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A lifetime best in the javelin qualifying by Townsville's Nash Lowis and Celeste Mucci in the hunt for a medal in the heptathlon were the highlights of a busy Friday morning session for the Australian Team in Tampere with 10 other Aussie athletes in action under blue skies of the Finnish city.
Mucci throwing everything at podium finish
Celeste Mucci (VIC) was fourth in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games and started the final day in Finland in the same position after day one.
In the long jump Mucci started the day well, without being brilliant, with a best of 6.13m and remained within sight of the podium but still fourth. In the javelin, one of her weakest events, she found something special and added 1.25 metres to her personal best, with 43.03m. It was her second personal best of the championships following her great high jump performance.
This throw moves her to third on 5163 points, just ahead of Cuban Adriana Rodriguez. (5147).
The medals will be decided in the evening session with the 800m to conclude the seven events.
The final event is going to be a thriller for Aussie fans with Mucci holding onto third over the Cuban by the equivalent of 1.2 seconds in the 800m. In their last heptathlons, this year, Mucci ran 2:29.63 and Rodiguez 2:23.01.
The gold medal is a battle between Niamh Emerson (GBR) on 5285 pts ahead of defending champion Sarah Lagger (AUT) by only two points.
Camryn Newton-Smith (QLD) described her day one performance as ‘shakey’ and was keen to improve on day 2. She started with a long jump of 5.66m and then in the javelin also produced a big personal best of 44.87m to move up into 15th place (4705 pts).
Lowis unleashes biggest throw of the day
Townsville javelin thrower Nash Lowis has produced an inspired performance in Finland, where javelin is the highest profile event.
The 18-year-old came into his first international competition with a personal best of 71.24 metres from February. In his first throw in group B qualification he threw the 800g implement a huge 74.38m.
Not only did he launch the spear 3m beyond his lifetime best he had the biggest throw from qualification. It is already the third biggest throw by an Australian at a World U20s.
Lowis was pleased with his efforts saying “I went out there trying to compete the best I could and lucky enough I got a PB by 3 metres so I’m stoked. I have been out of throwing for a bit with a couple of injuries, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to go, but it feels pretty good I guess.”
“It’s crazy. I am so happy to be here. At school I didn't think I would be competing for Australia a couple of years later.
Cameron McEntyre (NSW) could not produce the same magic as Lowis but wasn’t far off his best in the other qualification group. He did improve with every throw and finished with 68.19m on his third attempt. McEntyre will leave Finland ranked 16th in the World.
Lowis will contest the final on Saturday night in Finland. Steven Madeo (VIC) is the only Australian medallist in this event, when he won bronze in Sydney in 1996.
Gross and Day through to semis
Mia Gross (VIC) and Riley Day (QLD) were back on the track for the 200m heats. The first four in each heat automatically progressed to the semi-finals later today.
Day progressed comfortably in finishing third in her heat (24.00). She will need to draw on her experience and find some extra speed if she is to be a contender for the finals against the world’s best U20 sprinters.
Gross, who didn’t progress from the 100m heats made that next big step in the 200m, by finishing fourth (23.78) in her heat and just outside her best.
“I knew I was going to have to go out hard because the girl in the middle in lane 4 she was bloody quick (Jamaican Briana Williams),” the Joe Gulli-coached sprinter said. “She won the 100m, so I knew I was going to have to run. I was loving every moment to be honest.
“I came off the bend and thought I have got a good shot here. I was trying to keep relaxed and I managed to get there in the end. I was 0.02 off a PB so hopefully I can get that in the semi.
Not renown for her start, the Victorian said “I think a turtle could beat me out of those blocks. My sister is a pole vaulter and she beats me out and she is younger than me. So for the 200m I don’t have to work on the start as much and I can use my long levered legs to get me over the line. So that’s what I did.”
Contemplating her place in the semis, Gross said she was going to “run my little heart out.”
American Lauren Williams was the fastest in the heats with a comfortable 23.98.
The last time Australia had a finalist in this event was back in 2000 with Melanie Kleeberg (QLD), showing just how tough the competition is at the World U20s.
Willis and Johnson through to semis
Lateisha Willis (VIC) and Samantha Johnson (QLD) started the day strongly in the 100m hurdles heats with both athletes doing enough to qualify for the semi-finals on Saturday night.
Willis got a good start and hurdled well dipping on the line to grab third place and secure automatic qualification, in 13.92 seconds. After an injury impacted Australian summer the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist ran 13.59 in June. She now gets another chance in the semi.
On the atmosphere in the stadium Willis said “It was amazing. It really helps me push through the line, push out of the blocks, so yeah, it’s awesome.“
“I am really lucky to have my coach Peter Benifer here so he’s really helping me”
Johnson also got out well and raced and good clean race. She was fifth in her heat but her time of 13.97s was enough for her to qualify for the next round. With nothing to lose in the semi she will hope to get close to her personal best of 13.76 from Trials.
Wallis and Raper run-out in 800m heats
Archie Wallis (VIC) and Lachlan Raper (NSW) got their first taste of a major international competition in the heats of the 800m and the 18-year-olds gave it everything they had.
Wallis went out hard and was placed nicely in third after the first lap, split of 54.06. When the moves came down the back straight he tried to respond but didn’t have the kick. He fought hard and finished seventh in 1:51.25. The heat was won by American Josh Hoey in 1:48.86.
“I worked the last 200m. My legs were feeling like jelly and I wanted to get to the line as fast as I could. I didn’t have it in me today. It’s a bit disappointing my time wasn’t there but there are a lot of positives to take away from the season.
“I have been training pretty well and I have developed a lot as an athlete and a person.There are negatives that I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to, but I am still pretty happy. It was an awesome experience to compete with the world’s best.”
On the encouragement her has received at home and in Tampere Wallis said he did it “for myself, for my supporters, for my family, and my coach (Sean Whipp) especially who came all the way here for me.
“I do it for myself but I do it for them as well to make them proud. And I keep coming back everyday for that to see what I can do, because when I run well everyone around me is happy and I love that.”
The pace was on from the gun in Raper’s heat. He was in fifth at the bell with the lead split of 51.84. Raper couldn’t find a new gear and away through on the final lap and faded to seventh in 1:50.23, less than a second outside his best.
There was high drama when favourite for the event Tadese Lemi (ETH) won his heat and was then disqualified for crossing out of his lane too early. He had run 1:46.00 in 2018.
Eckel and Caldwell can’t progress in 1500m
There were two heats of the women’s 1500m with Sarah Eckel (SA) first up and Abbey Caldwell (VIC) in the second.
The pace was slow in heat 1 early with Eckel running wide to stay out of trouble. They went through the first 800m in 2:28 with Eckel sitting fifth. She was in a great position with one lap to go but the change of pace down the back straight was too great. She finished seventh in 4:24.90, with the race won by in 4:18.88 by Ethiopia.
“It’s been a really good experience so far. It was pretty crazy out there today like nothing I had ever experienced before. It’s a good learning experience.” said Eckel.
The pace was quicker in the second heat with Caldwell sitting on the inside mid pack. The leader going through 800m in 2:20. Caldwell then started to drift and with one lap to go was out of contention.
The 17-year-old kept pushing right to the line to place eleventh in 4:24.65 The four non-auto qualifiers all came from heat 2 with the top eight clearing out from the rest of the field.
Caldwell will take a wealth of experience away from the tough international racing saying, “At the start of the race it was quite physical. Because it was a fast start, for the first 100m it was quite pushy. We were all lucky to stay on our feet.”
Caldwell is eligible for the 2020 championships.
New Zealand’s Katrina Robinson, who lives in Queensland, qualified with her third in heat 2 (4:17.93).
Next Aussies in Action - Day 4 Evening Session - Sat 12:50am AEST to Sat 3:35am AEST
Aussie sprinters toe the line in the heats of the 4 x 100m in the early hours of Saturday morning AEST to kick-off the evening session on Day 4 in Tampere.
The final event for the women’s heptathlon, is going to be a thriller for Aussie fans. Melbourne’s Celeste Mucci is in third place, just 16 points ahead of fourth, Adriana Rodiguez of Cuba. That is equal to 1.2 seconds in the 800m. In their last heptathlons, this year, Mucci ran 2:29.63 and Rodiguez 2:23.01.
You can watch all the action on the IAAF Livestream.
||Celeste Mucci, Camryn Newton-Smith
||Riley Day, Mia Gross
||Montanna McAvoy, Brielle Erbacher
Andrew Reid for Athletics Australia
Superlatives and Statistics David Tarbotton
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