Kaitlin Morgan tops 1.86m at the Australian U18 championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 14 March 2011 – Sydney, Australia

2000 compete across seven age groups, but focus on World youths at Australian junior champs

Sydney, AustraliaThere were almost 2000 competitors, across age groups from U14 to U20, but the focus at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships which concluded today (14) was unavoidably on those seeking to qualify for the IAAF World Youth Championships, Lille, France, 6-10 July 2011.

The U18 events at the five days of competition at Sydney Olympic Park were the official selection trials for the World Youth Championships. There was only one route to automatic nomination to the team – win your event and have two performances to your name equal to, or better than, the Australian selection standard. Otherwise, the selectors decide your fate.

The Australian selection standards were set against an expectation of finishing in the top eight in Lille. The majority of the athletes who met the standard did better than that, producing performances which would have yielded medals at most of the six previous editions of the youth titles.

Morgan impresses with 1.86m leap

Two athletes from Tasmania – Australia’s smallest, southernmost and only non-mainland state – were among those to clinch automatic selections. Kaitlin Morgan improved her personal best by six centimetres in taking the U18 High Jump at 1.86m on the second day of the titles and Danni McConnell took out the Hammer Throw on the final day with a distance of 56.16m.

Morgan, who has just turned 16, turned the rainy conditions which marred her competition into a plus.

“It was pouring with rain half-way through the competition,” she said, “and I think in a weird way it kind of reminded me of home.

“I can’t wait to compete in France, learn from the experience and enjoy what should be a really good atmosphere,” she added.

McConnell, who two years ago broke 2001 World Championships bronze medallist Bronwyn Eagles’ Australian U16 record, had more than 20 qualifying performances against her name when she arrived in Sydney.

Cross breaks Hooker's U18 state record

On the men’s side, Brodie Cross won both the U18 and U20 pole vault competitions, clearing 5.05m to break Steve Hooker’s Victorian state record in the latter. Cross is coached by Mark Stewart, who was the original coach for both Hooker and women’s multiple-World record setter Emma George.

Paris McCathrion was another vaulter to clinch automatic selection. She won the women’s U18 event at 3.90m after a jump-off with last year’s national champion and Youth Olympic silver medallist, Liz Parnov.

The women’s 400m Hurdles on the final day of competition boasted no less than five competitors with a qualifying performance, but at the end of it Chloe Jamieson was the one who had booked a place for Lille.

Jamieson kept both her nerves and her rivals in check to win in 1:00.37. “I tried to stay relaxed this morning as I run my best when I’m not thinking too much,” she said.

Sarah Carli, who finished second in 1:00.86, is one of a large group of athletes with a strong case for discretionary selection.

Sprinters Jarrod Geddes (100m), Hugh Donovan (200m) and Jack Sheridan (400m) will also be on the place to France. Geddes won the 100 in a wind-assisted 10.45, Donovan was second (21.60) to New Zealand’s Josh Hawkins in the 200 and Sheridan won the 400 in 47.32.

Anna Laman, who does not turn 16 until 25 May, clinched selection in both the 800 and 1500, winning the former in 2:06.49 and the latter in 4:22.94. Laman ran 4:20.12 in finishing seventh at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Melbourne on 3 March.

Monique Cilione improved her personal best by three metres in winning the women’s javelin with 52.16 and is set for her first trip outside Australia.

“I’ve never been overseas before, so France is going to be great for so many reasons,” she said, “and the chance to compete for Australia is awesome.”

Filoi Aokuso (women’s Discus), Matthew White (Javelin) and David Snowdon (High Jump) were others to book a place in the team with wins at the titles.

Nicholas Hough and Steve Solomon, two athletes who have been making an impact on the Australian Athletics Tour, continued to impress in the U20 events.

Hough, who won the 200 in Hobart and was second at the World Challenge meeting in Melbourne, took out a sprint treble in the 100 (10.40w), 200 (21.62) and 110 hurdles (14.15). He was also a member of New South Wales’ winning 4x100 metres relay team.

Solomon, who beat Sean Wroe in the Melbourne 400, won that event in 47.30.

Dane Bird-Smith, fifth in the 10,000m Race Walk at last year’s World Junior championships, won the U20 men’s track 10,000 walk in 41:02.08, breaking the national record held by 2007 world 50k champion Nathan Deakes.

Len Johnson for the IAAF

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