Melanesian Championships

Melanesian Championships

Report written by OAA Life Member, Bob Snow. 

With the Melanesian Championships doubling as the official trial for the Youth Olympics to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1st-6th October 2018), it was not surprising that the main highlights of the meet came from the U18 Division. Australia and New Zealand had sent very strong teams. Only those present here for the three days of competition could be considered for the Youth Olympics. They delivered some excellent performances.

Many of the Pacific Islands sent development teams with an eye to “blooding” their up-and-coming athletes for the major competitions of 2019 – the Oceania Championships in Townsville, Australia, in June and the Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa, in July.

With most of the South Pacific Islands emerging from the tropical cyclone and rainy season we were extremely lucky to start the “double championships” with dry conditions, with only one brief reminder that rain can come at any time.

First up were the Hammer Throw competitions. In the U18 Women, Rochelle  Vidler of Australia was a comfortable winner with a throw of 58.37m. In the U18 Men’s event Tristan Churchward (AUS) won narrowly with 59.83m from fellow countryman Elliot Housden with 57.90m.

New Caledonia went 1 & 2 in the Senior Women’s Hammer Throw with the winner being Leina Durand (46.32m) from Ashley Bologna (43.82). Tomasi Petelo Toto (NCL) was in a class of his own winning the Senior men’s HT with 57.29m.

Team Vanuatu at the Opening Ceremony.

After the official opening ceremony the track events got under way with the heats of the 100m.

In the U18 Women’s Division it was Australia leading the way with Fiji not too far behind. With the wind playing a part in the proceedings they were the only ones in the heats to go below 13.00 seconds. In the final, late in the day, Sophie White (AUS) won from Stephanie Welsh (AUS) 12.19 seconds to 12.20. Nail biting finish. The two Fiji runners, who came 3rd and 4th were also separated by only 1/100th of a second –  Louisa Tubailagi (12.71) to Salote Baravilala (12.72). The wind reading was -1.5mps.

The U18 Men’s division New Zealand and Australia shared the spoils in the heats. In the final, Dominic Overend (NZL) narrowly won 11.02 (-3.1) from Matthew Otto (AUS) – 11.07, and Godwin Opoku-Mensah (AUS) – 11.08.

The Senior Women had only 8 entries, so went to a straight final. The Men’s heats proved exciting for the Vanuatu crowd as Tiki Terry Mael (VAN) won the first heat in 11.07 (-3.0) by a significant margin. In the second heat the favourite, Anas Abu-Ganaba (AUS) got left at the start and had to go up several gears before he crossed the line first – 10.99 (-1.6).

The Final of the Senior Women’s event was a bit of an anti-climax as it was meant to be a close clash between Heleina Young (FIJ) and Nicole Kay (AUS). In the end Heleina was much too strong and was a comfortable winner in 12.03 (-1.2). She had hoped for more favourable conditions to held her get a qualifying time for the World U20 Championships in Finland later this year. There will always be the 200m on the final day of competition.

There was no way Anas Abu-Ganaba (AUS) was going to false start in the final. He gave a metre to the rest of the field and at the 60m mark was well behind Tiki Terry Mael (VAN). Once again he turned on the after-burners and won by a significant, but narrow, margin –  11.69 seconds to 11.73 seconds (-1.1).

Senior Men’s 100m Final. At the 60 metre mark, Tiki had a significant gap on Anas.

In Pacific Islands / Oceania competition, the inclusion of Para events is now standard. Four events were held today, with the winners being  –

  • Falemanu Aveuki (WF) in the Men’s Shot Put Ambulatory (12.08m – 85.01%),
  • Friana Kwevira (VAN) Women’s Shot Put Ambulatory (7.82m – 62.71%),
  • Tamsin Colley (AUS) Women’s 100m (16.35 – 83.67%) and
  • Alexander McKillop (AUS) Men’s 100m (13.72 – 86,73%).

The Pole Vault events were held today, with the winners being –

  • Sililo Kivalu (WF) Senior Men’s – 2.70m,
  • Isabelle Napier (AUS) Senior Women’s – 3.50m,
  • Riley Higgins (AUS) U18 Men’s  –  30m and
  • Anastasia Williams (AUS) U18 Women’s – 3.20m.

