It won’t be easy making the team to represent Australia in the men’s middle-distance events at the World U20 championships in Lima, Peru later this year.

It never is, but if bloodlines count for anything young Tasmanian Alex Hanigan is as good a chance as any. Should he make the team, he will be the third Hanigan to represent at world junior level. Both his father, Brendan Hanigan, and uncle, Kealin Hanigan, have already been there, done that.

Photo by: The Mercury

Kealin Hanigan ran the 800 and 1500 metres at the Plovdiv edition of the world juniors in 1990. That was the team of Freeman, Gainsford-Taylor, Forsyth, Robinson and Vander-Kuyp, among others.

Brendan Hanigan went a step (or two) better in Seoul two years later, taking the bronze medal in the 800. He also finished fifth in the 1994 Commonwealth Games and won three national titles at 800. Again, in 1994, he ran 1:45.03 in Lappeenranta, Finland, at that time making him the third-fastest Australian man over the distance behind Mexico City 1968 Olympic champion Ralph Doubell and 1982 Commonwealth Games champion Peter Bourke.

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Brendan still sits in eighth place among the top-10 Australians all-time. For those of us who appreciate a quirky stat, he is also the fastest Australian man not to have broken 1:45. (He probably won’t thank me for pointing that out!)

Strong bloodlines for Alex Hanigan then. One thing he won’t want to inherit from his father though is a propensity for injuries, specifically of the lower-leg type. Brendan Hanigan’s citation for membership of the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame notes that his pursuit of excellence was often thwarted by illness and injuries.

“He had more than 40 calf and foot injuries in nine years,” the citation reads adding, without a hint of irony: “These naturally had an enormous impact on his ability to train and compete at the highest levels.”

Well . . . yeah!

We almost certainly never saw the best of Brendan Hanigan, one of several athletes who looked capable of improving Ralph Doubell’s long-standing national record who somehow just never quite did.

Speaking of records, Hanigan’s 1:45.03 is still the Tasmanian state record. Brendan also holds the state U20 record and – just to spread it around a little – Kealin Hanigan holds the U19 record.

If legacy is a bonus for Alex Hanigan, the circumstances in which he currently finds himself are very definitely a stimulus. To get into the Australian world junior team he may have to acquire some family records along the way.

The selection standard for the 800 metres is 1:50.50. After running a personal best 1:52.75 to win the B-race at a Victorian Milers Club meeting in January, Alex Hanigan ran another PB – 1:49.78 this time – to win the A-race at the February Milers Club meeting.

That’s the standard ticked off. But there are three faster U20-eligible athletes ahead of Hanigan in 2024, headed by the formidable pair of Peyton Craig and Cameron Myers. Another three athletes have run sub-1:52.


Craig, a former age group triathlon national champion and winner of the U20 de Castella 3000 at last December’s Zatopek meeting, burst into Olympic year with a breakthrough 800 of 1:45.77 in Canberra on 26 January.

Myers, who showed phenomenal ability as a 16-year-old in the 2022-23 domestic season was one of those to finish behind Craig, improving his PB to 1:47.11 in third place. In sixth place, another U20 in Hayden Todd produced a 1:48.08 PB. Hanigan has just slashed three seconds off his previous best in one hit but is still more than one-and-a-half seconds off the slowest of these three.

Circumstances may change between now and the nationals, but at the minute the considerable obstacles of Myers and Craig stand between any other aspirants and selection, especially as there is a limit of two athletes per individual event at the world U20s. The selectors could even declare an event a ‘no trial’ if the best two qualified athletes do not compete, a scenario which could arise if Craig and Myers contested the senior events only.


Former Olympic 400 runner Susan Andrews, who shares Alex Hanigan’s coaching with his father, has adopted a pragmatic approach to such differing possibilities. The main priority, she says, has been to get Alex Hanigan to the standard and then see where the rest of the season takes him.

Phase one has obviously been a success then. We will watch subsequent phases with heightened interest.