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Athletics - 15. January 2008.

M star at Sydney Track Classic

The new year got off to an electric start at the Sydney Track Classic with Olympic A-qualifiers recorded by Sally McLellan and Scott Martin.

McLellan’s night started by teaming up with Crystal Attenborough for a comfortable victory in the 2 x 100m relay. Less than an hour later she graced the line for the 100m hurdles and in 12.81 seconds recorded the fastest time ever by an Australian in Australia.

As if she hadn’t provided enough action for the 3000 strong crowd on the warm but overcast night, McLellan returned to the track for a third time. To the delight of the crowd she produced a fast start and held her top end speed well, to clock a wind-assisted 11.26 seconds (+3.0).

Despite being a World Championships semi-finalist in both events, and showing her ability to back up between events within a short period of time, McLellan has decided to focus on the hurdles for the Beijing Olympics.

"Halfway through the year, I’ll only be doing hurdles," she said after her final run of the night, before being swamped by dozens of young athletes, many of whom attended the meet after a development clinic with Jana Rawlinson.

"I have so much more to learn in the 100m and so much more strength to gain," she said in explaining her decision.

Despite her focus on the hurdles, McLellan has unfinished business with the flat event, declaring her goal to break the prestigious 11-second barrier.

"I wanted to do that this year at the Olympic Games, but since I’m only doing the hurdles I’ll have to do it beforehand. It would be nice to do it on home soil!"

The midweek decision of Scott Martin to come to Sydney paid dividends for the 130kg giant, recording a personal best and A-qualifier with 20.63m in the final round of the men’s shot put.

"I’m absolutely over the moon," he said. "It’s not what I expected when I came down here."

Martin, whose training has been limited due to a foot injury, now has his eyes set on the barrier which separates the men from the boys in international shot putting: 21 metres.

"I really haven’t done anywhere near as much as I would like to have done. To throw that far, that early, means that it is definitely in reach."

The meet was an opportunity for young athletes to press claim for consideration in the Olympic team. Three young NSW men had the crowd sitting up and taking notice, with promising performances recorded by Justin Merlino, Joel Milburn and Lachlan Renshaw.

National 110m hurdles champion Justin Merlino started off the season where he left off last year, with a run of 13.69 seconds. Unfortunately for the 22 year-old, the performance, which was under the B-standard for Beijing, was assisted by an illegal 2.2 m/s wind.

Joel Milburn continued the form he showed when winning at the Zatopek Classic, taking out the 400m in 46.18 seconds ahead of World Championships relay runner Dylan Grant.

Despite tightening up in the final 50 metres, Milburn’s run was a personal best, and puts him in contention for the 4 x 400m relay squad for Beijing.

Producing a dominating run in the 800m was 20 year-old Lachlan Renshaw. After tailing the pacemaker through 600m, Renshaw finished strongly to win by over a second from training partner Werner Botha in a time of 1:47.08. In third was Nick Bromley, who was boxed in by the large 12 man field and was not able to produce his trademark finish kick.

Whilst Merlino, Milburn and Renshaw represent a new crop of athletes hungry to make their first Olympic team, older and wiser athletes who have already been there showed that they are keen to make another team.

Tamsyn Lewis produced a strong final 200m to win the 800m in 2:02.46 whilst Adam Miller was a whisker outside the 100m B-standard with a run of 10.29 seconds in the men’s 100m.

Other winners on the night included a New Zealand double in the 200m, with Monique Williams winning the women’s event in 23.45 seconds and James Dolphin the men’s 200m in 20.56 seconds in a race that saw NSW athlete Henry Mitchell going under 21 seconds for the first time with a run of 20.79s.

By Tim McGrath (Athletics NSW)
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