The first of more than 1800 athletes have descended on Perth (WA) for day one of the Australian Junior Athletics Championships.

Headlined by Annabel McDermott (NSW) and Matthew Ramsden (WA), who achieved automatic selection to the IAAF World Under 20 Championships in the first session, the six-day competition will pit athletes aged under 14 through under 20 against each other in the race for the national crown.

McDermott was the first Australian to book their ticket to Bydgoszcz 2016 at these championships, clocking a qualifying time of 16:30.25 to win the girl’s under 20 5000m. Her second performance this season quicker than the required standard, the 17-year-old made a late decision to push for selection with the hard work she has put in paying dividends.

“I’m very excited to be the first one picked. I’m stoked, it’s a great feeling,” McDermott said.

“The race sped up as the race progressed, just faster and faster. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t really have a race plan but it panned out how I liked. It’s really good. This closes out my season now, I can focus on school for a bit and then from Term 2 start really building towards the worlds.”

Not to be outdone, Ramsden lined up in the next race with two boy’s 5000m qualifiers under his belt at the sound of the gun. Biding his time in the lead pack for much of the first four kilometres, the Perth-based charge then made his move to the front and never looked back, crossing to win and achieve automatic selection in 14:44.83.

“I’m bloody pumped. I was the only one in the field with the time and I had the home court advantage, so to get it done is great. Everything went my way,” Ramsden said.

“I’ve got a few friends down to watch to. Having them here helped me, for sure. I’m known for my kick and that’s what did it for me tonight. It’s a great boost before the 1500m. I think I can win that too, I’ll be out there giving it my best shot.”

IPC Athletics World Championships representative Jaryd Clifford (Vic) lined up alongside Ramsden in the boy’s under 20 5000m, clocking a para-athletics national record of 15:09.17 for athletes who are visually impaired (T12). The time is a 22-second personal best and doubles as a Rio 2016 ‘B’ standard for the Paralympic Games.

Athletics Australia Junior High Performance Manager, Sara Mulkearns, is excited by what lies ahead at the championships, with day one results highlighting the strength of performances we could see across the six days of competition.

“The results this evening have set the tone for what will be a fantastic showcase of Australian junior athletics. We’ve seen two athletes select themselves for the IAAF World Under 20 Championships already and this trend is likely to continue across the course of the championships. Almost sixty athletes are already qualified for Bydgoszcz 2016 ensuring that the team this year is likely to be our biggest ever,” Mulkearns said.

“Importantly for the future of the sport, these championships provide a great chance for our National Junior Coaches to interact with the next generation of Australian talent and their coaches, including those that are likely to be selected for our under 17 and under 19 squads. More than 1800 athletes are competing here and to see the continuing development as they compete is outstanding.”

In other results on day one of the Australian Junior Athletics Championships:

–          Jimmy Gordon (Qld) won the boy’s under 20 discus throw national title with a throw of 54.56m, as Mitchell Pepper (NSW) won silver (54.36m) and Lachlan Page (SA) the bronze (51.03m).

–          The home state of Western Australia won five gold medals, with Ramsden join atop the dais by Tia Chitty (WA, 3000m), Melany Smart (WA, 3000m), Clarissa Herbst (WA, 3000m) and Raynor Keane (WA, para-athletics 1500m).

The Australian Junior Athletics Championships is the largest in-stadium event hosted by Athletics Australia. Competition spans six days and continues tomorrow through Sunday 13 March, with the Perth Track Classic to be held on Saturday 12 March.

For more information on the Australian Junior Athle