In windy conditions at Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre James Nipperess went looking for a fast time.
The first target was his 7:56.42 personal best, set in winning the title two years ago. The 7:55.39 meet record set by Ben St Lawrence in 2007, was the second.
And so with training partner Jeremy Roff leading the race as the designated pacemaker, it was on from the outset. An aggressive first kilometre of 2:36 set the wheels in motion for a fast time, and the pace didn't slow much over the next two 63 second laps, with Nipperess tucked in second place and the gap to last year's winner, Josh Wright, growing.
When Roff completed his pacemaking duties, the nature of the race changed. Alone in front, Nipperess slowed to a 64.74 lap, as Olympic marathoner Jeff Hunt moved into second place. This prompted his training partner - British marathon representative Ben Moreau - to lift over the next lap and move into second. Nipperess slowed to a 66.66 for his penultimate lap, a second and a half slower than Moreau had run his, but holding a handy three-and-a-half second lead as the bell tolled.
It turned out to be enough of a lead, with Moreau chasing hard but only managing to half the deficit. As the 7:55 and 7:56 ticked by as he toiled up the straight, and then even the 8:00 mark, Nipperess had done enough for the win, and had left nothing on the track. Behind his 8:01.06 winning time Moreau slashed his personal best by 9 seconds with 8:02.96, while a tiring Hunt was overtaken on the last lap by middle distance runner James Kaan, who slashed his PB to 8:04.89.
Back in seventh place after running through the field was 16-year-old Morgan McDonald, who narrowly missed the Athletics Australia set qualifying mark for next year's world youth championships with a run of 8:17.71.
The women's race was one of youth against experience, with national cross country champion Celia Sullohern almost half the age of defending champion Belinda Martin. With the other leading protagonists, Milly Clark and teenager Kate Spencer also conceding over 15 years to Martin, the scene was set for a interesting race.
Martin sat mid-pack throughout the first half of the race as Clark, Spencer and Sullohern all took turns in the lead. By two laps to go it was clear the winner would come from Sullohern, who was now in the lead, Clark or Martin, with the rest of the field having been dropped. With a lap to go, it was down to just Sullohern and Martin.
Would the speed over the final lap be in the younger legs? Or would the strength and endurance that comes with age prevail?
From a 76 second pace the lap before, the race quickened over the final lap and it was Martin that strode to the line first, winning by close to two-seconds in 9:29.29 for her third consecutive title. Sullohern was second in 9:31.24, with Clark taking third in 9:32.84.
176 athletes competed across the graded events on the night. Full results and lap times are available here