At his last race at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre in February Ryan Gregson shot to international prominence, smashing the Australian junior 1500m record with a run of 3:37.24, a time which is the fifth fastest in the world for a junior in 2009. When he steps back onto the same track tomorrow at the NSW 3000m championships it will be success as a open athlete that he has in mind.
Gregson has of course started to make the transition from the junior to senior ranks through his participation in this year's world championships in Berlin, where he placed 10th in his heat. However, it was primarily his 1500m junior record, run at the Sydney Track Classic, supported by almost as good form in Europe, that sealed his selection rather than his championship record against others. And that is, quite simply because that at the senior level he doesn't really have one.
The only open medal at state or national level which the 19 year old has won previously is a silver in the NSW 10km road championships in 2008 behind Russell Dessaix-Chin. So tomorrow, as much as the opportunity to open his season and to break his own Australian junior record of 7:57.45 at the distance, it is an opportunity to prove his championship pedigree in the open ranks.
"Racing overseas in Europe I learned a lot and realised how hard it was over there racing the world's best week in, week out," he told the Illawarra Mercury today.
Although the favourite, Gregson will not have the race to himself. The fastest man in the field on personal bests is world championships marathoner Scott Westcott (7:55.43) but that time comes from almost a decade ago. Gregson's main challenge is expected to come from those who have not broken 8 minutes for the distance but that nonetheless have the potential to do so.
World half marathon representative Jeff Hunt has improved to a new level since last track season, as indicated by his run of 62:47 at the Gold Coast half marathon in July. With a best of 8:01.94 - set in finishing just behind Gregson in the 2007 edition of the event - Hunt will look to crack the 8 minute barrier for the first time. Similarly, national 1500m bronze medalist Craig Huffer and sub four minute miler Brenton Rowe will be looking to test the endurance which they fostered by competing in the Athletics Victoria's XCR series during the winter, whilst national 800m champion Nick Bromley brings shorter distance speed and a fast finishing kick to the event. Former national 1500m medalist Brad Woods and reigning Zatopek de Castella 3000m title holder James Nipperess also have the potential to have impact in the 14 man race.
The women's race sees reigning champion Bridey Delaney face sub 15 minute 5000m runner Eloise Wellings. Wellings placed fourth at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, but since then has struggled with her form. Her most recent performances of 16:38 for 6th at the Noosa Bolt 5km road race and 10:17 over 2 miles at the inaugural Ashes street meet in September suggest that despite her prior performances that she doesn't deserve favourite status.
Also in the field is New Zealand's Kellie Palmer, who has been preselected for next year's world cross country championships following her third place finish at the New Zealand cross country championships, NSW junior 10000m record holder Hollie Emery and talented Queensland junior Jessica Gilfillan.
Inside Athletics will be providing editorial and photographic coverage of tomorrow's races