A maiden national title to 20 year-old pole vaulter Nina Kennedy has highlighted an impressive campaign from WA’s high performance athletes at the 2018 Australian Athletics Championships on the Gold Coast.
Kennedy confirmed her selection for the Commonwealth Games by jumping 4.60m in blustery conditions to finish ahead of training partner Liz Parnov who finished second with a best height of 4.25m. Parnov has earned herself a third Commonwealth Games appearance through that result.
With much of the field struggling to come to terms with the wind, on top of humid conditions, Kennedy effectively won the championship with her second vault of 4.35m, having similarly cleared her opening height of 4.25m, also at the first attempt.
In a season that has seen her elevate her personal best to 4.71m, Kennedy demonstrated her form by staying strong to clear 4.50m at the third and final time of asking, before accounting for 4.60m at the second attempt.
With a national title and Commonwealth selection wrapped up, Kennedy nudged the bar to 4.72m, but was unable to break her recent benchmark, set in Perth at the WA Athletics Stadium.
Kennedy said her career best form was a case of trusting her coach Alex Parnov and allowing herself to capitalise on the hard work she has done in training. She revealed that Parnov had given her a simple message ahead of the women’s pole vault final on Saturday night.
"All he said to me was go out there, you know what to do. Just do your thing and I did it. I’ve just got to trust the process, trust him and trust me and it’s all coming together nicely,” Kennedy said.
Her summer form has also seen her selected for the World Indoor Championships which will take place in the UK’s second-city of Birmingham over the first weekend of March.
Kennedy said that her goal coming into 2018 was to qualify for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, she added that World Indoors would now provide an additional bonus.
"I have nothing to lose, I’m more excited than nervous,” Kennedy said. "I’m going to go over there to have some fun and see what I can do.”
Kennedy was joined as a national champion in Queensland by hurdler Ian Dewhurst and para-athletes Sarah Edmiston (discus), Madison de Rozario (1500m) and Robyn Lambird (100m).
Dewhurst, moved to Perth at the start of last year and has built back up to speed following an injury hampered off-season in 2017.
Having run a series of B-Qualifiers, Dewhurst needed only to win the national title in order to confirm himself for a second Commonwealth Games appearance, having debuted in Glasgow four years ago.
He was forced to dig deep however. Turning into the final straight, Canberran Angus Proudfoot ran shoulder to shoulder with the Perth physiotherapist, but a final surge over the two remaining hurdles saw Dewhurst hold-out for a third national championship title – crossing the line in 49.80, clear of Proudfoot’s 50.37.
Sarah Edmiston retained her national title in the women’s discus ambulant final, outclassing her rivals to win gold with a best throw of 35.39m.
Edmiston held off challenges by NSW’s Rae Anderson and Queensland’s Kyra Domrow.
Madison de Rozario is rapidly becoming one of Australian track and field’s most recognisable and successful wheelchair racers.
Having won a world title in 2017, de Rozario had earned automatic selection in the T54 1500m for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games when Athletics Australia released its first wave of athletes in late 2017.
Far from resting on her laurels however, de Rozario demonstrated she remains a force over the distance, winning the national title ahead of fellow Paralympian Angie Ballard with a withering final lap.
De Rozario’s time of 3:26.79 was too hot for the field, with Ballard crossing second in 3:30.37. The race had been tight, until de Rozario launched an assault with 200m remaining that no one else could match.
In the women’s 100m wheelchair final, WA athlete Robyn Lambird claimed gold, setting a time of 20.90 for first place.
With discretionary selections for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games still yet to be determined, a number of WA athletes have put themselves firmly in the mix for representative duties with successful results at nationals.
Brianna Beahan missed automatic selection by a whisker in the women’s 100m hurdles final which was won by Sally Pearson ahead of Michelle Jenneke.
Pearson was in a class of her own in the final, which was marred by a lengthy delay after a competitor broke the starting gun and argued her disqualification for close to 10 minutes.
When racing resumed, Pearson crossed first in 12.73 with Jenneke claiming the second automatic qualification spot in 13.14 ahead of the West Australian’s time of 13.16.
With Athletics Australia still able to field three runners in the event, on top of Beahan being an instrumental component of Australia’s 4x100m relay squad, it is anticipated she will be part of Australia’s team at April’s Commonwealth Games.
Declan Carruthers is another WA hopeful who gave selectors plenty to consider, after he took second place in the men’s pole vault final behind automatic qualifier and national champion Kurtis Marschall of Adelaide.
Carruthers, who previously trained with Marschall in South Australia before re-locating to Perth, hit a best mark of 5.45m for second place, with his former training partner retaining his status as national champion on 5.55m.
Fellow West Australian Stephen Clough was fourth overall and third Australian on 5.15m.
Sprinter Aaron Bresland picked up a bronze medal in the final of the men’s 200m sprint, clocking 21.02 for fourth place (third Australian) in a race won by multiple national champion Alex Hartmann, who ran an incredible 20.57 into a -2.1 headwind.
Bresland was also involved in one of the Championships’ most talked about races, finishing seventh in the final of the men’s 100m. The race was taken out by 20 year-old Trae Williams who ran the fourth fastest 100m by an Australian in history and the quickest by an Aussie in 11 years.
Cruz Hogan earned a first Open Championship medal on Sunday in the men’s javelin final, throwing 76.87m for fourth place (third Australian). Hogan’s training partner Luke Cann took fifth place (fourth Australian) with a best effort of 76.27m in the final won by Hamish Peacock – courtesy of a 79.38m throw.
There was disappointment for emerging track talent Matthew Ramsden who ran the fastest qualifying time in the heats of the men’s 1500m – only to miss the final after suffering a plantar fasciitis injury that will require surgery.
Ramsden clocked 3:42.39 in the third and final heat with the gold medal eventually won by Victorian Ryan Gregson in 3:39.66.
WA para-athletes Rhiannon Clarke and Ella Pardy both medalled in an absorbing women’s 100m ambulant final that featured a new world record for Paralympian Isis Holt. The Victorian broke her own record, lowering her time to 13.37, which bested Clarke in 13.60 and Pardy in 13.68.
Clarke and Pardy both remain in contention for Commonwealth games selection, with the 100m ambulant one of the para-events being contested at April’s Games.