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Feain-Ryan wins dramatic steeplechase at Australian Championships

A four-way tussle and a fall at the final barrier made for a thrilling women’s steeplechase final on the second day of the 100th edition of the Australian Championships.

A four-way tussle and a fall at the final barrier made for a thrilling women’s steeplechase final on the second day of the 100th edition of the Australian Championships.

Photos by Fred Etter

Claiming the title was Queenslander Cara Feain-Ryan, who ran shrewdly in only her second steeple of the season. The 24-year-old patiently sat at the back of a lead pack of four, led by Brielle Erbacher, Georgia Winkcup and defending champion Amy Cashin, before adding pace to the race with about 600 metres remaining.

It was Winkcup though who made the boldest run for home with 300m remaining, having adeptly followed Erbacher and Cashin at close quarters throughout the race, and held the taller Feain-Ryan wide over the water jump, before accelerating down the home straight. It was on the final hurdle that she stuttered, and perhaps due to the pressure of the long striding Feain-Ryan approaching, faltered, falling flat. Feain-Ryan strode home for victory in 9:43.64, while remarkably Winkcup was able to get back to her feet to hold off Cashin for the silver medal.

“I’m so annoyed, it was not like I was so tired I couldn’t get over the steeple, I just suck at hurdles, notwithstanding my grandmother (former 80m hurdles world record holder, Betty Moore) trying to teach me. It is just hard that was the one that mattered the most,” Winkcup told Athletics NSW.

“I have just lost it,” was Winkcup’s immediate thought as she clipped the steeple, before she quickly refocused. “I’m not going to give up my spot because I’ve just eaten the track.”

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The men’s steeplechase was a similarly enthralling affair, with Tokyo Olympians Ben Buckingham and Matthew Clarke going toe-to-toe in a tactical race. Entering the Nationals they each had one win apiece to their names during the domestic season, with Buckingham having a marginally quicker season’s best from Adelaide in February, while Clarke scored a convincing win in Brisbane last week.

There were no fast times to be seen, with the first kilometre covered in over three minutes. It wasn’t until just over 600m remaining that a decisive move was made, with Buckingham surging and continuing to turn the screws all the way to the line, for victory by just under two-tenths-of-a-second in 8:40.52.

“I’m 31 and I’ve been trying to win it for six years,” said Buckingham, who recently changed coaches to work under Australian distance running legend Craig Mottram.

“I think I’ve medalled every year except for last year when I was injured so it was really sweet.

“Clarkey ran incredibly well last weekend, all credit to him, and it shows how much we are pushing each other and that we both want to go to Worlds.

“I was angry and hungry all week and it’s rare you have the chance for redemption five days later and I carried the hunger through and I’m so glad I won it. He made me earn every step, I was in a world of pain so it was really great to get it.”

In the 10,000m walk Declan Tingay was too good for Kyle Swan and Rhydian Cowley, taking the win in 38:46.74. On the opening night of the championships Olivia Sanders won the women’s race in 44:56.00 from Allanah Pitcher and Hannah Mison.

A new format for the championships, with the first two days predominantly made up of heats, sets up a thrilling weekend of action.

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The contest of the championship will be the women’s 1500m, with all four main protagonists focusing their energies on winning. Australian record holder Jessica Hull was the fastest in Thursday’s heats, with a controlled 4:11.15 run with fellow sub-four-minute metric miler Linden Hall; while Abbey Caldwell and Georgia Griffith, who both bypassed running in the 800m, were comfortably through in the other heat.

In the men’s race Cameron Myers will seek to become the youngest ever winner of the title and was impressive in winning his heat by 1 1/2 seconds in 3:44.10 and will face Matthew Ramsden, who will be looking for his maiden 1500m title.

Rohan Browning was impressive in the 100m first round, running 10.18 seconds (+0.4) to be the fastest qualifier for Saturday’s semi-finals. Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu (10.32), New Zealand’s Dhruv Rodrigues-Chico (10.33w), Lachlan Kennedy (10.34), Jake Doran (10.37) and Jai Gordon (10.38) were other heat winners. The final will be held 4:35pm local time.

Singapore’s Veronica Shanti was the fastest heat winner in the women’s 100m, bettering her own national record with a run of 11.38 seconds. The Australian title looks open for a first time winner, with Bree Masters most impressive in the heats with a 11.41s win, while teenager Torrie Lewis (11.55), Ebony Lane (11.54) and Kristie Edwards (11.67) also impressed. Season leader Naa Anang did not start due to an injury concern.

The men’s 400m will see a completely fresh set of medallists – none of the finalists have stood on the podium in a National Championship before – after reigning champion Alex Beck’s ten consecutive medal streak was brought to an end in being run out in the semi-final. Luke Van Ratingen was the fastest and most comfortable looking winner at the penultimate stage in 46.75s, but with 47.17s being the slowest qualifying mark for the final, the race will be wide open.

In the women’s 400m Ellie Beer firmed up as favourite, with a 53.82 second victory in her semi-final. Angeline Blackburn, who won the second of three semi-finals in 54.39 was the only other athlete within a second of Beer’s time.

Over the one lap hurdles Christopher Douglas stamped his claim with a 50.71 second semi-final win, with Conor Fry clocking 51.45 to comfortably win the other semi. Sarah Carli cruised through as fastest qualifier in the women’s race in 58.90 seconds, with only three women breaking the 60 second barrier.

In the 800m heat winners Ellie Sanford (2:04.37) and national record holder Catriona Bisset (2:04.60) cruised through as the fastest two athletes for Sunday’s final. The first of three round of the men’s 800m didn’t see any major casualties, with the exception of Victoria’s Jack Lunn not starting.

Field event qualifying rounds are generally uneventful at the Australian Championships, but Brooke Buschkuehl left nothing to chance, leaping to a season’s best 6.73m (+0.6). Her main challenger in Sunday’s final, Samantha Dale, won the other qualifying pool with a 6.32m (-1.6) leap. The only casualty was in the men’s pole vault, where emerging vaulter Liam Georgilopoulos, who snapped his pole, fracturing his hand in the process.

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