Stromlo hosts the battle for the guaranteed spots on the Australian team
Some of Australia's best distance runners descended on Stromlo Forest in Canberra for the 2019 World Cross Country Trials - the only opportunity to win guaranteed spots on the team for World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark at the end of March.
It's not the only way to make the team - there is some selection discretion for the other spots on the team, but finishing 1st or 2nd would guarantee a ticket to Denmark.
The course, purpose built and immaculate, has to be the best cross country course in Australia.
Men and women both had to complete 4 laps of the 2.5km course.
Dejen Gebreselassie and young Adelaide gun Riley Cocks were aggressive early, trailed by Ben St Lawrence, the national record holder for the 10,000m (27:24.95).
Midway through the second lap, the front group was all together. Brett Robinson, one of the pre-race favourites, seemed to be controlling the pace.
In the closing stages of the second lap, Robinson made his move and gapped the pack. Jack Rayner and Harry Summers also broke clear.
By the time the bell rang, Robinson was out on his own, leaving Rayner and Summers to fight it out for the last guaranteed spot on the team.
Speaking after the race, Robinson admitted the race was harder than anticipated.
"I just wanted to see what the field would do for the first two laps and then increase the pace from there, and hopefully not have to work too hard at the end. Harry Summers ruined that plan when he came with us (Brett's MTC team mate, Jack Rayner), so we had to work all the way."
"World XC will be the perfect hit-out before London Marathon. It's a tough race, and it's still 4 weeks before the marathon."
While the men's race went somewhat according to armchair predictions, predictions for the women's race were harder to come by - Melissa Duncan, Emily Brichacek, and Caitlin Adams were the names on everyone's lips, but not with as much certainy as the men's race.
Purdue led the group through the first two laps, with Duncan, Caitlin Adams, and Rose Davies amongst the pack.
Melissa Duncan turned the screws early on the third lap and no one was able to go with her. It was looking like a long solo victory.
On the back part of the course, with less than a kilometre remaining, Purdue caught and passed Duncan, taking out the win. Purdue is of course ineligible for selection, meaning Duncan and Adams took the two spots.
First Australian across the line, Duncan spoke about trusting her coach in executing the race plan today.
"My coach told me to relax and not waste energy early...it's a much longer race than I'm used to. It felt relaxed for the first two laps, so I picked up the pace. I died a bit in the last 500 metres!
When my coach suggested I race this, I thought 'na, no way, I don't want to do cross country, I'm not good at it.'
It's nice to be on the team."
- Jack Rayner says he's feeling relaxed and excited for his marathon debut in London. His coach initially suggested he run Fukuoka in late 2018, but Jack wanted to build confidence that he could execute the marathon well.