwealth Games team and 15 medals (six gold, two silver, seven bronze) were won. This is the wash-up from an incredible week of action for the Sydney University Athletics Club (SUAC) at last week’s 92nd Australian Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games Selection Trials (nationals).
SUAC’s Ian Dewhurst, Josh Ralph, Nick Hough, Ella Nelson (all SUSF EAP scholarship holders), Angie Ballard (former SUSF EAP scholarship holder) and Em Brichacek are all Glasgow bound after excelling at last week’s nationals held at the Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne.
The two most hyped races in Melbourne for SUAC athletes were the men’s 400 hurdles and the men’s 800m and it was the Students who prevailed.
In the men’s 400m hurdles, Ian Dewhurst faced the Olympic and World Championships semi-finalist and reigning national champion Tristan Thomas. The stage was set for an epic battle given Dewhurst had beaten Thomas earlier in the year, before Thomas turned the tables on the big physiotherapy student, when he beat him in Melbourne a fortnight ago.
In the lead up to the race, Dewhurst had stated that he was going to use an untested and far more aggressive stride pattern than he had earlier in the season. The move carried an enormous amount of risk for the biggest race of the season, but it turned out to be a risk well worth taking as Dewhurst sailed past Thomas over the final hurdle. He ran a personal best, smashed the SUAC club record, claimed his first senior national title, and booked his seat to Glasgow running a very slick 49.52 seconds.
In the men’s 800m, Josh Ralph was up against Australian World Championships representative Alex Rowe and Australian Olympic representative and the second fastest Australian of all-time Jeff Risely. Ralph had not lost to an Australian this year over 800m and carried a fair amount of pressure into this race knowing many considered him to be the favourite. The Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sport Science) student kept his cool and executed a very astute race plan, moving past Risely with 100m to go and holding off the late charge from Rowe to claim his first national title and guarantee his spot in the team for Glasgow. Ralph is the real deal and is set to turn the Australian 800m landscape on its head having secured his first Australian team berth in only his first year running the event.
Like Ralph, Ella Nelson went into the final of the women’s 200m as a huge favourite to win the event. Having only narrowly been beaten by Sally Pearson at the Sydney Track Classic, Nelson had remained unchallenged by every other Australian athlete this season. Typically the Bachelor of Science student has unleashed a phenomenal burst of speed in the closing 50m of her races. In the final she needed to do just that, with Victorian Whittaker a metre in front with 50m left. Nelson blew by, taking the win, the Australian Championships and automatic selection to her first senior national team for the Commonwealth Games.
Anneliese Rubie was also third in the women’s 200m, adding a bronze to the silver she won the night before in the 400m. It was a cracker of a meet for Rubie, who demonstrated unbelievable composure in the women’s 400m to fly home for the silver after her main rival Caitlin Seargent took out the first 200m in what turned out to be a suicidal pace. Rubie flashed home late in the race only just behind Victorian Morgan Mitchell. Rubie ran her first Commonwealth Games B Qualifier (CGBQ) of the season and will surely be added to the team for Glasgow later in the year.
Nick Hough picked up his first senior national title, putting together a clinical race in the men’s 110m hurdles, running a 14.12 into a stiff headwind. The win also meant automatic selection for Hough (who is studying a Bachelor of IT / Laws) to Glasgow and announced that he has effectively made the transition from being a dominant force in the junior ranks to being a big player at senior level.
Em Brichacek won her first senior national track title, winning the women’s 5,000m in a time of 15.52.65. Having already run the CGBQ and won the national title, Brichacek confirmed that she also would be an automatic selection for the Commonwealth Games. It was no push over for Brichacek though, as she held off the late charge from Australian Olympic representative Eloise Wellings fighting back from a big move to take the lead with 80m to go and run away with the win.
James Nipperess won his second consecutive national title, running 8.38.87 in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase. The win for Nipperess was bittersweet as he just missed the CGBQ time of 8.35, having fallen at the last water jump, picking himself up but still getting home for the win. Nipperess will chase the qualifying time in Japan in a few weeks time.
Michelle Jenneke continued to get out of the blocks fast and mixed it with Olympic champion Sally Pearson for first three flight’s in the women’s 100m hurdles. Jenneke has already run the CGBQ and will await the discretion of the selectors to see if she has made the Commonwealth Games team.
New Sydney Uni students Georgia Wassall (women’s 800m) and Kate Spencer (women’s 5,000m) took home bronze medals at the nationals. Both athletes now have to make the difficult choice as to whether they compete at the World Junior Championships later this year or to continue to push for Commonwealth Games selection as both girls have already achieved the CGBQ standard.
Angie Ballard finished third in the women’s 1,500m wheelchair event and has been selected for the Commonwealth Games team. No doubt she will be pushing for more medals in Glasgow.
Nicole Fagan pushed her claims for Australian senior team selection with a silver medal performance in the women’s 10,000m walk. Fagan walked a slick 45.21.47 for the distance, smashing the SUAC record.
Two athletes who showed marked improvement over the weekend were Jin Su Jung, who finished third in the men’s 100m and Jenny Blundell who was also third in the women’s 1,500m finals. Both athletes showed real promise over the weekend and had they not run in such windy conditions may well have given the CGBQ standard a nudge in their respective events.
The Australian Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games Selection Trials wraps up undoubtedly the best season in the clubs history. SUAC won every senior domestic title, produced a plethora of SUAC club records along with six automatically selected athletes for the Commonwealth Games – with a hopefully few more to come.