2023 World Athletics Continental Tour: Maurie Plant Meet

As the mercury tipped over 31°C, Melbourne’s athletics community converged on Lakeside Stadium creating a hype that hadn’t been felt since Usain Bolt visited in 2017. With some of the world’s and Australia’s best athletes competing at the Maurie Plant Meet it was an event not to be missed and it was no surprise to hear that the event had a sellout crowd.

With the Maurie Plant Meet being Australia’s first World Athletics Continental Tour Gold level meet, there was plenty to be excited for. With international stars Fred Kerley, Hunter Woodhall,Tara Davis-Woodhall, Heather MacLean and Emma Coburn in attendance it was an Australian meet like no other. However, it wasn’t all about the internationals, with four current Essendon athletes and two former athletes staring on the night.

The biggest night of athletics was kicked off with Sophie Gregorevic staring in in the purple and gold of Wesley College, competing in their women’s 4x100m relay. Gregorevic’s clean first changeover and sensational second leg run set Wesley up for a dominant win in 50.30 and to kicked off an excellent night for our athletes.

Next out of the blocks was former club athlete and Tasmanian native, Jacob Despard, featuring in the Peter Norman 200m. It was fitting to have an Essendon associated athlete featured in this iconic race given it is named after the club’s legend Peter Norman. In what was a hotly contested race, Despard finished 5th overall and 3rd of the Australians with a time of 20.91.

Our club’s Queen of the track, Linden Hall, laced up her shoes to take on the some of the world’s fastest women across 3000m. Hall managed to work her way out of the pack and into the lead, a position she held for most of the race, until being passed by the international superstars with one and a half laps to go. Finishing in a time of 8:50.89 saw Hall finish 4th overall and 1st of the seven Australian athletes.

Chris Mitrevski did what he does best and powered his way to a win in the men’s long jump. With perfect conditions Mitrevski dominated from his very first jump and was the only athlete to crack 8 metres. Having already jumped 8.01m on his first jump, Mitrevski made it 8.16m on his second and secured himself a strong victory.

You would think that one international competition is enough for one week, but not for Archie Noakes, who opted to back up his excellent form at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst with a crack at the 3000m. Despite being one of the youngest athletes in the race, Noakes looked calm and relaxed as he lined up amongst some of the world’s best 3000m runners. Not letting the pressure get to him, Noakes stuck to the game plan and ran his own race, coming from the back of the pack, picking off his competition one by one to finish with a time of 8:12.23.

The night concluded with the men’s 100m featuring our former club members and Taswegian duo, Jacob Despard and Jack Hale (both have returned to Tasmania this season). Despard backed up his performance from the 200m with a fantastic run of 10.45 to finish 4th overall and 2nd of the Australian crew. Jack Hale was just behind him finishing in 7th with a time of 10.54.

The Maurie Plant Meet showcased the very best of our sport and put on a show that we will all be remembering for many years to come. With the Victorian Track & Field Championships starting today it was the perfect way to inspire our next generation of athletes.