Olympic Middle Distance Stars Align
Rio Olympic middle-distance runners Luke Mathews and Sam McEntee will light up the night miles at this year’s Fulton Hogan Tasmanian Christmas Carnival series.
Mathews will make his second appearance at the carnivals, after running at Devonport and Burnie in the 2015/2016 series. Shortly after he became the first Australian to quality for both the 800m and 1500m at the same Olympics since Pat Scammell.
“I’m really looking forward to this year’s carnivals. I participated in them two years ago, but unfortunately missed out on the most recent ones. I still have a bit of unfinished business, so I’ll be trying my best to get the win,” Mathews said.
Mathews has continued his burgeoning career into 2017, winning his 1500m heat at the IAAF World Championships in London and will end the year as Australia’s fastest miler of 2017 with a 3:54.53 set at the Prefontaine meeting in Eugene, Orgeon.
With the Commonwealth Games trials a matter of weeks after this year’s series, Mathews said these races will form a key part of his preparation and will be coming ready to race hard.
“This type of running is a completely unique experience. There’s no getting comfortable. You’re constantly on the edge of your threshold. You’re always chasing, you’re always under the pump. I love racing like that,” he declared.
“These races set me up perfectly for the 2016 domestic season, which was my best season in Australia yet. Which is exactly what I’ll need for the Commonwealth Games trials in mid-February. Hopefully I get given a good mark and can get close to the front,” Mathews added.
It will be a totally different experience for Olympic 5000m runner Sam McEntee who will be making his debut at professional running.
“I know a little bit about the series but not a lot... I know the likes of Mottram and Gregson have been down in past years so that can only mean good things. I’ll be expecting some tough competition and to challenging myself over handicapped/pro style of racing, it’ll be a first for me so it’s going to be interesting that’s for sure,” McEntee said.
The 25-year-old is relatively mysterious to the Australian running scene, having been based in the USA since 2011.
“I ran for Villanova in the US between 2011-2015 and went from an okay junior in Australia to a 3:36 1500m runner and within a quarter of a second off an NCAA title over the indoor mile along the way. I really enjoyed my time in the US collegiately and have continued to enjoy the US over the last 2 years on training camps and racing too.
“Training is going well, I’ve been over in New York training with NJNY track club since late September and have been able to get a decent block of training in before making my way back to Melbourne this week.
At 191cm tall and just 67kgs, the Victorian is built like a thoroughbred and like Mathews has had a chart topping 2017 himself.
“I’ve run the Commonwealth Games qualifier for both the 5000 and 1500 and in recent years haven’t had many opportunities over the shorter distance so I’m looking to use these mile races as a stepping stone to what will be a quality 1500m field come trials time.
“I started out as a miler and it wasn’t until I finished up at Villanova and the 2016 season that I focused on the 5000m. A bit like when a natural forward becomes a role player in the backline, they still have that itch to sneak forward and kick a few goals I still rate myself as a good miler when I’m ready and have done the specific training for it,” he laughed.
Like Mathews, McEntee has also had a change in coaching and management in the second half of this year and he is looking forward to what the next chapter of his blossoming career will present.
“After a disappointing result in London this year I decided it was time to make change. I’ve started out with a new coach and a group based in New York, it’s provided me with a new challenge and an environment that I know I’ll be successful in. The quality and depth of both athletes and the races that you find in America is unmatched anywhere else in the world and their success in distance running in recent years backs this up,” McEntee said.
Both athletes will run the Devonport mile on December 30 and Burnie mile on January 1.