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Watt and Gregson win, Hough has arrived

4 February 2013

London 2012 Olympians Mitchell Watt (Qld), Ryan Gregson (NSW) and Anthony Alozie (NSW) have launched their 2013 season in style by winning their respective events at the Hunter Track Classic.

Equally dominant was Australian under 20 110m hurdles record holder Nicholas Hough (NSW), with the 19-year-old announcing himself as one to watch after strong victories in the men’s 110m hurdles and the men’s 200m.

Introduced to the crowd from the back of a black stretch limousine, the Oceania and Australian record holder Watt was the star attraction in Newcastle (NSW) and he delivered.

Competing off a shortened run-up of ten steps, approximately half a complete approach, Watt was looking for 7.50m coming into competition. Soaring 7.22m (w: +0.5) to commence his four-jump series, the 24-year-old fouled in round two before his winning leap of 7.54m (w: +1.5) and a 7.46m (w: +2.2) closer.

Watt said: “That went really well. It felt good to be out there and I was able to hit the seven and a half metre mark that I was chasing so on the whole the meet has gone to plan. The atmosphere here has been great. It has been the a pretty perfect season opener really.”
“This was probably my first real test. I have done a couple of similar sessions to this back in Brisbane these past few weeks and to convert it to actual competition is great.
A medal winner on every occasion he has competed for Australia, Watt’s Olympic silver sits alongside silver and bronze from the IAAF World Championships and a bronze from the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
With gold firmly in his sights at the Moscow-hosted IAAF World Championships later this year, the hit-out tonight improves his confidence for what could come.
Watt continued: “I don’t want to get ahead of myself but what I have jumped here off this approach is better than what I was jumping in 2012. That gives me confidence that my body is in good shape and that the elusive gold I want may be around the corner.
“Realistically though it is a very long season and this is February. The World Championships aren’t until August and I need to make sure that I can find what I need to there. I haven’t been able to do that in the past and that’s obviously what needs to change.
“My body has been in great shape since properly recovering after London and I have enjoyed a full pre-season which is great. It’s better than what I have had in recent years and fingers crossed that continues.”
Second placed was taken home by Commonwealth Youth Games representative Angus Gould (ACT, 7.38m, w: 0.0), with decathlete Sean Fletcher (NSW, 7.35m, w: +1.7) third.
Watt’s 2012 London Olympic Games teammates Gregson and Alozie also won, with both crossing the line in front.
The Australian 1500m record holder Gregson held off a late charge from national champion Johnny Rayner (Vic, second, 1:49.23) to win the men’s 800m, while Alozie clocked 10.66 (w: +0.4) to win the last event of the night, the men’s 100m.
The performance of the meet, however, arguably came from the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships silver medallist Hough.
Competing in the high hurdles for the first time on the National Athletics Series, Hough battled for the length of the straight with two-time national champion Justin Merlino (NSW, second, 14.08) and Ben Khongbut (Vic, third, 14.15) before edging them out on the line to win in a wind assisted personal best of 14.06 (w: 3.1).
Hough, who is coached by Anthony Benn, then returned to the track to clock a meet record of 20.92 (w: +1.2) and win the men’s 200m. The fastest man in Australia across the distance in 2012, Hough’s form across the longer of the short sprints continued, with his time edging out 2011 Stawell Gift winner Mitchell Williams-Swain (Qld, second, 21.09) and Dylan Grant (Qld, third, 21.28).
Hough said: “I was a bit shocked when the hurdles got underway actually, I thought there were a few that twitched. Once we were off I settled quickly and was able to come through with the win and that is great.
“Coming up to the high hurdles was daunting but it has been quite smooth since I did it. I was only talking last week about how I thought they were too low at training, but when I checked they were correct, so it is amazing how quickly you adapt to a new challenge.
“I’ve been running really well in the 200m too. I’ve qualified for the Universiade in the 200m, and my big aim this year is to push for a World Championships qualifier in the longer of the short sprints. Even a relay spot would be an amazing opportunity. I just need to track how I go in the next month, make a call about what suits for the Selection Trial, and then hope I’m good enough to challenge for a ticket to Moscow.
“It’s a week to week process at the moment. I’m not committing to anything specific, but instead will see how my season progresses and make a call from there.”
Continuing to provide innovative athletics, the Hunter Track Classic also featured a Wheelchair 2000m Team Pursuit.
A first for Australia, if not the world, the race was fought out across 2000m, with Team Green of Angela Ballard (NSW), Sam Carter (Vic), Jake Lappin (Vic), Nathan Arkley (SA) and Canadian Michelle Stilwell taking victory in a time of 4:54.80.
Ballard said: “It’s just a bit of fun to compete like that. We haven’t done it before and it was good to see the crowd getting behind us. We don’t always have the numbers to showcase what we do in a really competitive way, but the format tonight brought together athletes from different classes and of different genders in a team race where we all had to use our strengths to win.
Ballard, who won three medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, arrived in Newcastle after competing at the Summer Downunder Series and is now looking ahead to the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon (FRA) this July.
Ballard continued: “I’m a little bit ahead of where I thought I would be at this time of year which is good. My coach Louise (Sauvage) and I are going to sit down this week and come up with my hopeful race schedule for the world champs. It will be sprints focused again and on the back of London I am confident of performing well and winning some medals.”
In other highlights:
-       2011 IAAF World Championships representative Anneleise Rubie (NSW) was dominant in the women’s 400m, crossing in a time of 53.57 to win from American Jernail Hayes (second, 54.69)
-       Paul Robinson (IRL) won the men’s 1500m in 3:42.54, as James Kaan (NSW, 3:43.41) crossed second and Josh Wright (NSW, 3:43.76) third.
-       Local favourite Sophie Stanwell (NSW) improved her personal best to 24.17 (w: -1.3) to win the women’s 200m, while Angella Byrt (Vic, 11.93, w: -0.4) took line honours in the women’s 100m.
-       Local favourite Liam Speers (NSW, first, 51.43m) and two-time IAAF World Junior Championships representative Kim Mulhall (Vic, first, 50.76m) won the men’s and women’s discus throw respectively. Australian record holder Benn Harradine (NSW) withdrew from competition ahead of today’s meet.
-       Hamish Peacock (Tas) heaved 78.75m to win the men’s javelin from Matt Outzen (NSW, second, 74.43m) and Khaira Ravinder (Vic, third, 72.42m).
The National Athletics Series now moves to Adelaide (SA) in two weeks time, with Kim Mickle (WA) set to start in the women’s javelin and Melissa Breen (ACT) on the track for the women’s short sprints.
To view and download results from the Hunter Track Classic, please click here.

Cody Lynch
Athletics Australia

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