It has been a day of drama at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships, with multiple falls in the sprint hurdles delivering elation and heartbreak for those on and off the dais.
Doubling as the Selection Trial for the IAAF World Under 20 Championships, the under 20 100m hurdles and 110m hurdles were billed as the events of the day.
The shorter girl’s race was first, with Bydgoszcz 2016 qualified Celeste Mucci (Vic), Gabriella O’Grady (NSW) and Danielle Shaw (Vic) lining up for the round-of-eight after strong heat runs.
Away at the second time of asking after a warning from the starters due to unsteadiness in the blocks, the race was then marred by falls to O’Grady, Shaw and Rachel Pace (NSW) before Mucci crossed to win in 13.68 (w: +3.4) from Keeleigh McCauley (NSW, second, 13.89) and Carla Takchi (NSW, third, 14.12)
“I was pretty nervous. I had the other qualified girls beside me and I didn’t get the best start. I hit the third hurdle with my knee, I just kept going, trying to find my rhythm and then I heard two of the girls go down. In the end, it was me on my own. It was a wonderful feeling,” Mucci said.
“It’s great to know that I’ll get the chance. I’ve had to fight back after missing Colombia through injury last year and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Mucci will compete at the Australian Athletics Championships later this month, where she will look to qualify in the heptathlon for the IAAF World Under 20 Championships.
“This is all training for the heptathlon. I’ve been working really hard at that and I want to get my points up as much as I can. It’s where I’ll put my focus if I get the chance,” Mucci added.
The boy’s race was next on track and Nicholas Andrews (NSW) was unrivalled from the outset, crossing to win in a personal best time of 13.79 (w: +0.5). The silver medal was won by the also Bydgoszcz 2016 qualified Jacob McGorry (NSW, 14.02), as Brandon Herrigan (Qld) tumbled at the final hurdle to cross eighth and miss a medal.
“Warming up for this race, I felt loose but then after the girl’s race I really felt the pressure pick up. I came out of the blocks well, felt amazing, but got home with a PB and am really excited. It’s amazing,” Andrews said.
“I want to punch a lot higher when I get over there. I want to bring my 100m speed into the hurdles and see where I can go.”
Not to be outdone, the action at the boy’s under 20 pole vault was scintillating.
Eventually won by Kurtis Marschall (SA) with a personal best and meet record leap of 5.50m, the event also included a season best from Angus Armstrong (NSW, 5.40m) and Declan Carruthers (SA, 5.20m) as they won silver and bronze.
Marschall’s performance will see him automatically selected to compete at the IAAF World Under 20 Championships, with all three also set to start at the Perth Track Classic on Saturday 12 March.
“That was pretty good. I cleared most heights on the first attempt which meant that I didn’t put myself under too much pressure. I got my timing right and pulled through. I’m pretty stoked,” Marschall said.
“I got close to that 5.62, too. The goal for me this year is 5.70m, my coach thinks I can do it, that’s just massive. We’ll take this for now and look forward to jumping big in the future.”
Armstrong’s selection is at the discretion of the Athletics Australia Selectors, but the performance is one that gives him great confidence for what would be his second appearance in the green and gold at Bydgoszcz 2016.
“I hope this will see me in the second spot for worlds. I got over the heights I needed but know I’ve got a bit to work on to get it all right. It looks like Australia will be there when we get to Bydgoszcz,” Armstrong said.
“The depth we have at the moment is awesome. Declan wins bronze tonight with a great jump and all of our performances are pushing us to new heights. That’s how the big countries in Europe and the USA find their results, so it’s nice to have it home soil.”
Rounding out the automatic selections on day three of the Australian Junior Athletics Championships was Julian Konle (WA) in the men’s triple jump. Soaring to a new personal best and qualifying mark of 15.79m (w: +1.4) in the second round, the 18-year-old’s series also included leaps of 15.13m, 15.49m, 15.56m, 15.75m and a foul.
The Australian Junior Athletics Championships is the largest in-stadium event hosted by Athletics Australia. Competition spans six days and continues tomorrow through Sunday 13 March, with the Perth Track Classic to be held on Saturday 12 March.