The 3000m Men combined U18 and Senior Divisions in the one race. The winners were –

  • Simon Charley, Vanuatu’s Mini Games hero (Senior Men – 9:22.97),
  • Luke Young (AUS – 8:46.90 in the U18 Men)
  • Sharon Firisua (multiple Pacific Games gold medal winner from the Solomon Islands in the Senior Women’s race – 10:38.99)
  • Ruby White (AUS – 9:36.08 in the U18 Women)

The Shot Put competitions held today were won by –

  • Jean Paul Vehikite (NCL) who threw 13.43m in the Senior Men,
  • Kamali Muliloto (WF) – 14.71m in the U18 Men’s

Day 2:

The second day of competition started with a series of field events and every track event was a final.

One of the young stars of New Zealand Athletics was up first – Connor Bell. His 2017 season’s best of 65.63m (in the U18 Men’s Discus) is better than the gold medal throw at the previous World Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China in 2014. Up until today he was ranked third in the world for the U18 division (2018 lists), but after the competition, which he won handily, he leap-frogged Spain and Norway to claim the top spot. His distance was 64.47m.

U18 Men’s Discus medal ceremony.

The Senior Men, throwing the 2.00kg implement, competed at the same time. The Senior winner was New Caledonia’s Tomasi Petelo Toto with 38.59m, marginally ahead of Vanuatu’s Ghislain Weto with 37.27m.

The Women’s Discus events saw a great U18 contest with Sally Shokry (AUS – 49.30m) winning by only 2cm from Lyvante Su’emai (AUS – 49.28m). The Senior Women’s event was won by Larissa O’Dea (AUS – 43.28m) from Atana Takosi (NCL – 41.65m).

The U18 Women’s Long Jump saw a strong competition between Annie McGuire (AUS – 6.04m) and fellow Australian Samantha Dale (5.90m). The Senior Women also were part of the same pool of athletes, with the winner being Allison Nankivell (AUS – 5.87m).

The U18 Men’s Long Jump event was excellent. It was won by Joshua Cowley (AUS – 7.52m) from Godfrey Okerenyang (AUS – 6.76m). The Senior Men’s Division was won by Jojo Kalotiti (VAN) with a distance of 6.62m. The Para event winner was Lleyton Lloyd (AUS – 5.26m – 82.95%)

The U18 Division 2000m Steeplechase saw a fierce battle in the Women’s race with the gold medal going to Jamie Hiscock (AUS – 6.36.93) from Hannah O’Connor (NZL – 6:37.69). The U18 Men’s Steeple was again an AUS versus NZL struggle, with Patrick Thygesen (AUS – 6:06.50) ahead of Murdoch McIntyre (NZL 6:10.23).

The Senior Men’s 3000m Steeplechase duplicated the Mini Games finish with Vanuatu in first and second – Simon Charley (10:07.58) from Jack Lelow (10:11.21).

During the day when the sun was shining brightly, the magnificent setting of the Korman Stadium was highlighted. The majestic bank, full of rainforest greenery, provides a great background for our competition. Pure Pacific Islands.

Korman Stadium

The Women’s High Jump saw Elizabeth Moss (AUS – 1.76m) take the gold in the U18 Division, and Laura Perich (AUS – also 1.76m) in the Senior Division.

Combined Women’s High Jump

The 400m Finals came late in the day with the medals being spread around five different countries.

The U18 Women’s event was won by Caitlyn Ferrier (AUS – 54.26) from Serenia Ragatu (FIJ – 57.25). Serenia ran faster than she did in the Fiji Schools’ Championship three weeks ago. The Senior Women’s event was won by Vanuatu’s golden girl, Valentine Hello, in the time of 58.94 seconds. The Women’s Para event was won by Australia’s Stephanie Schweitzer – 63.40 (91.14%).

