Sport Athletics Jessica Hull, Stewart McSweyn book Tokyo Olympics berths with national 5000m title wins
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Jessica Hull, Stewart McSweyn book Tokyo Olympics berths with national 5000m title wins

Jessica Hull booked her Olympics berth on Thursday night. Photo: AAP
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Middle-distance star Jessica Hull has guaranteed herself a spot on the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympics with a commanding victory in the women’s 5000 metres at the Melbourne Track Classic.

Hull, 23, surged to the front with 600 metres to go and powered away from Japan’s Hitomi Niiya to win in 15 minutes 06.12 seconds and claim her first national title.

As Hull had previously bettered the automatic qualifying mark, Thursday night’s victory saw her cement a spot in the Olympic squad.

“It is pretty surreal,” said Hull, who graduated last year from the University of Oregon and is now based in Phoenix.

“It’s been a long time, it’s been a dream and when you are a kid you think it is going to happen sooner.

“So in 2016 I was like ‘yeah, I’m going to Rio’ but obviously I was still young.

“But now in 2020 it is a reality and it is so exciting.”

Stewart McSweyn wins the men’s 5000m at the Melbourne Track Classic on Thursday. Photo: AAP

Equallly commanding was Stewart McSweyn, who became the first man in five years to complete the Australian 5000m/10,000m double.

Racing in a black armband in honour of his mentor and world athletics identity Maurie Plant, who died last month, McSweyn overcame some nervous moments before stamping his authority on Thursday night’s race.

He broke clear with five laps to go and powered away to win in 13 minutes 38.77 seconds.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I had to bring the A-game,” said the Tasmanian, who smashed the 10,000m record late last year at the Zatopek meet.

“It was nerve wracking early on because it was so slow and there were a lot of guys there.

“I have shown I can run a fast race at the Zatopek and then a more tactical one tonight.

“At the Olympics, it could go either way, so I have to be ready with both styles of race if I am going to try and do what I want to do and get close to a medal.”

McSweyn’s training partner Matthew Ramsden was second and Sam McEntee was third.

McSweyn, 24, bettered the qualifying time in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m, but will only be able to contest two events in Tokyo.

Hull has a similar conundrum.

Hull and her coach Pete Julian have the tough decision of whether to target the 1500m or the 5000m in Tokyo, as the schedule precludes the possibility of doubling up.

“The decision is not clear,” Hull said.

“What is going to be the telling sign is how I continue to progress in training over the next few months.

“Whichever direction Pete thinks I will be strongest I will be ready to go.”

Hull was untroubled by the smoky conditions caused by the recent bushfires.

Niiya crossed the line second in 15:15.41 and versatile Australian Genevieve Gregson was third in 15:20.60.

The other outstanding performance of the night came from 24-year-old Queenslander Liz Clay, who went to fourth spot on the Australian list with a flying time of 12.94 seconds in the women’s 100m hurdles.

Clay is coached by Sally Pearson’s former mentor Sharon Hannan.

World championships semi-finalist Bendere Oboya was an impressive winner of the women’s 400m in 52.06 ahead of Anneliese Rubie-Renshaw (53.73).

Rubie-Renshaw was contesting the one-lap event for the first time in 12 months after overcoming a serious toe injury.

John Gikas (20.91) edged out Rio Olympian Alex Hartmann to win the men’s 200m.

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games silver medallist Alex Hulley (65.58m) edged out New Zealander Lauren Bruce by 6cm to win the women’s hammer throw.

-AAP

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