Since the last Oceania Area Championship we have seen the Island’s top sprinter, Banuve Tabakaucoro (FIJ) leave the sport, and the newly-recruited Jeremy Dodson (SAM) re-write the record books.
Jeremy Dodson had represented the USA in the Pan Am Games and the IAAF World Championships in 2011 before switching his allegiance to Samoa in 2015. Since then he has been to the World Championships in 2015, the Rio Olympic Games and the World Indoors (Portland) in 2016. With his 2016 100m time of 10.21 seconds, he is the clear favourite.
There is a large group of athletes vying for the minor medals, and a position in the final. Fiji has a trio of runners (Vilisoni Rarasea, Aaron Powell and Albert Miller Junior), and PNG has four in contention – although only three can be official. They are Nelson Stone, Nazmie-Lee Marai, Charles Livuan and Wesley Logorava. Tonga has Siueni Filimone and Australia has Jonty Flottmann and Nicholas Bate. Getting to the final will be a good achievement. To accommodate the large field of 34 runners, the organisers have had to introduce three rounds, to give the athletes the fairest chance to proceed. This format favours the stronger, better prepared runners. In the past week Nazmie-Lee Marai (PNG) fran a 10.69 seconds in Townsville.
The 200m has the Pacific Islands’ Best record holder, Jeremy Dodson, an even stronger favourite. There are 29 in the field and progressing to the final will be cut-throat and it is hoped that all of the nations have given accurate performance information to assist with fair seeding. With 29 runners it will be only the first in each heat, and then next four fastest times to proceed to the final countdown.
Many of the 100m athletes will be seen in the 200m, but additional ones to watch are Samuela Railoa (FIJ) and Theo Piniau (PNG).
The 400m looks to be dominated by the Island athletes. Fiji’s Samuela Railoa and Sailosi Tubuilagi have both run solid 48 seconds races this year as have PNG’s Ephraim Lerkin and Kaminiel Matlaun. The fastest in the field so far has been Australia’s Murray Goodwin (48.07 in the Australian Nationals in April). What counts is the form in June and July and that is completely unknown. Exciting races ahead.
No outstanding Island 800m times have been seen this year. We do not know the current form of the Cook Islands’ Alex Beddoes who ran 1:51.70 in the UK in 2015. His form has been very inconsistent in recent years, but if he prepares well, then he is the one. The PNG trio of Kaminiel Matlaun, Martin Orovo and George Yamak have been in variable form since the 2015 Pacific Games, but are likely to be ready on the day. Alain Dutton (AUS) with a yearly best of 1:53.95 is probably the early favourite. Martin Orovo won the Melanesian 800m last year with a time of 1:55.90.
The 1500m favourite is Alain Dutton who is the only one in the field to have broken 4 minutes. He ran 3:55.84 in the Australian Nationals in April. Who will follow him home to claim the silver and bronze? Likely contenders are the two PNG athletes George Yamak and Martin Orovo and the evergreen Liam Woollett (AUS). Orovo and Yamak were #1 and #2 in the 2016 Melanesian Championships. The Solomon Islands are attending this championship with very little known about their performance record. Will they surprise?
In the 5000m the current Melanesian Champion, Liam Woollett, who won convincingly last year on this track – 15:32.18, ran 14:59.84 in Brisbane in February. He is the class in the field. Local hope, Avikash Lal, has made a significant improvement over the past year, and will be keen to run a personal best and try to defeat his Island rivals. With so few 5000m races having been run this year, current form is unknown.
The same can be said for the 10000m as well. On paper the strong favourite must be Avikash Lal, who ran a personal best of 33:11.0 in the National Championships earlier this year. He is training hard for this meet. How well will
Rosefelo Siosi (SOL) prepare? He was in superb form in 2015, but could not reach the same standard at the Melanesian Championships last year. That event was won by Avikash.
The 3000m Steeplechase in the Islands has been dominated in recent years by PNG’s Sapolai Yao. He has now retired from the sport and is standing as a candidate in Simbu Province in the PNG National Elections which are currently being held. Who will replace him in the Islands’ competitions? Two relative newcomers to this event, and wantoks, Patrick Kam (SOL) and Simbai Kaspar (PNG) will traim tasol (give it a go).
The 110m Hurdles will have some oldies and newcomers vying for the title. With only 8 entered, it is a straight final. There are several athletes who have recent times of around 15.50 seconds – Errol Qaqa (FIJ), Robson Yinambe (PNG), James Ellis (AUS) – but the stand-out is Terrell McKenzie (AUS) who ran 14.45 seconds in the Australian Championships in April. Mowen Boino (PNG) will be a bit rusty over the high hurdles, but can never be discounted. He is a fierce competitor.
The 400m Hurdles promises to be an epic showdown. Thirty-eight year old Mowen Boino will be trying to win yet another title. His career started out with a bronze at the 1999 SPG in Guam. Since then he has been the dominant Island hurdler, with numerous Oceania titles and four straight Pacific Games gold medals in this event – 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. In a recent meet in Bangkok, he once again ran a 53.17 second time in the heats, but he could not match the better preparation, and younger legs, of compatriot Ephraim Lerkin, who won the final with a massive personal best of 51.56 seconds. With ten in the field, there will be heats here, and we will see who can handle the workload better.
Others who will be trying to cause an upset, and have times in the 55 second range are – Siologa Viliamu Sepa (SAM), Harrison Roubin (AUS), Fine Tokai (TGA) and Peniel Joshua (PNG).
In the U18 and U20 Divisions some of the likely stars are :-
- Joshua Torley (AUS) – 14:37.29 in the U20 5000m.
- Osea Baleinamau (FIJ) – 50.34 in the U18 400m.
- Petero Veitaqomaki (FIJ) – 42 in the U18 400m.
- Louis Stenmark (AUS) – 13 in the U20 400m.
- Emmanuel Wanga (PNG) – 3h in the U20 400m.
- Waisake Naikavu (FIJ) – 04 in the U18 100m.
- Byron Hollingsworth-Dessent (AUS) – 01 in the U18 100m
- Nabil Khan (AUS) – 96 (and 10.91w) in the U18 100m.
- Jordan Shelly (AUS) – 60 in the U20 100m.
- MJ Jansen Van Rensberg (AUS) – 5:54.97 in the U18 2000m Steeple.
- Dylan Holland (AUS) – 9:38.05 in the U20 3000m Steeple.
- Preston Degarnham (AUS) – 94 in the U18 110mH.
- Larry Sulunga (TGA) – 13 in the U20 110mH.
- Kolone Peter Alefosio (SAM) – 77 in the U20 110mH.
- Jackson Robinson (AUS) – 87 in the U20 110mH.
- Samuel Gouveneur (NZL) – 1:56.24 in the U18 800m.
- Patrick Leahy (AUS) – 1:56.55 in the U18 800m.
- Jared Micallef (AUS) – 1:50.65 in the U20 800m
- Joshua Head (AUS) – 1:54.26 in the U20 800m.
- Liam Turner (NZL) – 1:54.59 in the U20 800m.
- Preston Degarnham (AUS) – 60 in the U18 200m.
- Benjamin MacKay (AUS) – 70 in the U20 200m.
- Hugo Whitehead (AUS) – 79 in the U20 200m.
- Emmanuel Wanga (PNG) – 7h in the U20 200m.
- Eliot Metcalf (AUS) – 3:54.89 in the U18 1500m.
- MJ Jansen Van Rensberg (AUS) – 3:57.90 in the U18 1500m
- Jesse Hunt (AUS) – 3:57.48 in the U20 1500m
- Adam Fogg (AUS) – 3:57.80 in the U20 1500m