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Golden runs galore on Day 7 | Oceania Athletics Championships

Published Fri 07 Jun 2024

Australian clean sweeps were very much the order of the day on the seventh day of competition at the Oceania Track and Field Championships in Suva, Fiji.

And even better for some of those athletes, as was the case on Day 6, the chances of wearing green and gold come August and the Paris Olympic Games became a touch more realistic.

On a day when Suva turned on all sorts of weather conditions at the National Stadium, the Australians remained focused in their quest for an Oceania podium place and the big points on offer towards their ranking positions for Paris.

The two sprint young guns – Torrie Lewis (Andrew Iselin) and Calab Law (Andrew Iselin) banked big points from both their semi-final and final runs over 200 metres to consolidate their Olympic berths for the Paris. 

Lewis (23.14) led home a green and gold trifecta from Mia Gross (23.51, John Nicolosi) and Riley Day (23.63, Paul Pearce) into a decent headwind of 1.7. Gross also made the right choice in going flat out in both rounds – rocketing up the rankings table from 66th to 36th – with 48 places to be allocated. 

In his final, Law did it even harder into winds of over double that velocity but made it look way easier - winning in 20.74 (-3.9) over a much-improved Aidan Murphy (21.11), Both athletes had actually run quicker in their semis – 20.71 and 20.87 respectively.

Liz Clay (David Reid and Sharon Hannan) and Celeste Mucci (Darren Clark) are on the road back from medical leave – and lined up in today’s 100m hurdles final with only one chance in Suva to make a difference to their Paris chances after the heats were cancelled.

And that they did - with Clay who has battled to get back for longer after her crash in the 2022 Worlds in Eugene winning in 12.99 into a headwind of 1.7m/sec from Mucci who had a significant operation as recently early February in 13.07.

With only 40 places available in the hurdles events and a fair swag of women qualified on time, inroads were made for both women who will be keen to join Michelle Jenneke on the Australian Team. Clay is now more comfortable at 32nd – up from 39th whilst Mucci moves into the qualification frame at 37th from 50th. Danielle Shaw took the bronze.

In a fine contest over the final 300 metres after a slowish first lap, Peyton Craig (1.46.33, Brendan Mallyon) bested national champion Luke Boyes (Ben St Lawrence) by 6 hundredths of a second at the finish line with both athletes replacing their lowest ranking scores by over 100 points to advance their positions on the Road to Paris. Jack Lunn (Steve Fabris) was third for Australia.

With 48 spots also available in the 800m but with three places reserved for universality athletes, more may be need from the two rising stars but right now they move into the qualification bracket with Joe Deng and Peter Bol – Boyes rising to 40th and Craig notionally at 43rd after being outside consideration completely at the start of the day.

Aiden Hinson (Chloe Stevens) produced again, as he has often done in major competitions, to win the Oceania triple jump title with 16.32m to move tantalising close to the qualification pool - as of today now just one spot away at 33rd. He’s had a good week in Fiji after improving his Paris chances with victory in the event at the Oceania Invitational last Saturday.

Despite being clearly disappointed with his bronze medal at just 16.08m, Connor Murphy (Andrew Murphy) actually improved his ranking place towards the Games up to 26th on the standings as of today.

And there were other bolters as well. In the women’s triple jump Desleigh Owusu (Andrew Murphy) and Kayla Cuba (Stacey Taurima) switched the placing from the Championships in Mackay two years ago, with Owusu winning by 35cm with a best of 13.45m. But the gold medal was not the only reward for Owusu as the resulting points took her into the 32-woman qualification window for the first time – jumping 11 spots from 39th to 28th.

Tayleb Willis (Kyle Vander-Kuyp) showed his potential in 2022 when finishing fifth in the World Under 20 Championships 110m Hurdles final but he had a bigger day out in Suva today – earning ranking scores in both the semi final (13.80) and then with a finals victory in a personal best 13.56 to reverse the podium placings with Chris Douglas (Joey Woods) from the Nationals in Adelaide in April.

Even better for the 21-year-old it moved him from way out of contention for Paris at 60th prior to the start of competition to 37th. Douglas also made good progress up the rankings board but remains outside the window. 
2023 World Championships bronze medallist Mackenzie Little  (Angus McEntyre) never in doubt for Paris but banked a good result towards qualification for the 2025 World Championships in Tokyo with gold in the javelin with a best of 61.09m after flying into Suva only late yesterday evening.

In open para championships results today Australia added another gold through Caytlyn Sharp (T20) in the long jump.

The work in Suva for the Olympic aspirants is now over with the only senior events on the final day of competition being for para athletes over 1500m and in the javelin.

But there’s much more to be done both in preparation for those sitting comfortably to towards selection and in qualification for those who may need to do more before the final date for performances comes around on 30 June.

There will be nervous waits and anxious peeks at the Road to Paris website as the European and NCAA championships play out over the next few days – and then as  further big points are available in northern hemisphere national championships and circuit meets.

By Brian Roe, Athletics Australia
Posted: 7/6/2024