Steve Moneghetti, Craig Mottram, Lee Troop and Liam Adams. They have all finished in the top 25 at the World Cross Country. Who would win head-to-head?
Although not all in their prime, the quartet all competed at the 2013 Victorian Cross Country Championships at Bundoora. The results may surprise you.
Although performances on the track can be measured with precision, there’s always an element of subjectivity in comparing performances of athletes over cross country. And of course, the four gents above effectively straddle a generation of Australian distance running, with Steve Moneghetti’s evergreen career providing a link to all.
In terms of best placings at the World Cross Country, Moneghetti tops the list with a fourth place at Stavanger, Norway in 1989, ahead of Mottram’s 13th in 2004 (but notably finishing 5th in the 4km short course 4km event in 2002), while Troop finished 21st in 2004 and Adams 23rd in 2013.
But when the above four athletes lined up at the 2013 Victorian Cross Country Championships at Bundoora Park, ‘Mona’ was already aged 50 and not a contender for the title (he was nonetheless kept many in the field honest, finishing 16th). Likewise, Troop was in the twilight of his marathoning career, but Mottram was in the midst of a comeback in his first race since the Olympic Games the year prior. Adams had recorded his best World Cross Country placing just a few months earlier.
So one may have thought that Adams would be favourite but that he’d have his work cut out defeating an athlete of the class of Mottram - the 2005 world championships bronze medalist over 5000m.
Enter Steve Kelly.
The Box Hill athlete ran alongside Adams at the head of the field for much of the race, before breaking away over the final lap of the 4km course to win by 12 seconds in a time of 37 minutes 16 seconds. Kelly's performance was his third victory of the Athletics Victoria XCR’13 season after claiming the 16km cross country at Brimbank Park and 15km road title in the two months prior.
Adams ran strongly for second in 37:28, while Mottram took third (38:04), breaking away over the final lap from a pack containing Mitchel Brown (4th), Anthony Aloisio (5th), three-time Olympian Troop (6th) and Andrew White (7th).