Collis Birmingham wins the Zatopek 10,000m in Melbourne (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Melbourne, Australia

Birmingham debuts impressively to seize Australian 10,000m title

Collis Birmingham and Melinda Vernon each won an Australian national title on their debut in the feature 10,000m today in the 41st annual Zatopek Classic meeting at Olympic Park.

For Birmingham, who contested 1500m and 5000m races in Europe earlier this year, it was also his track debut at the distance, but in conditions perhaps slightly too warm for endurance running he was impressive winning in 28:39.91, nearly 10 seconds clear of the ACT’s Martin Dent (28:49.73) and visiting New Zealander Rees Buck (29:12.42).

From Ballarat, the Victorian country town which produced the world class marathon runner Steve Moneghetti, Birmingham has fixed his sights on Olympic team selection in the 5000m next year and his victory in the Zatopek memorial event confirms his strength.

“I’m very happy,’’ Birmingham said. “Certainly the whole reason for running tonight was to test the water over 10k and I guess having a win makes it seem like a good idea at some stage. But I think for the next couple of years, I’m a 5k runner.”

Vernon, from New South Wales, convincingly won the women’s Zatopek feature race in 34:28.85 establishing a world deaf record for the 25-lap distance.

“It’s the first time I’ve run at the Zatopek, although I ran the 10,000 on the track about four years ago,” said Vernon, who cannot hear without the help of an implant. “I wasn’t too sure about running tonight, I was just going out to get my times down and get used to going around and around.”

Vernon won by a huge margin from Victoria’s runner-up Josie Carberry (35:19.59) and South Australia’s Tara Palm was third in 35:49.40. Pre-race favourite Lisa Weightman pulled out of the race with a possible stress fracture.

De Beer breakthrough

Jeremy Roff (NSW) attempted bravely to steal the men’s 1500m, opening a 30 metres lead on the pack at one stage, but at the bell the chase was on and Nick Bromley (NSW), better performed over 800m, ran down the leader in the home straight to win in 3:42.18. Roff was second in 3:42.80 and the ACT’s Corey Tucker was third in 3:43.67. Exciting NSW schoolboy Ryan Gregson gave it a shot at the bell but ended up fifth in 3:44.26.

Perhaps the breakthrough performance of the meet came from Chris De Beer (WA), a former 400m hurdler, who won the 800m in 1:48.89, while there was an excellent effort in the Triple Jump from Henry Frayne, who cleared 15.55m at age 16, behind Alwyn Jones (15.87m). Frayne is the nephew of Los Angeles Olympic 400m semi-finalist Bruce Frayne.

52 sec 400m win for Lewis

Many-time Australian 800m champion Tamsyn Lewis (Victoria) was one of the most impressive winners taking out the 400m in 52.16 from NSW’s Jaimee-Lee Starr (53.65).

“I'm in the heaviest training because I did Europe,’’ Lewis said. “A lot of athletes who did that aren't competing tonight. That's why I'm so happy with the time, because I'm not ready to race yet.''

Joel Milburn (NSW) won the men’s 400m in 46.41, well clear of ACT Olympian Daniel Batman (47.33) whose training partner and fellow Olympian, Clinton Hill, was a late withdrawal.

Georgie Clarke (Victoria) won her 1500m by more than four seconds in 4:16.88, from promising NSW national schools champion Chloe Tighe (4:20.95).

Victorian Ben Ashkettle, back from running in the US on a college scholarship, won the De Castella under-20 3000m in 8:17.00 in a close one from fellow Victorian Matthew Coloe (8:17.48).

Lara Tamsett (NSW) won the Lisa Ondieki under-20 3000m by nearly eight seconds in 9:29.60.

National champion Peter Nowill won the Malinowski 3000m steeplechase by more than 100m in 8:36.59.

Benn Harradine did not really benefit from the breeze but still managed a very encouraging Discus Throw best of 61.66m

Mike Hurst - Sydney Daily Telegraph - for the IAAF