In the first of our series of previews of the 2018 Australian Athletics Championships & Nomination Trial at Carrara Stadium, February 15-18, we shine the spotlight on the men’s field events.

A faultless domestic season means pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall (SA) arrives on the Gold Coast the red-hot favourite to claim his third consecutive national pole vault title and confirm his place in the team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The leading vaulter in the Commonwealth, 20-year-old Marschall continues the strong tradition of the event in his state of South Australia. South Australia now boasts four of the top-six vaulters in Australian history. The battle for podium places and potential berths for the Games is breathtakingly close. The three in the mix, all sitting on a stack of B qualifying clearances are 5.55m Declan Carruthers (WA), 5.52m Angus Armstrong (NSW) and 5.40m Stephen Clough (WA). When they met in Perth on January 21, they all cleared the same height of 5.30m. At another meeting a week earlier Armstrong cleared 5.35m, while Clough and Carruthers were over 5.25.

After a break away from the hammer throw, Matthew Denny (Qld) spun his way back into top form on Saturday night at the Queensland Athletics Championships. His mark of 72.65m was his second longest of his career.

“You could technically say it was a PB at the weight I’m at, as last time I threw my PB I was at 130kg and now I’m 118kg,” Denny said.

He is looking forward to competing in the Carrara Stadium.

“In the circle at nationals you will be able to turn faster and stay in the circle.”

However, the timetable for the discus and hammer throw events are a challenge for him with back to back qualifying rounds and finals on the Thursday and Friday.

“The plan is to get in get the job done as fast as I can [in the qualifying rounds] so I can have a quick turn around and be fresh. It would be better if it was the other way around as hammer is so neurally destroying. Things you have to do when you complete in multiple events. But nationals are going to be fun.”

How does he rate his current hammer form since his personal best from 11 months ago?

“Things have turned 180 degrees,” Denny explained. “I’m just enjoying life a lot better. Moving well, enjoying my training environment. It doesn’t seem like a job. Just loving it.”

The discus throw is a clash of the locals, with three Queenslanders owning Commonwealth Games A qualifiers. By the tape measure a metre and a half separates Benn Harradine (Qld), Mitch Cooper (Qld) and Matthew Denny (Qld). Harradine will be looking to add to his haul of six titles. The national record-holder first stood on the podium in 2002, winning bronze. But his major target will be selection for his fourth Commonwealth Games. Rio Olympian, Denny, is looking likely the other title contender with his fine throw of 61.07m in wet conditions in Brisbane on Friday evening. Now back in Australia after studying Geography at Kansas University, Mitch Cooper has thrown 63.98m in the qualifying period and is the ninth-best in Australian history.

An intriguing battle looms in the long jump with Henry Frayne (Qld) in competition for the first time since the 2017 IAAF World Championships. The only athlete with a Commonwealth Games A qualifier was forced to skip the Queensland championships with a minor hip injury.

However, his coach Gary Bourne noted it will not be the first time he has opened his season at the nationals. Former Commonwealth Games champion, Fabrice Lapierre (NSW) launched his season last weekend in Flagstaff, USA, with a 7.70m leap. The form athlete domestically has been reigning national champion, Chris Mitrevski (Vic), who has performed well this season with that tag.

“It was good and weird hearing that ‘reigning national champion’ before your events,” he said. “Something different. I was a late developer and didn’t win my first national medal until under-20s so my first-ever medal in opens was gold.”

With that title behind him and a solid season where he has been undefeated and nailed a few 7.80m comps he is set to go for the nationals.

“I’m feeling really good,” Mitrevski said. “All my jumps have exceeded what I expected. The plan for nationals is to recover this week and just do what I have been doing for the last few weeks. I plan to not worry about what everybody else is doing. In the past I have done that, watched everybody else. I just have to focus on myself. Keep myself occupied before my event and not get too nervous as I can worry a bit.”

The triple jump has seen a resurgence over the last few weeks – great news considering Australia’s previous representation in the event was in 2006 with bronze medalist Alwyn Jones (SA), Andrew Murphy (NSW) in fourth and Michael Perry (NSW) in ninth.

With no Commonwealth Games qualifiers as before the new year, Shemaiah James (Qld) and Emmanuel Fakiye (NSW) bounded out to massive personal bests of 16.42m and 16.26m respectively in Canberra in late January. South Australian Dylan Johnson has staked a late claim with his own personal best of 16.14m, however he still needs to add 11 centimetres for a qualifier. Nine-time national champion, Jones can’t be discounted, having led the season rankings early with his 16.02m in December.

The high jump is a very open event. Amongst the Aussies there are six athletes sitting on a B qualifier: Brandon Starc (NSW), Brenton Foster (Qld), Joel Baden (Vic), Joseph Baldwin (Vic), John Dodds(Qld) and Nik Bojic (Qld), however interestingly Dodds and US-based Foster will not start in the event.

Australian record holder Damien Birkinhead (Vic) should have no trouble defending his national shot put title and confirming his selection for a second Commonwealth Games. The same appears for Tasmanian javelin thrower Hamish Peacock who is chasing his third consecutive national title.

World record holder and world champion in the T38 shot put, Cam Crombie (ACT) will compete knowing he is already selected for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, courtesy of his pre-selection. He is in good form, following his second-longest career mark of 15.64m in Canberra in January. The silver and bronze medals are expected to be a tight battle between Martin Jackson (Vic) and Jayden Sawyer (ACT). Jackson has an A and Sawyer B Commonwealth Games qualifiers and are both in the mix for selection.

Australia’s finest decathlete for a decade, Cedric Dubler (Qld) starts favourite for the national decathlon title. As he sits on a B Commonwealth Games qualifier, he will be looking for his third 8000-point score of his career. He has been in good form domestically with personal bests in the 110m hurdles, discus and pole vault. Gold Coast local and English Commonwealth Games team member, John Lane also lines up for the event, but will use it as a training competition and is unlikely to complete the event.

Media release courtesy of Athletics Australia