A field of Australia’s best middle distance runners will assemble for the men’s 5000m at theBriggs Athletics Classic this weekend, as the 2015 Australian Athletics Tour launches what will be a jam-packed few months of world-class athletics across the country.
Looking to continue the form that saw him reign supreme in the Zatopek:10 in December, IAAF World Championships finalist Brett Robinson (Vic) arguably starts as warm favourite as he wraps up a solid block of training at altitude at Falls Creek, Victoria.
“Falls has been really good. I’m staying up here until this Friday and I think I will come off the mountain not too tired which is what you want in this scenario. I’m heading in the right direction for a solid hit-out this Sunday,” Robinson said.
“The focus for me this year will be the 5000m for sure. My run at Zatopek was good, but it was designed to provide an indication of how well I am going. The time I ran was almost exactly the same as what I did in 2012, and from there I went on to a good season in the 5000m in 2013. I hope to see similar outcomes this year.
Robinson missed the 2014 Commonwealth Games after injury set the start of his season back, and this year he has aspirations to cement his claim for selection to the Australian Flame team bound for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN).
“The Briggs will be a good start to my domestic season, and from there I plan to run the 5000m again at an event in New Zealand before the national title race at the Melbourne meet. My aim is to run the Beijing qualifier in one of those races and secure my spot on the team for the World Championships early,” Robinson added.
Robinson will be joined on the start line by Glasgow 2014 steeplechaser James Nipperess(NSW), London 2012 Olympian David McNeill (Vic) and national 10,000m record holder Ben St Lawrence (NSW).
St Lawrence launched his season with victory in this event at the Briggs Athletics Classic last year before back-to-back top-three finishes in the 5000m at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge and the 92nd Australian Athletics Championships.
With aspirations for a third consecutive appearance in the green and gold at the IAAF World Championships in his sights, St Lawrence sees a consecutive victory as the ideal start to what will be a hard fought domestic season.
“It’s a surprise that I am lining up this weekend to be honest. I’m coming off the back of an achilles injury that forced me to sit out the couple of months after the Commonwealth Games but my gradual return has come together quicker than I first thought and has progressed even further after I made the call to head up to Falls Creek to train earlier this month,” St Lawrence said.
“I’m not in the shape that I was this time last year, but I’m sure glad to be out there. It could be a tough race given where I am at in my preparation but hopefully things go well. There is a solid field lining up with Dave McNeill and Robbo (Brett Robinson) starting too, not to mentionJames Nipperess and Duer Yoa, who had a good run at Zatopek.
“The race this weekend is the start of a build-up to the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge where the national 5000m championship features this year. That’s what I am working toward domestically and from there I’ll make my annual trip to the U.S to push for qualifying performances in both the 5000m and 10,000m.”
In the girl’s 1500m, there is likely to be an impressive duel between 2014 Commonwealth Games representatives Melissa Duncan (Vic) and Madeline Heiner (NSW).
Duncan has recently relocated to Canberra (ACT) where she is training alongside the Athletics Australia Para-Athlete of the Year Michael Roeger and national 800m championBrittany McGowan under the guidance of Philo Saunders. Gaining a taste of international representation at Glasgow 2014, she hopes that the change of training environment will ensure her continued development and further opportunities to compete for Australia at the IAAF World Championships this year and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I’m optimistic about the move to Canberra. I’ve only really started running since December after having an injury post Glasgow and now I am looking forward to my first hit out for the year at the Briggs,” Duncan said.
“I’m actually living with Philo at the moment as I get setup and that has been ideal in keeping me accountable in my return from injury. It’s fair to say that I haven’t missed a session with my coach heading out the same door to training and he has closely watched my progress and recovery. I am training well but racing is of course a lot different.
“Anything that comes from 2015 is a bonus for me. The move to Canberra and my aspirations to compete in Beijing whilst healthy and strong are all part of a plan to be the best I can when the Olympic Games come around in 2016. Rio is a dream of mine and I’ll be doing all I can to make it a reality.”
Heiner placed 4th in the final of the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, marking a strong return to the sport after a long absence. She closed out last year with a bronze medal in the national 10,000m championship at the Zatopek:10.
The 2015 Briggs Athletics Classic is the first of eight Australian Athletics Tour events that culminate with Tour Finals in Sydney (NSW) and Melbourne (Vic) in March. Attention then shifts to the 93rd Australian Athletics Championships in Brisbane (Qld), with this event doubling as the Selection Trial for the 2015 IAAF World Championships.