Over 1200 athletes will contest the Australian Cross-Country Championships to be held at Maleny Golf Club on the Sunshine Coast this Saturday.
There will be 28 events held across the day ranging from the Open 10km event for men and women, through to the 2km Para race for 10-12-year-old boys and girls.
Buchanan focussed on defending men's open title
Andrew Buchanan (VIC) comes in as defending champion and has worked through the winter period nicely, targeting the National Cross Country as his goal event.
Finishing a close second to the in-form Jack Rayner at the Victorian State Championship in June, Buchanan will look to this race to be a stepping stone to what is expected to be a very competitive World Cross Country trial race in Canberra next January.
“I’m looking forward to racing National Cross for a number of different reasons compared to last year,” Buchanan said.
“This year we have really focused on racing a number of cross country races in the build up to Nationals and furthermore World XC Trials. I have a different set of goals this year and look forward to trying to go back to back.”
Australian 10,000m record holder Ben St Lawrence (NSW) is working his way back into form and will be out to test Buchanan.
He was fourth in the Sydney Harbour 10k at the end of July and then two weeks ago he won the City to Surf (14km) in Sydney to outkick Olympian Liam Adams.
“I think a good hard, hilly race like the City to Surf will definitely be an advantage going into the nationals on a course like Maleny,” St Lawrence said.
“I don't think there is a clear favourite for the race, and as such I will be going in trying to give myself the best chance of winning. There will be a solid bunch of guys, and the podium will be tough to make. My tactics will depend on how the race plays out, the conditions and how I'm feeling - but I'm hoping for a good hard, honest race.”
The battle for podium honours will be very interesting with Ed Goddard (NSW), Harry Summers (VIC), Riley Cocks (SA) and Adrian Potter (SA) all capable of matching it with the leaders over the 10km distance.
Nick Harman (WA) who was fourth (3rd AUS) in the recent National Half Marathon Championships on the Sunshine Coast could be the X factor. With nothing to lose at this event, Harman is likely to put it on the line and see how well he's recovered from the 21km only six days before.
Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales are predicted to pick-up the medals in the team event.
Hills looking for open title on Maleny hills
Rio Olympian and world championship representative on the track, Madeline Hills will start as favourite in the women’s event. Hills will compete in the Big V uniform for the first time and will lead a very strong Victorian contingent looking for a seventh straight team title.
Hills had her first outing over the 10k cross-country at the Victorian Championships in June to take the win, in a rare appearance for her off the track and road. She did however finish top 20 as a junior at the world cross country championships in 2005 and 2006.
Following her top 10 placings in the 5000m and 10,000m at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, Hills has also raced track events in Europe and won the 10km on the road as part of the Gold Coast Marathon on 30 June, just outside a course record.
Hills is fit and ready for a tough race.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It’s my first national cross country since 2006, when I was a junior!” Hills said.
“I’m told it’s a challenging course and I feel like my strong run at Bundoora (VIC state champs) will have me well prepared.
“Training has been going really well so I’m lining up fit and confident. I believe I have the ability to be to be up the front if I race well, but there are some really strong girls on the start list so I think it will be a great race.”
2018 World University Cross-Country teammates Caitlin Adams (SA) and Lara Hamilton (NSW) will be vying for podium positions in both the Open and Under 23 categories.
Adams is fresh off a win in the Fitzy's 5 event in Adelaide, while Hamilton has been racing a number of 10k races on the road and is getting familiar with the distance.
“I’m very excited to race Saturday!” Adams said.
“Training has been going well so I'm hoping to go out there and attack the course. I've had a bit of exposure over 10km cross-country lately which helps. My main focus will be around trying to win U23s.”
World Championship marathon runner Sarah Klein will be using the Maleny race as her final hit out before heading to Europe for the Berlin Marathon on Sept 16th.
Her Victorian and Frankston Athletics Club teammate Kiah Fry have staged a number of epic battles over the course of the domestic season with Klein taking the honours on the road and Fry over the undulating cross-country courses.
New South Wales and Queensland look most likely to win the minor team medals, behind the Victorians.
The Australian Cross-Country Championships will be delivered by Athletics Australia and Schools Sport Australia, with entries managed by each state member association.
Course maps and further information for competitors >>