Nitro Athletics Team Australia squad members Morgan Mitchell and Ryan Gregson have raced into 2017 in winning form with both taking victories at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals.
The 130-year-old professional running, cycling and wood chopping carnival is a traditional Christmas-New Year event in Tasmania and the Australian Olympic team stars made the most of the opportunity to prepare for the 2017 season and Nitro Athletics Melbourne events next month.
Rio Olympic 1500m finalist Ryan Gregson became the first man in 50 years to win the Burnie Mile from scratch, with Harry Downes the last to achieve the feat in 1967.
Meanwhile Rio 400m semi-finalist Morgan Mitchell followed in the footsteps of her mentor Cathy Freeman, producing three podium placings, including wins over her favoured 400m at the Devonport Carnival, a sprint victory over 120m at Latrobe before a second place in the Burnie Gift 120m final yesterday.
Gregson’s winning time was 4:03.97 and whilst the aim was a sub four-minute time, Gregson said it was the wind that ultimately stood in the way of becoming just the eighth Australian in history to run sub four-minutes for a mile on grass.
“It was windy. It was really tough. The guys did a great job in making it come up nice, I saw the lawnmower go out just before the race. So that gave us every opportunity to run fast.
“I’m a big fan of the sport, and especially mile running. I know all the history, so it just makes a win like this even more special. It’s just so humbling to go down in the record books with some of the greats,” he added.
Earlier in the carnival Mitchell followed Freeman’s footsteps by winning the Devonport 400m from scratch.
After already scoring a win over 120m at the Latrobe carnival, Mitchell returned to the track on Thursday night over her more favoured one-lap distance to record a narrow win in 54.29.
The win replicated the feat of Freeman, who won in Devonport off scratch 23-years ago and also matched the effort of Jamaican Sandie Richards who was the last to win off scratch in 2000.
“I took it a bit easy down the back and when I saw them kick up the front at the 200 metres I thought I was in trouble,” Mitchell said.
“But I remembered why we came here, got my act together, ran hard and just got there.
“I wasn’t really expecting that result before today, so I am really happy with it, especially the time.
“I did want to hike up Cradle Mountain but that’s off the cards now with the trifecta in play. It would be great to get a result at Burnie as well,” Mitchell said, referring to New Year’s Day assignment at the Burnie Carnival.
The 22-year-old fell just short of a stunning treble, finishing second in the big Burnie sprint final.
Gregson’s win rounded out a successful Tasmanian sojourn for a handful of Australia’s top line athletes ahead of the Nitro Athletics and Summer of Aths events in 2017.
Mitchell now returns to Melbourne whilst Gregson and Genevieve LaCaze head to Falls Creek to join the hundreds of runners assembled in the Victorian high country for their annual summer pilgrimage.
The final Team Australia Nitro Athletics squad will be announced soon, with the Australian’s taking on Usain Bolt and the Bolt-All-Stars team that includes Jamaican Olympic gold medallists Asafa Powell and Michael Frater along with 2008 Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper-Nelson from the United States.
The trio will be joined by American hurdler Ryan Wilson and rising young American sprinter Jenna Prandini who boasts a 100m personal best of 10.92.
Combined the six world-class athletes have nine Olympic medals between them, while Wilson, a world championships bronze medallist in the 110m hurdles from 2013, and Prandini, a world championships 4x100m silver medallist in 2015, have both won NCAA titles.
The series will see Australia take on the Bolt All-Stars, China, England, Japan and New Zealand in a new look athletics format in Melbourne on Saturday 4th, Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th February 2017.
Tickets are on sale now at www.nitroathletics.com.au
General Admission tickets start at $24 while adult tickets will sell from just $35, ideal for large groups attending Nitro Athletics with their teammates from athletics, sports and social clubs.
A family ticket for two adults and two children start from under $100 and for those wanting a five-star experience, VIP package tickets are available for $265, including the opportunity to meet a number of competing athletes. A Nitro Athletics Gala dinner featuring Usain Bolt will be held at Melbourne’s Crown Casino on Thursday 2 February.
Nitro Athletics Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government and will be broadcast live Channel 7, 7mate and PLUS7 Live app.