An exciting group of Australia’s “next gen” triathletes will converge on Victoria’s Werribee foreshores this weekend for two days of non-stop racing action with World Junior Championship selection on the line.
Werribee South Beach Triathlon will play host to more than 100 Junior and Youth triathletes from around the country for the Oceania Triathlon Junior Sprint & Relay Championships, Australian Youth and Junior Mixed Relay Championships and Youth Super Sprint Format.
Saturday will feature the Junior Male and Female Oceania Championship Sprint (750m swim/20km bike/5km run) in between the two-race format scheduled for the Male and Female Youth category over 250m/6km/1.2km.
Junior athletes will have the opportunity to secure the second automatic spots on the Australian Team to compete at the 2022 World Triathlon Sprint & Relay Championships in Montreal from June 22-26.
Sunday will then see the best of the best combine into mixed teams of two (one female and one male) for the Youth Australian Mixed Relay Championship (250/6km/1.2km) and mixed teams of four (two females and two males) for the Junior Australian and Oceania Triathlon Mixed Relay Championship (250/6km/1.2km) – with State Of Origin rivalry on the line.
Australia’s top Juniors have been back in action this year after a dis-jointed 2020 and 2021 due to COVID restrictions with Devonport and Runaway Bay attracting encouraging inter-state fields and throwing up some outstanding performances.
In Devonport it was Bradley Course and Chloe Bateup who stole the show to clinch the first two spots up for grabs on the World’s team, before Toby Powers and Gaby Jackson survived the Runaway Bay Super Sprint format to win the A finals on the unique Gold Coast venue.
And it will be the two Queenslanders, Powers and Jackson who are amongst a host of challengers with their sights on Montreal in June, with the significance of Werribee not lost on either of them after their impressive wins at Runaway Bay.
“This is a very important race in the calendar and the Runaway Bay Sprint race win was certainly a good confidence booster for Werribee and a bit more motivation to do well there with automatic World’s selection on the line,” said Powers, the Hervey Bay product now under the direction of Drew Box.
“It’s been good to get a last little bit of training in and all is on track...things are slowly paying off in training and I’m seeing little improvements which is always a good thing.”
Jackson wasted no time getting back into work after Runaway Bay and started training for Werribee the next day.
“That’s the big one!” said Jackson, who has been honing her swimming skills at the Yeronga Park Squad. Brigidine College student from Sinnamon Park, in Brisbane’s western suburbs said the Yeronga Park squad was amazing: “Especially when you see people breaststroking past you – their open water team is massive also so it will be so good when I need to do a 1500m.”
Joining Jackson in the Junior women’s field will be the likes of Kelsey Mitchell, Georgie Fredricks, Emma Olson-Keating and Paige Cranage.
Mitchell, Fredricks and Olson-Keating were third, fourth and fifth respectively in Devonport while seventh placed Cranage stood out with her impressive racing at Runaway Bay where she was second to Jackson over the Super Sprint format.
“There is some strong swimming pedigree in the women’s race with Aspen Anderson and Georgie (Fredricks) who have strong swims and it makes for some pretty wide open racing for a selection race,” said Triathlon Australia’s National Talent Development Coach, London Olympian Brendan Sexton,
“It’s going to be up to those girls to step up and take the opportunity by the scruff of the neck.
“Paige (Cranage from South Australia) impressed in Runaway Bay coming out of a tough COVID period. (You have to admire her) resolve after what she has been through and she is just so hungry to compete.”
Among the male group will be Gold Coast-based former champion lifesaver Brayden Mercer and East Maitland (NSW) twins Liam and Monty Dixon.
Mercer, the multi-talented son of former lifesaving ironman legend, the late Dean Mercer and Ironwoman mother Reen Corbett, showed his wares in Devonport and again in Mooloolaba.
The 18-year-old led out of the swim in the Sprint race in Tasmania before finishing second to Course in a strong podium finish with Liam Dixon (NSW) third – backing up for an impressive 11th over the Olympic Distance in Mooloolaba – the youngest finisher in the top 20.
“Brayden is certainly an exciting young talent given his time in the sport which has been super, super short,” said Sexton.
“He’s obviously got some real weapons in his open water abilities and he has shown some real grit and fortitude in some of his races, stepping up to the Olympic distance in Mooloolaba.
“Brayden has really taken the sport by the scruff of the neck and is giving it a good go. I am really interested to see how he goes on the weekend.
Monty Dixon also chalked up third at Runaway Bay behind Powers and exciting WA youngster Tommaso Puccini providing a strong group of junior men.
“Both Dixon boys have been going really well, with Monty coming off a rough start to the season from an injury from a bike crash and they have both stepped up compared to previous years,” said Sexton, an East Maitland old boy himself.
“They had been very strong on a State level but were yet to break through on a National level but they have really started to shine through, showing they were really strong through swim, bike and run, even though their traditional strength had been on the run, so they have made some good progression there.”