Report11 Dec 2014

Wanjiru and Robinson victorious as winds blow Zatopek ambitions off course


Veronica Wanjiru leads from Eloise Wellings in the Zatopek 10,000m (© Getty Images)

Cold blustery winds blew several ambitious plans off course at the Zatopek:10 Classic in Melbourne on Thursday (11).

Brett Robinson and Kenya’s Veronica Wanjiru won the two classic 10,000m races, Robinson joining his Ballarat Project team-mate Collis Birmingham as a winner of both the junior 3000m and senior 10,000m, but neither was able to achieve a World Championships qualifying standard.

Zak Patterson and Kate Spencer won the two junior 3000m races but they, too, were outside the race records, though Spencer gave it a mighty shake despite running on her own for all but the first two laps.

The men’s 800m, run early in the program, had the worst of the conditions, leaving Alex Rowe, who equalled Ralph Doubell’s long-standing national record of 1:44.40 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco in July, just outside the World Championships qualifying mark in that event.

Rowe’s was probably the run of the night. Led through 400m in about 52.5 seconds, he battled the wind on his own around the second lap to finish just outside the qualifying standard with 1:46.91.

Medical studies will keep Rowe in Australia for most of 2015, so he is hoping to achieve the Beijing standard at home, and as early as possible. His form coming into the Zatopek meeting had been solid, his only previous 800m this domestic season against Jeff Riseley on the final leg of a 4x800m relay having yielded a 1:46.5 split.

“You can’t control the conditions. I felt I ran quite strongly,” Rowe said. “So adverse conditions and I ran 1:46, that’s 1.5 quicker than I’ve done in any other season-opener, so if I’m running that much faster later in the year than what I ran in Monaco, I’ll be pretty happy with that.”

Wanjiru and Eloise Wellings found themselves fighting out the women’s Zatopek 10,000m race after breaking away from a leading group of five just before half way.

Wanjiru, winner of the 3000m at both the 2005 World Youths and 2006 World Juniors, moved first, followed by Wellings as they pulled away from Madeline Heiner, Celia Sullohern and Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist Jess Trengove.

Wellings forced the issue over the final four laps, but it was Wanjiru – competing in her first ever 10,000m race and her first track race since 2012 – who came up with the decisive finishing burst, sprinting away on the last lap to win 32:22.22 to 32:26.59. In better conditions, both may have been under the Beijing standard of 32:00.00.

Wanjiru, who has returned to running from maternity leave, said her immediate goals were to qualify for the 10,000m for Beijing and Rio and to make the Kenyan team for the World Cross Country Championships in the Chinese city of Guiyang next March.

Robinson, winner of the de Castella 3000m in 2010 and a finalist in the 5000m at the 2013 World Championships, always looked comfortable through the 54th running of the men’s race. But he was made to work hard over the final lap to hold off Duer Yoa, 28:45.36 to 28:46.46.

Competing in just his second ever 10,000m, Robinson’s winning time shaved 0.03 off his personal best, set at the 2012 edition of this meeting. He also became the first Australian in five years to win the men's 10,000m at the Zatopek:10 Classic.

Eritrea’s Samson Gebreyohannes set the race going after a slow first half and finished third in 28:49.42.

In 11th, Jack Rayner clocked 29:37.21, the fastest time by an Australian junior for 37 years.

The two junior 3000m races looked likely to produce good shots at the meeting records with World Junior 1500m finalist Zak Patterson and World Junior 5000m finalist Kate Spencer the favourites.

Spencer was first up, the women’s race being held in some of the windiest conditions of the evening. Despite that, she set out hard, running through the first 2000m in just under 6:04. She slowed a little, her final time of 9:10.82 putting her just outside the race record held by former steeplechase world record-holder Melissa Rollison.

In third and fourth, Annabel McDermott and Amelia Mazza-Downie, both just 15 years old, clocked qualifying marks for next year’s World Youth Championships. Both athletes smashed their PBs, clocking 9:27.98 and 9:29.16 respectively.

The men’s race never got on to Ryan Gregson’s race record pace of 8:02.56, but Patterson – who finished fifth in the 1500m in Eugene – had to pull out a 56-second final lap to just hold off Jack Stapleton, 8:15.64 to 8:15.83.

Len Johnson for the IAAF