Melbourne Report -01Dec05-Good men's early 400 form

Hot summer¿s night leaves distance runners in a sweat at Telstra Zatopek

01 December 2005 | 10.57pm

The first day of summer and Melbourne’s Olympic Park produced the type of conditions that are witnessed on only a handful of occasions each year – a balmy 28 degrees and a warm northerly zephyr to assist the sprinters. Of course, these conditions only conspired to make life difficult for the distance runners at the annual Telstra Zatopek Classic.

In a race that was predicted to be a battle between Victorian duo Haley McGregor and Anna Thompson, it was a pair of New Zealanders who stole the show from the beginning in the women’s Zatopek. Reigning world mountain running champion Kate McIlroy and teammate Nina Rillstone where searching for the New Zealand Games standard of 32:30 and at half way they were on target, with a handy 80m lead over McGregor and Thompson. McIlroy is more used to the chilly conditions of Wellington, and although the pace slowed in the back half, her lead grew. With Thompson withdrawing with six laps remaining, McGregor was forced to chase alone, and whilst able to close the gap, she was unable to record her third consecutive Zatopek win.

The title went across the Tasman for the first time since 1995, with the 24 year-old McIlroy recording 33:17.78 in first, Rillstone 33:29.32 in second and McGregor in third with 33:29.32.

“They (the New Zealanders) got away and I’d thought they’d slow down and I’d reel them back in, but it didn’t happen,” McGregor said.

The conditions conspired against the men also, with a group of seven together at halfway in 14:25. Seven quickly became six with defending champion David Ruschena succumbing to a Quincy Watts style wardrobe malfunction, burst shoe laces forcing his withdrawal. With 2km remaining, 2002 Commonwealth Games representative Brett Cartwright surged to the lead, a margin he held comfortably to the finish to win in 29:07.30, ahead of Martin Dent (29:16.44) and David Byrne in third (29:22.97), who outsprinted Steve Moneghetti in the straight.

“At halfway it was obvious that we weren’t going to get the qualifying, so I just wanted to break 29 minutes. The last three k’s were hot and windy. Horrible conditions for a 10km,” Cartwright said after the race.

An Achilles injury at the warm-up track forced Athens silver medalist Patrick Dwyer to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic medal-winning teammates Clinton Hill and Mark Ormrod made their return to competition. Add world indoor 400m finalist Daniel Batman and the field was as hot as the Mondo surface.

Batman began swiftly from lane four and led down the back straight, until Hill charged past at halfway. Into the straight and Hill, Batman, Paul Pearce and Mark Ormrod were across the track, along with 22 year-old West Australian Chris Troode. Ormrod prevailed over the final 50m to record a new personal best of 45.62, an A qualifier and confidence booster so early in the season. Hill and the surprise packet Troode, hit the line together, clocking 45.76, but Troode was subsequently disqualified for running out of his lane on both turns. Still, his performance was impressive and he may well be the one to watch as the season progresses.

" Clint and I spent a week on the gold coast training and it has certainly added more spice. There is a real bond with all of us after the Olympics…. I love the relay, but I’d like to do both, the individual and the relay at the Games," Ormrod said.

The women’s 1500m was a match race between dual Olympian Sarah Jamieson and former national champion Suzy Walsham. Jamieson was searching for her first Commonwealth Games A qualifying after missing the Helsinki world championships with a calf tear. She led at the bell, but grabbed her hamstring entering the back straight for the final time and withdrew, leaving Walsham to celebrate recently turning 32 years of age, to record her second A qualifying in a week – winning in 4:09.34.

“I’ve reduced the training load and I’ve been un-injured for 12 weeks – which is a record,” said Walsham, who coaches herself and is hoping to add an 800m qualifying time this weekend in Sydney.

Despite the designated pacemaker setting up the possibility of a fast time in the men’s 1500 metres, the tightly bunched field sat at least 30m off the nominated leader, ensuring a time of outside 3:40. In an exciting finish, Alastair Stevenson (QLD) shrugged off the effects of a tooth problem that requires surgery, to just shade the rapidly improving Collis Birmingham (VIC) 3:42.38 to 3:42.45.

Kimberley Mickle (WAIS) launched the spear 57.88 to record her first A qualifier, the 2001 world youth champion improving her personal best by 43cms. In the men’s discus, Scott Martin continued his impressive form, with five of his six attempts over the A qualifying, his best coming in round three with 62.37m

Tamsyn Lewis returned to form with a solid win in the women’s 400m, her 52.59 a b qualifying time and an indication that she is capable of dipping under 52 seconds.

Olympic and World Championship finalist Kyle Vander Kuyp continued his quest for a fourth Commonwealth Games, but for the second meet running NSW’s Greg Eyears had the veteran’s measure, recording a swift 13.86 seconds, the fastest time of his career, albeit with a illegal tailwind of 2.3mps. Vander Kuyp finished second in 14.02.

In the men’s steeplechase, Athens Olympian Peter Nowill (QLD) dashed to the lead with three laps remaining, but just missed the A qualifying mark with 8:29.44. Manchester 1500 metres bronze medalist, Youcef Abdi (NSW) finished second in 8:39.49 with Richard Jeremiah (VIC) in third with 8:49.15.

Tasmanian Donna McFarlane (nee Tyberek) placed her name in the selectors notebook, with an A qualifier of 9:51.68 in the women’s steeplechase, an event that will make its debut at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The former under 20 1500m Australian champion (1997) has taken well to the new event, recording the third fastest ever by an Australian and again proving that time off on maternity leave is no bar to improved athletic performance.

In the men’s hammer, 1998 Commonwealth champion and nine time national champion Stuart Rendell opened the competition with an A qualifying effort of 70.20, improving to 74.20m in round three for an easy win.

In the women’s 400m hurdles, Manchester Commonwealth Games finalist Sonia Brito (VIC) demonstrated that her return after nearly three years of injury is on track, racing to a season‘s best 57.89 to defeat national champion Lauren Boden in 58.93.

In the men’s 400m hurdles, Brendan Cole (ACT) finished impressively to record a Commonwealth Games B qualifier and fastest time in Australia this season of 50.42 to defeat New Zealand’s Nic O’Brien with Peter Bate in third.

In the women’s high jump, Claire Mallett (NSWIS) added her name to a growing list of Games B qualifiers, taking the event with a best leap of 1.86m on a countback from Ellen Pettit (WA) with Athens Olympian Petrina Price in 5th place with 1.80m. In the women’s triple jump, national champion Jeanette Bowles (VIC) leapt a new personal best of 13.37 - a B qualifier for the Games.

The Lisa Ondieki under 20 women’s 3000m, the ACT’s Emily Brichacek recorded an all-the-way win, the 15 year-old recording 9:21.48. In the Robert de Castella under 20 men’s 3000m, South Africa’s Dumisani Hlaselo, in Melbourne competing in the Pacific School Games, was most impressive, running 8:20.72 to defeat Victorian Liam Adams in 8:24.53.

The next event in the 2005/06 Telstra Australian athletics season is the Australian All Schools and Youth Championship in Sydney from 8-11 December, followed by the next two legs of the National Series Events – the Ron Clarke Classic in Geelong on Saturday 17 December and the Perth Track Classic on Sunday 18 December 2005.