In the wee hours of Thursday morning west coast time, the Melbourne Track Classic took place in Melbourne, Australia. It being summer in the southern hemisphere this was a great opportunity for some good outdoor track & field action. The competition in the men’s 800, 1500, and 5000 meters was particularly strong.
In the men’s 800, world record holder David Rudisha opened his 2011 season with a 1:43.88. In second place was American Nick Symmonds in 1:45.08. This was Symmond’s fastest first race of the season, which bodes well for him for the 2011 season.
In the men’s 1500, the big names included Olympic gold medalist Asbel Kiprop, Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis, American mile record holder Alan Webb, and Australian Jeff Riseley. Last year at this meet Riseley impressed the home country crowd by beating Kiprop. Could he do it again?
1 Jeffrey Riseley AUS, 3:36.71
2 Asbel Kiprop KEN, 3:37.63
3 Alan Webb USA, 3:37.82
4 Nick Willis NZL, 3:38.76
The best race, however, was expected to be the men’s 5000 which featured Americans Bernard Lagat, Chris Solinsky, and Matt Tegenkamp. Lagat, Solinsky, and Tegenkamp represent three of the five Americans to ever break thirteen minutes in the 5000 (Dathan Ritzenheim and Bob Kennedy are the other two). Lagat made it known that his goal for this race was to achieve the World Championship “A” standard of 13:20.00.
Lagat won the race in 13:08.43. However the surprise of the meet was Australian Ben St. Lawrence who hung with the lead pack, challenged Lagat for the win, and outpaced Solinsky to earn a well deserved second place with a fifteen second personal record of 13:10.08. What a meet it was for rising Australian distance runners Riseley and St. Lawrence! Solinsky was third in 13:10.22, Tegenkamp fourth (13:16.27), and Andrew Bumbalough (13:16.77, a fourteen second personal record). All five runners were in under the “A” standard, a solid showing for such an early season meet.
This meet also marked one of the final track & field competitions at Melbourne’s Olympic Park. The stadium which hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics as well as hundreds of scholastic, local, regional, and national meets, is going to be converted into a training area for football teams. Next year a new track will open in nearby Albert Park. In an IAAF article about the final meets at Melbourne’s Olympic Park Len Johnson said, “It’s going to be sad leaving Olympic Park. If you’re a Victorian who has done athletics you have probably competed there for school, club or in state or national championships. Olympic Park’s reputation was built by the athletes who competed there. In a short time, the new centre at Albert Park will have its own John Landy, its own Cathy Freeman, its own history.”