There were records and personal bests galore at the 2014 NSW 3000 metres championships held at Homebush on Saturday night.
It was a big night of running with nine men’s heats of about 19 athletes, plus four women’s heats and first up a community 3000m, where Dave (Robbo) Robertson ran holding a microphone and commentating – now you don’t see that everyday at the track. The RunNSW Mixed gender 3k was a close race with 23 year old Jessie Thompson winning in a very respectable 9:18.92. First woman home was Kathryn Bolitho of the resurgent Woodstock Runners Club in 12:09.60. Both runners received a pair of Nike running shoes from the Running Store Potts Point. The first ever community race was a success and kicked off a great night of distance running with greater participation in both men’s and women’s championship races as well.
The women’s 3000 metres was one of the best fields assembled for the race. Five athletes had sub-9:20 personal bests, but it would be a 13-year-old who stole the show. In late ’80s 1987 Nicola Corbin was one of a powerful group of distance running girls who ran for the Reebok club (now Sydney Pacific). The group recorded stunning times as juniors: Suzy Walsham (9:06), Julie Beckhaus (9:21), Sharon Dalton (9:06) and Nicola Corbin (9:16). In 1987, Corbin set the NSW under-16 record at 9:34.00. Now 27 years on, her 13-year-old daughter, Abbey Rockliff (ASW), has been making significant progress in distance events, but it was a tough ask for her to step up three age groups and attempt to break an under-16 record, despite Rockliff recently running 9:49.93.
“It was only my second 3k so I was just running to get a good time and see what I could do against the older and faster girls,” said Rockliff.
But could she really run that quick?
“I thought she was behind the record pace, but over the last two laps she brought it home,” said her mum Nicola Corbin.
But Rockliff was equal to the challenge storming home in seventh place in 9:31.80, as she broke the record by 2.2 seconds, clocked a world youth qualifier (but is age-ineligible) and came with five second of the world age record, which she has 11 months to chase.
“I’m wrapped. It is really nice for Abbey to break the record that I held for so long,” said Corbin.
“I only recently found out about the record, but it is pretty cool to break it,” said Rockliff.
The race was quick, being paced by Katelyn Simpson, a 4:18 1500m runner who was a finalist at the 2011 world youth championships. After she dropped out, Kate Spencer (SYU) led a pack which comprised Bridey Delaney (STG), Madeline Heiner (KEJ) and Celia Sullohern (MQH).
“I was a little boxed in at the start and I was trying to stay with Katelyn the pace maker,” recalled Spencer.
“Over the last two or three laps I was winding it up,” which she did well as she moved away from the field and stormed home for a three second win in 9:09.29, slicing seven seconds from her personal best. The time also moved her to number 11 on the Australian under-20 all time list, past Benita Willis and now just behind her world junior team mate Jessica Hull.
“I had a break after world juniors,” said Spencer. “Then I resumed training and the routine so that was good. I ran a pb (1500m at Uni Games) first up so that was great.”
Surprisingly Spencer comfortably beat Madeline Heiner (KEJ) who placed fourth in the Commonwealth games steeplechase. The bronze medal was won by Bridey Delaney (STG) in a pb of 9:12.95. There were also personals bests for: fourth Milly Clark (SYU, 9:17.14, 7 seconds), fifth Celia Sullohern (MQH, 9:17.33, two seconds) and sixth Trychelle Kingdom (UTN, 9:31.13). With Rockliff setting a personal best in seventh, six of the top-7 nailed pbs.

In the men’s B race, Canberra’s 15-year-old Josh Toley placed third in a 23 second personal best of 8:25.51, but more importantly he smashed the Australian under-16 record of 8:29.26, held by Michael Power set in 1992.
“The plan was to get stuck into the race early, then hold it. I felt pretty good at the start and at the finish I was thinking no pain no gain so kept on pushing. The record was a target and I thought I’d be around it (the record) but didn’t think I’d run that fast,” said the year nine student, who is coached by Philo Saunders.
The men’s race was a win to Victorian visitor, Tom Fawthorpe in 8:03.12; as he just edged Josh Wright (Randwick Botany) who ran 8:30.30.
“I had 8:10 in my mind, but to run 8:03 is a massive bonus,” said Fawthorpe.
Wright was also pleased with his performance.
“I’ve only been back running for 12 weeks now, so to run a pb tonight was good.”
Third across the line was Jack Stapleton (Randwick Botany) in an impressive 8:08.93.
“We planned the pace around eight minutes. The first k was good, then in the middle of the race the pace dropped off a little. I took it up well in the last section. So it was good to run pb.”
Stapleton was having his first run since the world juniors in July.
“Coming back from world juniors I felt pretty disappointed. I then struggled for motivation to get back into training for a few months. Hopefully I can run a bit quicker at Zatopek.”

David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW