The wait is over! This weekend the 2017 Australian Athletics Championships kick off at Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre with Australia’s talented juniors taking centre stage for the first half of the championships.
With a number of young athletes vying for Commonwealth Youth Games qualification and meet records within grasp, a host of internationally experienced teenagers will provide exciting competition and a glimpse into the future for Australian athletics.
Arguably the headline of the junior championships will be Queensland sprinter Riley Day (Qld) who will be the favourite in the under 18 100m and 200m events. She will be looking to break both meet records and add to her current tally of four junior titles.
The 16-year-old, who rose to prominence after her part in the Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne series, will arrive in Sydney with a personal best in the 100m of 11.67 and 23.51 over 200m – both within the best marks set at the championships by Samantha Geddes (11.69) and Georgia Hulls (23.80).
15-year-old Keely Small (ACT) will also be looking to write her name into the history books, eyeing off the current Under 18 800m meet record of 2:06.87 as she returns to the track after posting a massive personal best of 2:01.46 to win at the SUMMERofATHS Grand Prix.
World Juniors and World Youth Championships medallist Darcy Roper (Qld) will also be in contention of setting a meeting record in the under 20 long jump – his personal best of 8.01m is well ahead of John Thornell’s mark of 7.85m set at the 2004 Championships.
Roper will also run in the 100m and face Nitro Athletics star Jack Hale (Tas) who will be looking to knock off Trae Williams’ time from last year’s championships of 10.27 to go with his record in the under 18 set two years ago.
A big surprise performance so far from this season has come from New South Wales sprinter Bendere Oboya who powered to a big personal best of 53.30 over 400m at the NSW Championships earlier this year.
Now one of the favourites to win the under 18 championships, Oboya could also better Rosemary Hayward’s meet record of 53.65 set in Adelaide almost two decades ago.
Following her second placing at the Victorian Championships hurdler Danielle Shaw (Vic) is another one to watch on the track. Following a semi-final performance at the World Under 20 Championships last year, Shaw could also steal Georgina Power’s under 20 meet record in the 100m hurdles of 13.49 set in 2001. Shaw ran a personal best of 13.46 at the Canberra SUMMERofATHS Grand Prix earlier this year.
Middle-distance runner Sarah Billings (Vic) also achieved impressive results at the Victorian State Championships last month coming fourth in the 800m and third in the 400m at Lakeside Stadium.
Her personal best in the 800m of 2:04.29 set this season is just quicker than the under 20 championships record of 2:04.45 set by Georgia Wassell two years ago.
Talented hurdler Lateisha Willis has a season’s best of 13.38 for the 100m hurdles, which will also put her in the frame for a meeting record, currently held by Abbie Taddeo at 13.46 in the under 18 division.
Other juniors to watch at nationals:
Amy Harding-Delooze (NSW)
2:06.84 and 4:16.18
NSW U20 800m champion
Ned Weatherly (VIC)
PB – 64.46kg
Won bronze at world youth champs 2015
Claire Gibson (WA)
PB – 1.83m
Qualified for final of world youth champs in 2015
Third in NSW Champs
Celeste Mucci (Vic)
Long Jump and 100mH
PBs - 6.35m and 13.64
Heptathlon at U20 world championships
Vic Champs won long jump
Jordan Shelley (NSW)
PB – 10.49, 21.29
Semi-finalist youth world champs
NSW 100m champs third
Christian Davis (Vic)
PBs and SBs – 47.62 and 1:49.04
Open Vic 800m Champ
Won Vic U20 400m champ
Jaryd Clifford (Vic)
PB – 3:49.05
Won the Vic U20 able-bodied Champs
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