Some of Australia’s best distance runners battled it out over 2-miles at the Parkdale Gift in Melbourne on Saturday.
It is unusual that distance races are the marquee events at a pro meet, but it was certainly the case with the fields assembled at the suburban grass track Gerry Green Reserve, courtesy of strong representation from the Melbourne Track Club.
The men’s race came down to a thrilling finish, with just 0.14 seconds separating the first three placegetters.
Off the back of his recent Zatopek:10 victory, Brett Robinson showed a strong finishing kick is still in his arsenal, which combined with his marathoning strength saw him hold on for victory down the short finishing straight. Finishing like a freight train was Stewart McSweyn, who couldn’t quite catch Robinson, but did pass Ryan Gregson, who looked like the race might be his with 100m to run.
The early stages of the race saw the quartet of Robinson (running of a handicap of 55m), Gregson (70m), Jack Rayner (60m) and Jordan Williamsz (75m) combine as a pack to confidently progress through the field.
McSweyn, running off scratch, patiently ran his own race, gradually closing the gap with the main group.
Rayner and Williamsz gradually fell off the main pack. With two laps remaining Robinson looked strong and had a small gap on Gregson, while McSweyn was closing fast.
At the bell Robinson kicked, widening the gap on Gregson until the final 200m when the former Australian 1500m record holder was in full stride and closing. McSweyn had moved almost, but not quite, onto his shoulder but had worked hard to make up the ground.
Robinson clocked 8:26.26 to McSweyn’s 8:26.37 (approximately a 7:51 3000m pace on the manicured, but slightly soft underfoot, grass surface), with Gregson third in 8:26.40.
The women’s race was quite as close but was still a quality affair, with back marker Genevieve Gregson reeling in most of the field to finish third.
Juliet McBurney, running off 260m, ran a well paced race to take victory in 9:49.30.
She won by five seconds from Natalie Rule, who ran strongly off her 100m mark to finish in 9:54.79.
Gregson’s 9:59.21 performance was approximately a 9:18 3000m pace.
Upcoming 800m runner Jack Lunn showed great tenacity to finish runner up in the 800m, running 1:52.14 off a mark of 8m. The race was taken out by Riley Bryce (34m) in 1:51.73.
The women’s race saw Claudia Hollingsworth (28m) take the win in 2:03.45 from Abbey Caldwell (34m, 2:04.04).
The 120m Gifts were taken out by Jack Boulton (12.62s, 5.25m) and Chiara Santigilia (14.28s, 5.75m) as the sun set on the venue.
Our full gallery of 160 photos of the Parkdale Gift is available here.
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