The Men’s U18 event saw Keegan Bell (AUS – 47.88) as the winner and the Senior Men’s 400m won comfortably by Australia’s Jordan Sarmento (47.22), from Bradly Toa (VAN – 49.22). The gold in the Para Event went to Kyle Potgieter (AUS) – 58.49 with 82.95%.

Time to get the hurdles out and prepare for the sprint hurdles events – 100m for Women and 110m for the Men. Good to see Sally Pearson placing and adjusting the hurdles as only an expert can do. This was when she was not raking the sand pit! She joined the army of Oceania and Vanuatu volunteers who worked diligently throughout the day to ensure that the meet was a huge success.

Sally Pearson preparing for the sprint hurdles events. The 400m Hurdles will be on Day Three.

Sophie White (AUS) won the U18 Women’s 100m Hurdles in the smart time of 13.61 seconds. The Senior Women’s event was won by Rhonda Byrnes from Australia (15.19).

The 110m Hurdles events were fiercely contested. The U18 event saw two Australians vie for the golden honours – Aiden Saluni-Kettle (14.29) and Nicholas Dang (14.66) and two Tongans battling for bronze, with Sione Tuihalamaka (15.88) claiming the prize.

In the Mini Games, 400m Hurdles winner, Mowen Boino (PNG) was scratched from the 110m Hurdles without his knowledge. He was extremely disappointed, as he wanted to try and win a second gold medal in front of his adopted home family and friends. It was not to be. This time he was mentally prepared, and so was his chief rival, Errol Qaqa (FIJ) who got the silver in December. From the gun the race was neck and neck, and as they crossed the finishing line Mowen was in front (15.25 seconds) marginally ahead of Errol (15.44). They did this into the face of a 4.3mps wind. They will renew their rivalry in June and July next year – assuming that Mowen, who will then be 39-years of age, feels like continuing his career. I would not bet against him continuing. He is the ultimate competitor.

Ulrich, Mowen and Errol after receiving their medals.

The last group of individual events saw four good 1500m races. The winner of the U18 Women’s was Jaylah Hancock-Cameron (AUS – 4:21.72) and the Senior Women’s event went to Caitlin Murdoch (AUS – 4:46.67).

The U18 Men’s event was a good three-way tussle with the winner being Luke Young (AUS – 4:07.64) from Oli Raimond (AUS – 4:08.48) and Dick Kapalu (VAN – 4:16.96). Dick ran faster than the gold medal winner did in the December Mini Games.

The Senior Men’s 1500m was all Vanuatu, as they filled the first five places. Winner was Josiah Bakeo (4:27.15) from Jack Lelow (4:27.21).

The final event of the day was fun, frantic and exciting. It was the 800m Mixed Medley Relay. One male and one female who each ran 100m, then passing the baton to a female 200m runner, and finally a male 400m anchor runner to bring it home.  Fiji had built up a handy lead at the half way mark, but once Australia’s Keegan Bell got the baton he managed to whittle Fiji’s lead and then took over in the finishing straight.  Good to see such an enjoyable relay to finish a day of great Athletics.

Oscar Miers (AUS) went into the first event of the day, the U18 Men’s High Jump as the overwhelming favourite and he won with the height of 2.10m, from Kurtis Smith (AUS) who cleared 2.00m The Men’s Senior High Jump had Matthew Tilley (AUS) as the top seed and he won with a jump of 2.00m.

Each day started with a wide selection of field events, prior to the first track race.

Jumps and throws started Day Three

As the High Jump competitions got under way the combined Men’s and Women’s 5000m event started their 12.5 lap race.

The Women’s event was always going to be Audrey Hall’s to win. The Australian was clear of Dinah Matekali (SOL) and won in the time of 18:42.09 with Dinah clocking 19:12.49.

The Men’s event had Australian Para athlete, with mild visual impairment, Edward Said, up against five Vanuatu runners. Simon Charley, who won the silver medal in the Mini Games was out to convert that valuable metal to gold! The predictable result was Vanuatu 1-2-3-4-5 with Simon Charley taking the gold in the time of 16:36.76 and Edward Said clocked 19:44.11 to enthusiastically accept his gold medal later in the afternoon.

