Jessica Hull ran a brilliant second leg and her three teammates all played important roles as Australia won a historic bronze medal in the mixed relay at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst.
- Australia held the lead after the opening two legs
- Kenya won gold, with Ethiopia finishing second
- It is only the fourth medal Australia has won in world titles history
The star-studded home team was in the gold-medal position at the halfway stage on Saturday when Hull handed over to Stewart McSweyn.
Traditional powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia were always going to challenge hard in the closing stages and so it proved, with Kyumbe Munguti running a brilliant third two-kilometre leg to set up the Kenyan victory.
Ethiopia’s Birke Haylom moved past Abbey Caldwell in the first 200 metres of the final leg but the youngster held her nerve to ensure Australia would claim its first medal in the mixed relay.
It was only the fourth medal won by Australia in the 50-year history of the championships.
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Kenya clocked a winning time of 23 minutes and 14 seconds, ahead of Ethiopia (23:21) and the Australian team of Ollie Hoare, Hull, McSweyn and Caldwell (23:26) on a brutally difficult course on the infield of the famed Mount Panorama motor racing circuit in Bathurst.
South Africa was a further 24 seconds adrift in fourth place.
“I was just trying to stay patient and not get too carried away because I’ve done that plenty of times before,” said Hull, who surged past her Kenyan and Ethiopian opponents during the second leg.
“Chasing was probably a good way for me to run the leg because I was able to measure it out a bit more.
“I was so confident in Stewy and Abbey to come, that they were going to run their hearts out.
“I knew we were in a really good spot, regardless of what colour medal we ended up coming away with.”
All four members of the Australian team are accomplished 1,500m track runners, with McSweyn and Hull the national record holders, Hoare the reigning Commonwealth Games champion and Caldwell the 2022 Commonwealth bronze medallist.
But even more importantly, they are also experienced cross country runners.
“We went in with the plan that if we all ran 100 per cent and we all ran good races and wore the guernsey with pride, we were going to be right in the mix,” McSweyn said.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the team today. I thought we all executed good races.
“To compete with the powerhouses of Ethiopia and Kenya hopefully puts Australia on the world map, that maybe we are part of the big three of distance running now.”
The men’s and women’s individual races will take place later on Saturday afternoon.