Camille Buscomb produced the shock of the night on Thursday (8) when she upset the favourite Eloise Wellings to take the first New Zealand win in the Emil Zatopek 10,000m for 10 years.
Australians – Melburnians especially – are accustomed to New Zealanders crossing the Tasman to win Australian distance races. It has been a feature of the famous Melbourne Cup (horseracing) carnival for many years.
But not since Jessica Ruthe won the women’s Zatopek in 2006 has a Kiwi won Australian athletics’ most famous distance classic and you have to go back a further 12 years to Robbie Johnston in 1994 for a men’s winner.
Wellings was seeking her fourth victory, which would have pushed her ahead of three other women who have won three Zatopek titles. But she was never a factor, dropping some 20 metres behind pacemaker Genevieve LaCaze and Buscomb just before half way into the race.
Patrick Tiernan made his debut 10,000m an occasion to remember with a win and a sub-28-minute clocking in the men’s race. Looking supremely comfortable throughout, Tiernan pulled away from Olympic 5000m finalist Brett Robinson with seven laps to go and went on to win in 27:59.74.
Tiernan, who won the NCAA cross-country title at the end of November, was one of the favourites coming into a fairly even race. But he stamped his authority on the race with impressive confidence, always sitting comfortably in the lead group for the first 5000 metres before taking control soon after that. It was his move that dislodged Stewart McSweyn in the seventh kilometre and then he went to work on Robinson.
Buscomb overwhelms favourite Wellings
Coming into this year’s race Wellings was one of four women to have won the women’s Zatopek three times and the overwhelming expectation was that by race’s end she would be the only one with four wins to her name. She had finished 10th in the Rio Olympic 10,000m and ninth in the 5000m and looked a class above any of her opponents.
It did not work out that way, however. Wellings was in trouble as early as half way when she had dropped back behind Buscomb and pacemaker Genevieve LaCaze. In the end, she did not even take the national title as Bridey Delaney, making her debut at 10,000m, worked her way through to finish second across the line.
Wellings was at a loss to explain her performance. She said she had rolled her ankle training at Falls Creek in the Victorian high country a few days before the race. She did not use that as an excuse, however, saying that she just never felt in a good rhythm at any stage of the race.
Buscomb finished second to Wellings in last year’s Zatopek race and narrowly missed qualifying for New Zealand’s Olympic team. She will again have to chase a qualifier this year as her time of 32:34.41 is short of the IAAF World Championships London 2017 standard.
Delaney took the Australian title with her 33:04.72 performance and Makda Harun Haji, an Ethiopian national who has settled in Australia, was third in 33:19.85. Wellings was next in 33:19.85, but she has the qualifying time for London and will almost certainly wind up on the team.
Delaney works full-time as a public servant in Newcastle, New South Wales. She said she probably would not chase a qualifying time for the World Championships but, Like Tiernan, is keen to make the Australian team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017 next March.
Tiernan on cruise control
The women had the worst of the conditions on a night which was punctuated by squally rain early in the programme. Conditions had settled by the time the men’s race was run.
With Sam McEntee and Jordan Williamsz setting the pace, Tiernan, Robinson and McSweyn went through the first half of the race in 14:07. As the last of the pacemakers stepped off the track, Tiernan was immediately into the lead and the tempo picked up.
With seven laps to go Tiernan was clear and it was only a matter of whether he could break 28 minutes. Maintaining an impressive rhythm to the end, he crossed the line in 27:59.74. McSweyn held on well to take second place in 28:29.65 and Chis Hamer also got past a tiring Robinson to take third in 29:02.00.
"I felt pretty smooth through the first seven kilometres or so, having a few on my tail helped with that, but it’s a very big difference running on track compared to grass," Tiernan said. "I was feeling it in my legs at the end there but we got through it."
Len Johnson for the IAAF