Scott Westcott, Lauren Shelley and Jane Fardell have all benefited from a change in policy from Athletics Australia, with their performances at today’s Melbourne Marathon guaranteeing them selection for next year’s world championships in Moscow.
With up to five athletes per nation eligible to compete in the world championships marathon, the first two Australians across the line were automatic selections if they ran under the IAAF qualifying times of 2:17:00 and 2:42:00.
It was something at the forefront of the minds of Westcott (fourth across the line behind three Kenyans in 2:16:00), Shelley (first, 2:36:39) and former triathlete Fardell (second, 2:37:54) as they ran around the streets of Melbourne this morning, finishing on the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The change in marathon selection policy – an openly maximalist one from the outset – is a welcome change from the battle that took place earlier this year over Olympic selection. In selecting a full compliment of athletes for London, the selectors, with the backing of AA’s Board, deviated from then High Performance Manager Eric Hollingsworth’s recommendation of a stricter qualifying standard than that set by the IAAF.
The return to a selection trial also marks a change – the first one that has been held over the marathon since 2000. It is a move athletes are enthusiastic about.
“It’s just great to lock in the spot now for Moscow in ten months time,” said Westcott.
“I think it is a great policy and one we should look at keeping, particularly for world championships every 2 years when we have 5 spots up for grabs.
“This sort of trial concept is the perfect way for guys to step up to the marathon for the first time. Considering the time of 2:17, it was challenging, but you don’t have to risk completely blowing up at that pace and I think it is a really good stepping-stone.
“I’ve lived in an era where we’ve had to go overseas to try to run fast. By just dropping the time a little bit to 2:16, it just means that realistically you can run those times in Australia and we had a great little pack in there today, if we had a few more guys there is no reason we couldn’t have people running 2:14, 2:13 in Australia.”
The trio join Michael Shelley and Lisa Weightman, who automatically qualified for the world championships by way of their top 20 finish in the Olympic marathon, on the team for the world championships. Selectors may make further discretionary selections in the next week, but are obligated to leave at least one of the five positions open until the end of the qualifying period in May, 2013.