William Hamlyn-Harris (AUS) (Getty Images) © Copyright

Melbourne anticipates plenty of world class action - IAAF GPII Preview

There have been times that 19 yearold Adam Miller has doubted the wisdom of his decision to knock back an offer to play professional baseball with the Atlanta Braves but no longer. While the Australian baseball team qualified at the weekend for the Olympics, Miller also staked his claim for Athens but in athletics.

The time for doubt is behind him after the Port Macquarie teenager ran Olympic A-qualifying time for 200m to win the NSW championship at Homebush, Sydney in 20.47 (tailwind 1.7m/sec) on Saturday (7 Feb). This was just 0.02sec slower than training partner Matt Shirvington's state record.

It was the fastest 200 metre race in Australia for five years, with Sydney's Kris Neofytou, 19, second in 20.71, the 2002 National champion David Geddes third clocking 20.76 sec and Josh Ross in fourth, with a new personal best of 20.78.
All four men will be competing again at 200m at the Melbourne Telstra A-series - IAAF Grand Prix II – meeting on Thursday 12 February at Olympic Park.

However, Miller’s time in Sydney has already qualified him to compete at the IAAF World Indoor Championship in Budapest, Hungary (5-7 March) and he is likely to accept the challenge if selected by Athletics Australia's selectors who will pick their team after Thursday night's meet in Melbourne, which commences the 2004 IAAF Grand Prix, the 20th year of this IAAF series of one-day meets.

Miller, 19, had played for NSW Country at the Australian baseball championships a couple of years earlier but was approached by the Atlanta Braves in 2002 after returning from the World Junior Championships in Athletics in Kingston, Jamaica.

"They said they could use a fast runner with an arm - I was an outfielder - and they flew to Port Macquarie to see me," confirmed Miller on Sunday. "They said they'd give me a $20,000 to $30,000 US sign-on fee and $880 a month to live on if I moved over there, but I told them I was just starting off in athletics. I ran 100m in 10.41sec in my first year. I thought I'd be further along by now."

Progress in athletics is rarely arithmetical, though. Even moments before the gun fired for Saturday's 200m final, Miller's NSWIS coach Michael Khmel - in banter with Athletics Australia head coach Keith Connor - predicted Miller would win in 20.85sec, well outside even the Athens B-qualifier (20.75sec). At least he tipped the winner!

Others including Connor thought Josh Ross, 22, the Stawell Gift champion from near Maitland, could win especially after he ran the nation's fastest time of 20.87 in Canberra a week ago. However, Miller blew the form - and his personal best of 20.91 - away with a devastating turn of power to head Neofytou, Geddes and Ross.

"It's what good competition does," said 83kg and 187cm Miller of his breakthrough run.

Miller went on to clinch the sprint double, winning the 100m final in 10.56 into a slight breeze.

Elsewhere in Sydney at the weekend...

Will Hamlyn-Harris backed up his Olympic A-qualifier of last week when he won the men’s Javelin title with another big throw of 83.06m in the fifth round.

2001 Edmonton World Championship bronze medallist Bronwyn Eagles won the women’s Hammer with 66.33m from Adelaide's national title-holder Brooke Krueger (64.27).

Melbourne line-up...

All three of these throwers will compete in Melbourne on Thursday and will be joined by the likes of shot putter Justin Anlezark, hammer thrower Stuart Rendell, pole vaulters Dmitri Markov and competing for the first time in the 2004 Telstra A-series, Viktor Chistiakov, and women’s long jumper Bronwyn Thompson, and 19 year-old high jumper Petrina Price.

As well as the 200m boys already mentioned, on the track the highlights will include Craig Mottram, Kyle Vander Kuyp, Casey Vincent and Clinton Hill.

Terrific competition in the women’s events is also anticipated - in action,  Lauren Hewitt, Tamsyn Lewis, Georgie Clarke and Benita Johnson will be the other top track names on show.

World 400m hurdles champion Jana Pittman is still recovering from a quadriceps injury and will not compete.