Two months after a group of the Australian under-18 athletes peaked at the national juniors in March, they have again risen to the occasion and performed brilliantly at the Oceania Melanesian Regional Championships in Port Vila, Vanuatu this week.
A team of 100 Australians travelled to an island paradise, to take on the best in the Melanesian region. The championships included competition in the open and under-18 ages, but the younger age division had added significance being part of the selection process for the Youth Olympic Games to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October 2018.
One event where the battle for team selection was on, was in the under-18 women’s 2000m steeplechase. Australia champion Jamie Hiscock arrived in Port Vila with a PB of 6:41.74, while NZL’s Hannah O’Connor had run 6:32.38 in 2017.
“The main goal was to win and knowing how well Hannah was running, I was still a little apprehensive,” said Hiscock.
“The plan to control the race went smoothly, leading from start to finish and chipping away at making a gap.”
But with 100m remaining, O’Connor with still on her heels.
“Coming into the final home straight I knew I just had to give it everything and hold on,” and Hiscock did running a five second personal best time of 6:36.92, with O’Connor second in 6:37.69.
“I never expected to see the clock stop so early. I’m really happy with how I executed my race plan.”
Another to set a personal best was Queensland long jumper Josh Cowley.
“Going into today’s comp I knew that we were facing some pretty strong headwinds, but I couldn’t let that deter me from getting that second qualifier I needed for selection for Youth Olympic Games,” said Cowley, who had a personal best of 7.47m and was chasing another qualifier of 7.28m.
“My series wasn’t as consistent as it usually is given the frequent change in winds. I jumped a 7.29m for my first jump, and while that was a qualifier I knew I had more in me. Competing with a strong headwind I just had to keep my focus as I went into the finals round. I was really thrilled to jump a PB of 7.52m which got me well and truly over the line for that second qualifier and of course securing the win.”
For many of the Australia’s the event has been bit of a culture shock.
“Vanuatu have been great hosts and the whole competition has been a really great experience. I have to say though, it was really nice of my coach, Stacey Taurima, to come with me knowing how important this meet was. Having Stacey pit side meant a lot to me and also meant I hadn’t entirely left the comforts of Australia back at home.”
One of Australia’s finest emerging under-18 athletes is Perth’s Sophie White. In Port Vila she not only won her pet event the 100m hurdles, but also the 100m sprint for a nice double.
“My 100m hurdles felt great. I was focusing on completing a clean run and executing the things I’ve been working on, more than times,” said White who ran 13.61 into a headwind.
“The events have had a pretty constant headwind on the straight track so I approached the race like a training run knowing that I needed to work hard.”
It is the first Australian team for White and she has enjoyed the experience.
“The championships have been great, the whole team is supportive of each other and the local crowd supports everyone no matter their country.”
NSW and ACT athletes have been strong in the distance event. NSW pair Luke Young and Oli Raimond battled for the 1500m and 3000m titles, with Young taking the double in times of 4:07.84 and 8:46.90, respectively. NSW South Coast’s Jaylah Hancock-Cameron ran a solo 4:21.82 to win the U18 1500m, while in the 800m Australian team flag bearer Keely Small (ACT) won in 2:05.34, ahead of Hancock-Cameron. Another ACT athlete, Ruby White won the women’s 3000m in 9:36.08 ahead of NZL’s Hannah O'Connor.
Keegan Bell (NSW) clocked 47.88 to win the U18 400m, then watched his training partner, Jordan Sarmento (NSW) take the open 400m in 47.22.
All summer in Australia the junior discus throwers have been setting a high standard in the event. Two of them, Sally Shokry and Lyvante Su'emai travelled to Port Villa to battle under-18 supremacy. In an extremely close competition, Shokry defeated Su'emai, but just two centimetres with distances of 49.30m to 49.28m. Su'emai bounced back to take the shot put with a mark of 15.73m.
Queensland high jumper, Oscar Miers has been the benchmark this season winning the national title and achieving four qualifiers. That form continued in Vanuatu where he was over 2.10m before missing three attempts at a new PB of 2.15m.
Last summer there were a number of close battles in the under-18s long jump between to six metre jumpers Annie McGuire and Sam Dale. Both again jumped well and were just short of their PBs. National champion, McGuire took the win with her fifth round leap of 6.04m, while Dale’s best was 5.90m, twice.
In pursuit of a second under-18 400m hurdles qualifier, WA’s Thomas Throssell fell short clocking 53.44. Throssell is one of Australia’s quickest ever to emerge in this event and his high levels are indicated by his PB of 52.13 currently ranking him number two in the world.
In the open events, Paralympian Tamsin Colley (NSW) claimed the 100m running into a strong 2.4m/s wind with a time of 16.35. There were two very close tussles in the men’s sprints between NSW’s Ana Abu-Ganaba and local athlete Tikie Terry Mael from Vanuatu. Abu-Ganaba took both wins in 10.69 and 21.27 seconds. There was another double recorded by Allison Nankivell (NSW) winning the long jump (5.87m) and triple jump (12.75m).
Daily results are available on the Ocean Athletics website
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
Image courtesy of Miles Thompson.