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Hunter athletes target Sydney Track Classic

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Some of the Hunter’s brightest prospects, including Rose Davies and Mitchell Lightfoot, are finetuning their preparations for next month’s Australian Athletics Championships.

The duo, among others, will contest the Sydney Track Classic at the iconic E.S Marks Athletic Field on Saturday 23 March, the final hit-out before the national titles.

It also doubles as one of the final qualification opportunities on home soil for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Merewether’s Rose Davies. Photo: Steve Christo Photography

The Australian 3,000m Championships will see Olympic finalist and national recordholder Jessica Hull present in career-best form to defend her title, while Jude Thomas toes the line on a mission to secure a historic hat-trick at only 22 years of age.

But, standing in their way is Merewether’s Davies, who etched her own name in the history books last month.

She became the fourth Australian woman to complete the 5,000m race in under 15 minutes following a sizzling effort at the Maurie Plant Meet – Melbourne.

“I’ve been working towards it since 2021,” Davies said.

“So, to do it in my first 5,000m event this season was pretty special.

“The qualifying time for the 2020 Olympics was 15.10 and, now, the qualifiers are 14.52.

“It just goes to show how women’s running is travelling at the moment… everyone’s performing really well.”

While the 3,000m is not featured on the Olympic program, the championships hold extra significance this year, with ranking points accrued contributing to world rankings for the 5,000m at Paris 2024.

“That scenario isn’t lost on anyone,” Davies said.

“The 3,000m is very important, especially if you’re aiming towards the 5,000m… you can qualify with an autocue or on points.”

Fresh off her 10th NSW state title, Michelle Jenneke will race as a popular pick in the Women’s 100m Hurdles when meeting Olympic teammate and rival Liz Clay, who is closing in on the 12.77 Olympic standard, with two wins in the Chemist Warehouse Summer Series to date.

Meanwhile, Tayleb Willis remains eager to back up his victory in the Men’s 110m Hurdles at the Maurie Plant Meet – Melbourne.

However, he faces World Championships representative Jacob McCorry and long-time rival Lightfoot in a field, which also includes Japan’s Ken Toyoda.

The Maitland junior clocked 13.97 to finish third at the Maurie Plant Meet – Melbourne in February.

Lightfoot then followed it up with 13.84, securing second, at the Queensland Athletics Championships.

On a night featuring action-packed 4x100m relays, Australia’s fastest athletes will ignite the home straight for the individual 100m events, with Sydneysiders set to flock to see local favourite Rohan Browning continue his Paris Olympic campaign.

Racing in a field featuring Olympic medallist and sub-10 second man Ryota Yamagata of Japan, the 10.01-second sprinter will launch another attempt at the 10.00 Olympic standard, spurred on by the challenges of Jacob Despard and 20-year-old Lachlan Kennedy.

Ebony Lane will have the Women’s 100m field under pressure early, with the even contest including Commonwealth relay medallists Bree Masters, Naa Anang, Mia Gross and Ella Connolly poised to produce one of the best races on the program.

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