Australian middle-distance runner Linden Hall (© Getty Images)
Linden Hall has made her own piece of Australian athletics history, becoming the first Australian woman to run under four minutes for 1500m in Melbourne on Thursday (1).
Running on her own for the last 700 metres at Melbourne’s Box Hill track, Hall kicked down from a 2:09 first 800 metres to a 3:59.67 finish. Genevieve Gregson was a distant second in 4:10.08, just ahead of Melissa Duncan’s 4:10.40, but it was the race against the clock which counted most.
In winning, Hall regained the Australian record from her World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 teammate Jessica Hull, but she also beat Hull to the accolade of being the first Australian to run under four minutes.
It was an achievement which seemed imminent when Margaret Crowley set an Australian record 4:01.34 in Oslo in 1996 before going on to finish fifth in the Atlanta Olympic final, but the sense of inevitability seemed to evaporate as the record progressed to 4:00.93 by Sarah Jamieson in 2006, 4:00.86 by Hall in 2018 and then 4:00.42 by Hull in Berlin last year.
Hall presaged her breakthrough with a 1:59.22 for 800m as she chased Catriona Bissett home in Brisbane at the Queensland Track Classic on Saturday (27). But there was still the matter of getting it done. Crowley twice ran under two minutes for 800m without breaking through to a sub-four 1500m.
Paced by Ellie Sandford through the first 800 metres in a tick over 2:09, Hall struck out solo after that. A 63-second third lap saw her take the bell in around 2:57. In warm and windless conditions. Hall never faltered, running just under 62 seconds for the final lap.
The Box Hill track, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, has seen some pretty good middle-distance running over the years. The late Graham Crouch and Peter Fuller battled it out over a mile there in 1974 with Crouch winning in an Australian all-comers’ record 3:56.7. Hall has a part in this history, too, with a national record 2:35.90 over 1000m on 2 March and another solo performance of 4:04.33 at the track at January’s Zatopek meeting.
Hall had already achieved the Tokyo Olympic automatic qualifying standard with a 4:02.02 in Canberra on 11 March, but there was a near-miss in the men’s 1500m as Jye Edwards continued his rise this year with a 3:35.46 to 3:35.94 victory over Matthew Ramsden. In third place, Ryan Gregson had his fastest run of the season with 3:36.72.
The result leaves the Australian men’s Olympic 1500m picture in a confused state. Stewart McSweyn, a late withdrawal from the Box Hill race, and Ramsden have both achieved the 3:35.00 auto standard, meaning that if either wins the national title in Sydney later this month, they will clinch selection in the team for Tokyo.
Edwards, who is coached by Dick Telford, is the form athlete at the moment. A week ago, he won at the Melbourne Track Classic with a strong final 200 metres. At Box Hill, he was again too good over the closing stages for Ramsden. If he adds the national title to his credentials, it will be very hard to overlook his claims for the Olympic team.
In the men’s 800m, Peter Bol lost his first race at the distance for the domestic season. He followed the pacemaker through a 51-second first lap but New Zealand’s Australia-based Brad Mathas closed the gap after 500 metres and got the upper hand up the final straight to win, 1:46.31 to 1:46.49.
Bol had previously won four races over 800m and one over 1000m, but to date has fallen just short of the Tokyo automatic standard of 1:45.20.
In the men’s 3000m, London and Rio Olympian David McNeill ran a personal best 7:46.41 in defeating Liam Cashin.
Len Johnson for World Athletics