Riley Day at the Sydney Athletics Grand Prix (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Sydney, Australia

Centrowitz wins season opener in Sydney, Australian U20 Tampere-bound squad takes shape

Emerging star Riley Day and multi-eventers Ashley Moloney and Celeste Mucci are likely to head the Australian team for the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 later this year.

Only Moloney competed in his age-group event at the Australian Junior Championships, which concluded at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday, meaning that under the selection policy he is the only one to have fulfilled the requirement for automatic selection, but the others are certain to be on the list when the team is named in the coming week.

To be an auto-selection, athletes are required both to have achieved the standard and to have won their event in Sydney. Moloney did this, whereas Day ran the sprint double in Saturday (19) night’s Sydney Grand Prix meeting.

Mucci, who won the senior heptathlon title on the Gold Coast last month, did not contest the U20 multi-event at the junior titles, winning the 100m hurdles instead (for which she did earn automatic selection).

All three will be in their preferred events when the Tampere team is released, and all three will be among the medal hopes in Finland.

Day’s star continued to wax when she competed in the open events at the Sydney Grand Prix meeting, one of three events planned as lead-in competitions to next month’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. She ran a personal best 11.50 seconds in the 100m in finishing second to Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith (11.24), then won the 200m in 23.39 ahead of 2017 Asian championships silver medallist Rumeshika Rathnayaka of Sri Lanka.

Day admitted she was a bit star-struck when she started alongside Asher-Smith in the short sprint. She was not expected to beat the English sprinter, but she lost more ground at the start than she should have and had to quickly regain her composure.

Centrowitz takes come-from-behind 1500m win

The star of the Saturday night fever was Rio Olympic 1500m gold medallist Matt Centrowitz who came from behind Jeff Riseley in the final straight to win in 3:37.96 in his first individual race of the year. Centrowitz will run again in pre-Commonwealth meetings in Brisbane in the next two weeks.

Throwers Kathryn Mitchell and Dani Stevens continued their outstanding domestic form, though Mitchell was reportedly a little concerned about a sore foot after winning the javelin with a distance of 64.84m. She has broken the Australian record twice already this year.

No such concerns for Stevens, who won the discus with 66.09. The London 2017 silver medallist has now had two competitions at 66m this year and another one at 65. She was quite happy with this latest effort as she judged the throw had not quite come out of the hand right.

The men’s 100m went to another international visitor, Devon Allen of the USA. Allen, fifth in the Rio Olympics in the 110m hurdles, ran a personal best 10.26 to comfortably defeat Joseph Millar of New Zealand and Australia’s Alex Hartmann, who dead-heated for second in 10.46.

Twenty-four achieve automatic selection for Tampere

Australia will again be sending a large team to the world U20 event. Besides Moloney, 23 others did enough to achieve automatic selection and as many more have achieved the qualifying standard and are likely to be added to the final team.

Moloney and Mucci will give Australia a strong hand in the multi-events. Based on 2017 world lists and athletes who remain eligible for U20 competition this year, Moloney’s best of 7740 points is within range of the 7893 achieved by the Netherlands’ Rafael Rapp last year. Mucci best of 5870 is some way behind the 6381 by Alina Shukh of Ukraine, but up with most others who remain U20-eligible for this year.

Thrower Alex Kolesnikoff is another to feature high on the list of likely Tampere contenders. Oceania, indeed, will have two formidable contenders in the men’s shot put in Tampere. New Zealand’s Ryan Ballantyne won in Sydney with 19.92m from Kolesnikoff’s 19.07m. Another Kiwi, Nick Palmer and Australia’s Aiden Harvey also exceeded the qualifying standard.

With Day contesting the open events, another young sprinter, Mia Gross, won the U20 sprint double to ensure her selection in both events while Zane Branco won the men’s 200m in 20.68. Branco is also qualified in the long jump where he may join Ben Schmidtchen, who clinched selection with a winning distance of 7.64m. Australia has a strong recent U20 record in men’s long jump.

In the middle distances, Lachlan Raper and Carley Thomas both clinched selection in the 800m with victories in 1:50.97 and 2:04.55, respectively. Montanna McEvoy was one of the few distance runners to qualify in to event at the championships, taking the 5000m in 16:35.44 and the 3000m steeplechase in 10:10.23.

Len Johnson for the IAAF