Report23 Feb 2023

Kerley and local heroes fire up a revived Melbourne


Fred Kerley, winner of the 200m at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Melbourne (© AFP / Getty Images)

It’s not his flagship event, but Fred Kerley made running 200m look pretty easy in Melbourne on Thursday night (23) in the year’s first World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting.

The world 100m champion was the headline act at the revived Melbourne meeting which was re-badged as the Maurie Plant Meet. Kerley finished with his right arm held high, having raised it in celebration some 30 metres before the line.

Indeed, Kerley eased around the bend and was possibly behind Australian challenger Rohan Browning as they straightened. Within a few metres more it was a non-race, Kerley surging clear to win by four metres in 20.32 (-0.9m/s).

Kerley is one of only three men to have broken 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 for the 200m and 44 for the 400m, so he is no slouch at any of the three distances. But to the enthusiastic acclaim of the crowd at Lakeside Stadium he effectively won this race in 80 metres.

Melbourne was hungry for local heroes, however, and it didn’t have to wait long to greet some. Didn’t have to wait at all, in fact. The opening event on the main programme was the John Landy Mile, named after the great Australian miler of the 1950s.

Ollie Hoare, one of the members of the bronze medal mixed relay team at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst the previous weekend, dominated the second half of the race to win in 3:52.24. It’s the third-fastest mile by an Australian in Australia behind Stewart McSweyn’s 3:50.61 in Tasmania in 2020 and the meeting record of 3:51.54 by Simon Doyle in 1991.

New Zealand’s Sam Tanner was second but the other story of the race was the Oceanian U18 and U20 record by Cameron Myers in third place. Myers ran 3:55.44 to slash the previous U20 mark set by Mike Hillardt in Berlin in 1980. Myers’ mark also beats Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s world age-16 best.

It is a heady comparison for the 16-year-old from Canberra who is wiping some distinguished names from the national record books. In addition to breaking Hillardt’s record in Melbourne, a few weeks earlier he had broken Ryan Gregson’s national U18 record for 1500m by three seconds with 3:40.60.

Jenneke and Anang impress

Michelle Jenneke returned from a brief European indoor competition trip to win the 100m hurdles in 12.75 (1.2m/s), making her the only athlete to achieve a World Championships qualifying standard at this meeting.

The 29-year-old, who set a 60m hurdles PB of 7.89 just two weeks ago in Berlin, got off to a great start and was challenged by Celeste Mucci in the latter half, but Mucci crashed into the penultimate hurdle, taking her out of contention.

Had the wind not changed direction for the women’s 100m flat just moments later, there’s a good chance Naa Anang would have gained a World Championships qualifying standard too.

Despite the -1.4m/s headwind, the former long jump specialist powered through the second half of the race to overtake early leader Ella Connolly and win in a PB of 11.20. With a perfect 2.0m/s following wind, Anang’s performance could have been close to – or even under – 11 seconds flat.

All four Bathurst relay medallists in Melbourne

Along with McSweyn, the other three members of Australia’s World Cross mixed relay team also ran in Melbourne, as did both world U20 cross-country champions.

Jessica Hull outlasted Abbey Caldwell over an enthralling last lap of the women’s 1500m. After a moderate 2:17 first 800m, first Caldwell and then Hull took the lead. As they went around a sub-60-second final lap, Hull appeared to have the upper hand but, roared home by a Melbourne crowd, Caldwell challenged again in the straight. Hull got to the line a stride to the good, 4:07.11 to 4:07.32.

Stewart McSweyn looked to be heading for victory in the 3000m, too, but he was first closed down and then passed by newly minted world U20 cross-country champion Ishmael Kipkurui who went on to win in a PB and meeting record of 7:41.38 to McSweyn’s 7:44.36. Uganda’s Dan Kibet, fourth in the U20 race in Bathurst, was third here in Melbourne in 7:50.11.

Senayet Gatachew made it a 3000m double for world U20 cross-country champions, winning the women’s 3000m in a PB of 8:46.54 from Uganda’s Prisca Chesang (8:48.85), seventh in the senior race in Bathurst, and Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka (8:49.09).

Dale upstages Olympic finalists in long jump

The women’s long jump featured a duel between 2021 Olympic finalists Tara Davis-Woodhall and Brooke Buschkuehl but they were upstaged by Samantha Dale who was just one centimetre below her best with a jump of 6.71m against Davis-Woodhall’s 6.69m and Buschkuehl’s 6.59m.

The wind had picked up again for the men’s long jump, held later in the programme, which was won by Chris Mitrevski with a wind-assisted 8.16m (3.9m/s).

There was also an upset in the men’s discus, staged at Geelong’s Landy Field on the eve of the meeting. New Zealand’s Connor Bell threw a national record of 66.23m to upset Australia’s Commonwealth champion Matthew Denny, 62.73m, in a high-class competition.

New Zealand also had a 1-2 in the men’s 800m, James Preston bursting through on the inside in the final 30 metres to win in 1:45.85 from Melbourne-based compatriot Brad Mathas, 1:46.00.

Olympic silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers took the win in the high jump with a clearance at 1.93m before bowing out when the bar was raised to 1.96m.

There were two French victories in the field. Felise Vahai Sosaia won the men’s javelin with a solid 82.04m throw from Cameron McEntyre, 80.32m. And Rose Loga took the women’s hammer with a best of 69.31m, adding 13 centimetres to the meeting record set by Bronwyn Eagles in 2002. New Zealand’s Tori Peeters won the women’s javelin with 59.00m.

Len Johnson for World Athletics

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