The Hunter Track Classic was delighted to have the services of London 2012 Olympic Games Long Jump silver medallist Mitchell Watt. Meeting organisers flew him in to Newcastle, put him up and then provided a stretch limousine to deliver him to the pit on Saturday (2).
Watt did not deliver anything close his national record 8.54m in his first outing of the Australian domestic season, but he did produce a personal best of sorts. His 7.54m – exactly one metre short of his record, set in 2011 – was a personal best off a short run-up.
Jumping off 10 steps – fewer, probably, than it took to exit the stretch limo – Watt produced a series of 7.22m, foul, 7.54m and 7.46m to win the competition handily from Angus Gould, who was second with 7.38m.
“That’s the best I’ve ever jumped off 10 steps. I’m very happy with that. My goal was 7.50 and I did 7.54, so I got pretty much what I wanted. 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.” said Watt, who now has a further five weeks training before his first competition off his full run-up in Sydney on 9 March.
“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” he added.
“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.”
Watt’s goal is to jump all the way through the domestic season, just as he did in 2011 when he took the silver medal at that summer’s IAAF World Championships in Daegu. He then aims to complete a full set of World Championships medals with gold in Moscow, after getting a bronze four years ago in Berlin.
He also wants to get back to sprinting during the Australian season and may run at the next meeting in the Australian domestic tour in Adelaide on 16 February.
“I’ve entered the 100 in Adelaide,” commented Watt. “I’ll decide a couple of days out from the meeting whether I run.” Watt’s personal best for the distance is 10.31.
As well as arriving by limousine, and generously giving his fellow-competitors a lift, Watt built up an entertaining rapport with the enthusiastic crowd during the contest.
“They brought the fence right out to the edge of the pit,” said Watt said. “and I was able to answer questions from some of the kids between jumps.” Not all his competitions will be as relaxed if Watt fulfils all his aims this year.
The meeting was lucky with the weather. Heavy rain and strong winds in the Newcastle area during most of the day largely abated for the twilight start. There were some light showers, but the wind died down as the meeting got under way.
Gregson out of his comfort zone
The men’s long jump was the feature event of the meeting, which also saw national 1500m record holder Ryan Gregson successfully step down to 800m.
Gregson looked impressive over two laps of the track after returning from an altitude training stint at Falls Creek on Victoria’s Bogong High Plains. He sat mid-pack through a first lap of just under 53 seconds before moving to the front on the final bend. He then held off 2012 national champion Johnny Rayner’s late charge to win in 1:49.08 to Rayner’s 1:49.23.
Despite telling the on-field announcer that, “an 800 goes by so fast, it never feels that comfortable,” Gregson did give the impression of being relaxed, and very fit.
Javelin thrower Hamish Peacock produced a winning effort of 78.75m, which was close to his best of 79.33m set in his home state of Tasmania last year. The 22-year-old has been pushing up towards the 80-metre mark over the past two years.
Ireland’s Paul Robinson pulled away from James Kaan to win the men’s 1500m impressively in 3:42.54, while Melissa Duncan fought back strongly after being behind off the final turn to win the women’s 1500m in 4:20.38.
Australia’s 2011 IAAF World Championships representative Anneleise Rubie, still just 20, was dominant in the women’s 400m and crossed the line in 53.57.
Len Johnson for the IAAF