A year ago, Kelly Hetherington ran a personal best to hand Tamsyn Manou a rare domestic defeat over 800m at the 2012 Adelaide Track Classic.
On Saturday night in Adelaide’s Santos Stadium, Hetherington picked up right where she left off, running another personal best to win the women’s 800m by almost 30 metres.
Hetherington did not improve much on the clock – 2:02.33 this year, as against 2:02.46 last year – but it was still a comeback of some significance.
In between, Hetherington has fought off a bout of the debilitating Guillain Barre syndrome, a virus which affects the central nervous system. The impact of the illness left her unable to run a step for months. She looked a likely Olympian a year ago, she looks a potential World Championships representative now.
Hetherington may have been on the road back, but Melissa Breen keeps right on going. The 22-year-old, Australia’s sole individual short sprint representative in London last year, took out the sprint double, though she was pressed hard in the 200m by another emerging youngster in Monica Brennan.
Josh Ross is a 32-year-old veteran and the winner of six national titles at 100 metres. Not surprisingly, the man they call “The Boss” took the 100m, but the promising 19-year-old Nicholas Hough won the 200m in a near personal best 20.71 (1.7m/s).
On the field, 2012 Olympic finalist Alana Boyd and 2011 World Championships finalist Kim Mickle produced solid first-up performances in the Pole Vault and Javelin, respectively. Stiffer competition awaits them – imminently in Mickle’s case with the arrival of South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen – but they will have been well pleased with their first-up performances.
Hetherington does it on her own
The only one in the field to stick with the pacemaker, Hetherington went through the half-way point of the 800m with a winning lead.
She kept going away, too, drawing 20 then almost 30 metres clear to win in 2:02:33. Her nearest opponent, Eliza Curnow, was four seconds behind in 2:06.33.
When she won in Adelaide a year ago, 23-year-old Hetherington was still spurred on by the unexpected early death of her coach, former Australian international Maxine Corcoran, from a brain tumour.
Back then, Hetherington was using her coach as an inspiration. They had taken a five-year journey together as each of them developed.
What Hetherington did not see coming was the illness which laid her low. Gradually, she has regained health, then strength and finally race fitness. Last month she ran 2:02.20 in a mixed race, now she has streeted her domestic opposition in her first major outing of the season.
To qualify for Moscow, Hetherington must achieve at least the IAAF B-entry standard of 2:01.50. With Manou off the scene, she may be lacking for competition, but she seems certain to run at least that fast somewhere soon.
Breen and Ross stand out in sprints: Brennan and Hough continue to emerge
Adelaide’s warm weather – more than 30°C – and hot track promised ideal conditions for the sprinters, though a pesky headwind greeted the 100m fields.
Breen, who had opened her season with an 11.34 (+1.0) in her state championships, instead found herself facing a swirling headwind of -1.7. In the circumstances her 11.59, almost five metres ahead of second place, was a dominating performance.
Ross, who was not selected for the individual London 2012 100m despite winning his sixth national crown earlier in 2012, faced a -1.2m/s wind when the men’s field took to the blocks minutes later. He also had to cope with two false starts with London relay teammate Anthony Alozie and Dylan Grant bowing out of the race before it had got under way.
Once a legal start was obtained, however, Ross had few problems, his 10.45 putting him more than a metre-and-a-half clear of Hough (10.61) and Tim Letheart (10.64).
After the announcement this week that Asafa Powell will run the Melbourne World Challenge meeting on April 6, Ross will have two opportunities to compete against the former world record-holder. The first will be when Powell runs the world’s most famous handicap sprint – the Stawell Gift – over the Easter weekend, the second a few days later in Melbourne.
Hough came back strongly to win the 200m from Ross, 20.71 to 20.73.
In a pleasing move, the 200m races were turned around so that athletes could finish with the wind down the back-straight. Times in both races were wind legal.
Breen completed a double in the women’s race, but was pushed – 23.52 to 23.65 – by 19-year-old Monica Brennan, a World youth semi-finalist in 2011 and World juniors semi-finalist last year.
Mickle and Boyd solid
In her first major competition of the year, Kim Mickle had two throw over 58m and two just under in winning the women’s Javelin.
The Daegu 2011 finalist opened with a 57.33m, then followed with a foul, her best effort of 58.74m, another foul, 58.39m and 57.88m.
It was a solid opening competition, but Mickle may have to find a little more when Viljoen, the Daegu bronze medallist and London fourth-place finisher, arrives to compete in Sydney on March 9 and Perth the following weekend.
Boyd had little opposition in the Pole Vault, her 4.20m being enough for the 2012 London finalist to win comfortably. Boyd had a stellar domestic season last year, capped by a national record 4.76m, but could not quite produce that form overseas, despite making the final in London.
Len Johnson for the IAAF