Edward Said getting his gold medal for the Para 5000m from Vanuatu’s great distance runner from the 1990’s, and National Record holder for the 5000m, Tawai Keiruan.

The U18 Women’s Javelin was won by Jasmin Lockwood (AUS) with a distance of 45.70m. The Senior Women’s was won by Linda Selui (NCL) with a throw of 41.58m. Linda has won the Pacific Games Javelin four times, and first represented New Caledonia in the 1993 Mini Games at the old Korman Stadium in Port Vila.

Local hero, Friana Kwevira, who won the Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the F46 Javelin, came second in her Javelin contest with a throw of  22.95m (53.34%) behind Katelyn Smith (AUS) with 21.42m (53.85%). Oh so close.

The heats of the 200m event brought together the best from the 100m fields, stepping up a distance, and some from the 400m events, stepping down to the half-lap event. The Senior Women went to a straight final, but the other three divisions required heats.

In the U18 Women’s it was Australia and Fiji who took out the fastest times. Monique Quirk (AUS) was fastest with 24.84 (-1.6).  The U18 Men heats were dominated by Australia and New Zealand. After his 100m success, however, third fastest, Dominic Overend (NZL) was the one capturing most attention.

The 100m medal winners, Anas Abu-Ganaba (AUS – 22.02) and Tikie Mael (VAN – 22.09) cruised to easy heat wins, and looked to renew their rivalry in the final. They did not disappoint.

Anas Abu-Ganaba (AUS) in his 200m heat round the bend into the straight

While the 200m heats were in progress, the Triple Jump competitors were continuing on the infield.

Kayla Goodwin (NZL) won the Women’s U18 Division with 12.62m (+1.0). Australia also won the Senior Women’s TJ with Allison Nankivell taking the gold with 12.75m (+0.8).

In the Men’s events, the U18 Champion was Joshua Cowley (AUS) 14.58m (-2.8) from Tully Murphy (AUS) 14.42m (+2.9). The wind was playing capricious games at this stage.  The Senior Division was won by Vanuatu’s Jojo Kalotiti with a jump of 14.40m (+2.3). He is closing in on the long-held national record of 14.65m which has stood since 1978. Second was New Caledonia’s Ulrich Buama with 13.85m (-1.4).

Keely and Jaylah cruising through the first lap of the U18 Women’s 800m Final.

Following the 200m heats, the finals of the 800m events took place. All eyes were on the U18 Women’s to see Keely Small (AUS) take to the track. Keely, following her fantastic heat time in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, is now ranked #1 in the world for her division – a good three seconds clear of second position.

Choosing to cruise through the first lap with a controlled pace, Keely “unleashed the beast” on the final lap to roar to an emphatic win in the time of 2:05.35 a time only she and an Ethiopian athlete have beaten this year. Keely has five of the six fastest times of the year in the U8 Division.

In the Senior Women’s event, Isabella Thornton-Bott (AUS) had a comfortable win in 2:10.67 over Fiji’s Vilorina Tuilawaki (2:20.97) and the gold medal winner from the December Mini Games, Valentine Hello from Vanuatu (2:21.34).

The U18 Men’s 800m Final was a closely fought battle with two Australians having their eye on the prize – Buenos Aires.  Narrow winner was Anthony Vlatko (1:53.76) from Luke Shaw (1:53.97). In third was Vanuatu’s Dick Kapalu with 2:01.68.

The Senior Men’s Race was won by Stuart Geddes from Regional Australia (2:02.14) from Fiji’s Marika Cabenagauna (2:03.34).

Time for some more field events with the Javelin and Shot Put once again being featured.

In the U18 Women’s Shot Lyvante Su’emai (AUS) won with a throw of 15.73m. The Senior Women’s Shot was won by New Caledonia’s Ashley Bologna with a distance of 15.16m.

The crowd was treated to some long javelin throws. In the Men’s U18 Division, Wallis & Futuna’s Sosefo Tufale won (51.06m) from his countryman Mikaele hanisi (45.98m). The Senior Javelin was won by Australia’s Saxon Ward (65.77m) from Vanuatu’s Jack Nasawa (60.37m).

