Three Aussie athletes have dominated the American college championships claiming an outstanding three gold medals. Jessica Hull and Ollie Hoare won 1500m titles, while Mackenzie Little the women’s javelin. Held at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, it was the last meet before renovations commence ahead of the hosting of the 2021 World Championships.
Former Pymble Ladies College student and 2013 world youth javelin champion, Mackenzie Little had been close to the podium in her previous two NCAA appearances, placing seventh and fourth. But this season she was invincible, raising her personal best to 58.63m and after qualifying for the NCAA finals as the leading athlete, she was favourite. The competition was effectively over after her first throw when she belted out a throw of 60.36m, moving her to number six in Australian history. The strong series continued with distances of 56.17m, 57.22m, 58.34m, 56.96m and 56.13m for a three-metre win over her teammate Jenna Gray.
“This just means so much. I’ve come all the way from Australia and I’ve put so much for this,” Little said after her win. College in the US is very much about a team result.
“I’m so thankful for this team and love and attention from my coach and family and to give this back to them is huge.
“We had all the support we needed to do well, it was just a matter of taking the opportunity. When you are amongst a team that is succeeding it makes it easy to step up and do well.”
On day three after coasting into the final, Sutherland’s Ollie Hoare caused one of the biggest upsets of the meet, winning the 1500m over NCAA record-holder Josh Kerr. At the bell Hoare was in eighth place.
“I just kept my eyes on Kerr, he is a great tactician. There was a bit of push and shove throughout the race. I just wanted to make sure I was clear and around the final bend I thought it is now or never. I pumped the arms and that was it.”
With 40m remaining he was still outside the medals, but stormed home for the title in a tactically slow time of 3:44.77 to win by 0.25 seconds. Kerr placed third.
“I knew I had a good race in me and with the talent in this field it was going to be a hard race. Anybody had it, I just had that gear left and when I hit that straight I knew I had it. But it is a shock and surprise.
He received a boost for his race with a visitor from Australia when his mother arrived.
“It was quite surprising, and she enjoyed it. She and my family mean a lot to me. Being a student so far away from my family it is hard not having that support and cheering in the standards. So, having my mum there in support is icing on the cake for this championship.”
Another distance runner in terrific form this year has been former Wollongong athlete, Jessica Hull. In April she ran a three second 1500m personal best, then in the first round at the NCAAs she again improved her best to 4:10.09 and cruised into the final as the second-fastest qualifier.
In the final, from the gun to the bell, Hull sat patiently in second, on the shoulder of Elinor Purrier of New Hampshire. Hull seemed very comfortable, but was tempted to pass Purrier?
“It was hard to stay patient. It is not something I naturally do very well, but I’ve learnt to do it well this year. But in saying that with two laps to go I was feeling like I could go now, but I thought no stick to the plan.
“Maurica Powell (her coach) didn’t give me a ridged point, she said I trust you will know when to go and then back yourself. I think the indoor season this year really taught me to think on my feet.”
Hull tried to make a move at 300m to go and all the way up the back straight.
“I couldn’t take her down the back straight as Elinor was tough and held her line.”
What would Hull do?
“I felt, leave it. The opportunity might present itself again. So, I was thinking stay composed and I was waiting and waiting.”
Then at 140 metres, Hull tried again and got past Purrier, but she still had company for a while, but seemed to be lifted by the home crowd.
“200m to go it (the crowd) got really loud towards the end of the grandstand. It was where all my teammates and family were. It was exactly what I needed then and there.
“I had to remain very smooth and even, and not let emotion get in the way.”
In the straight she showed a devastating kick, moving metres ahead.
“Then about 10 metres to go I was thinking ‘I’m shocked, I’m going to take this.”
Her winning time of 4:08.75, elevated her to 17th on the Australian all-time list.
Other Australian athletes in action
Steve Solomon (NSW) just missed qualification for the 400m final by just one place, after clocking his fifth best time of 45.30.
Michael Criticos (QLD) was fifth in the javelin, throwing 71.25m – his second longest ever throw. Teenager Clare O’Brien (QLD) 12th in the 10,000m clocking 33:34.18. Amy Cashin (VIC) 7th heat 3000m steeplechase 9:58.75, just outside Pb and misses final by one place. Mick Stanovsek (VIC) 8th 3:45.75, Cameron Griffith (NSW) 12th 3:56.12
Chartt Miller (WA) 21st 5000m 14:20.90.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
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NCAA Track and Field Championships Results