The respective U18 400m Hurdles were won by Mikalya Cruz (AUS – 69.76) and Thomas Throssell (AUS – 53.44). In the Senior Division the winners were Madeline Putz (AUS – 68.52) and Jackfrey Tamathui (VAN – 54.87). Fiji’s sprint hurdle specialist, Erroll Qaqa was having his first-ever 400m Hurdle race – 3rd with the time of 56.71 seconds.

The hurdles were removed from the track and the 200m Finals took centre stage.

The U18 for Men was won, as expected, by the 100m winner, Dominic Overend from New Zealand, in the very smart time of 21.57 (-0.7). Godfrey Okerenyang (AUS) crossed the line second in the time of 22.20 seconds.

The U18 Women’s 200m Final Emma Klassen (AUS) won in the time of 24.64

(-0.8) by a small margin over her teammate, Monique Quirk (24.94). Fiji filled places 3, 4 & 5.

The Senior Women saw Nicole Kay (AUS) narrowly edge out Fiji’s Heleina Young – 24.50 to 24.77 (-1.3). Heleina will have to try another venue to get her World U20 Championship qualifier. The wind has not been kind to the sprinters this time around. The South-East Trade winds are now prevailing.

Heleina Young in action on the final day. 200m winner, Nicole Kay out of picture to the left.

The local expectation was that Tikie Mael (VAN) could take out the Senior Men’s 200m. He had Looked so good in his heat. So too had 100m winner, Anas Abu-Ganaba (AUS). In the end it was Anas who prevailed when he stormed to a clear win in 21.27 (-1.1) from Vanuatu’s hope – Tikie Mael with a very respectable time of 21.59m.

The rest of the Pacific is now on notice. Tikie Mael is back and ready to challenge all comers in 2019.

And so to the realys – always a fantastic way to bring a meet to a close. In the Women’s 4 x 100m, Australia (47.03) defeated Fiji (47.94).  In the Men’s Australia narrowly defeated Vanuatu 41.61 to 41.77 with Godfrey Okerenyang and George Molisingi battling it out down the final straight.

The crowd’s warm reception for all of the Para athletes was pleasing. Friana’s Commonwealth bronze has probably been the catalyst for this breakthrough. Regional Australia’s William Vince-Moir, who seemed to be in an incredibly large number of events, recruited the whole Stadium to sign on as members of his fan club. Initially it was just his Regional Australian Team, but then it spread to all. They cheered his every run and jump.

The afternoon action ended with yet another bout of Athletics mayhem with unofficial mixed geneder teams for the 4 x 400m Relay. Most of the competitors were from Team Australia, but it sure was a joyous way to end three days of Oceania competition, during which many very serious athletes achieved extremely high standards. Unofficial although this race may have been, it was “officially” absolute fun. Should happen more often. Sorry. We do not have time times and placings for you! Suspect that they were irrelevant.

Mixed gender relays are now a standard part of the world Athletics scene. They are part of the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas and the Mixed 4 x 400m Relay will be the final event of the IAAF World Championships in Doha in October 2019.

At the end of the Nanjing Youth Olympics in 2014, they also had a wonderful mixed relay of 8 x 100m – four women and four men, with all members of the one team coming from eight different countries. Australians managed to be in the gold, silver and bronze winning teams! Great concept. Mixed gender, mixed countries. Our sport is evolving. Make sure you do so in your home federations.

At the Closing Ceremony, Yvonne Mullins announced the Performances of the Championships. The winner for the women was Keely Small (AUS – 800m) and for the men it was Connor Bell (NZL – Discus). In addition it should be noted that with his prodigious Long Jump of 7.52m, Joshua Cowley (AUS) ended the week ranked #3 in the World for the U18 Division.

We were privileged to see such a high level of competition over the three days and now focus on the big 2019 competitions – June in Townsville (Oceania Championships) and July in Apia, Samoa (Pacific Games).

See you all soon at a track near you.

The full results of the competition can be found on the Oceania Website.