Record-breaking Jude gives coach surprise, satisfaction
RATING Ipswich runner Jude Thomas one of Australia's best athletic prospects, Peter Reeves had an extra reason to be jubilant about their latest record bid.
Thomas and coach Reeves are waiting for Queensland Athletics (QA) to verify Jude's incredible 3:42.95 (electronic) feat as a state under-20 1500m record.
Thomas ran that on Saturday night at the QE2, posting the fastest time recorded in more than four decades.
Michael Hilliard set the under-20 record of 3:43.4 (hand timed) at the same venue in 1980.
As Thomas and his supporters wait for QA's confirmation of a new record, Reeves knows better than most what his achievement means.
Reeves cheered on his charge having finished fifth in the race Hilliard set the longstanding record in so many years ago.
Reeves was delighted to watch 18-year-old Thomas better the standard he had personal knowledge about having competed in the previous record-setting race in his mid twenties.
"He is absolute elite,'' Reeves said of Thomas.
The Karalee runner's latest time was a massive personal best and well under the U20 world qualifier of 3:48.
The time ranks Thomas the ninth fastest open 1500m in Australia and quickest under-20 competitor in the country.
"I can't see how they (QA) can't accept it (the record),'' Reeves said.
In the three years he has coached Thomas, the former St Edmund's College student has improved by 10 seconds a year in 1500m events.
Reeves said Thomas is matching the times international great Seb Coe ran over 1500m at the same age.
Aged 18, Thomas is also running three seconds faster than Coe over 800m.
"That's as good as you get,'' highly regarded mentor Reeves said.
Former Queensland under-20 record holder Hillard was a class middle distance runner, adding weight to Thomas' latest achievement.
"This (record run) was unexpected as Jude was not freshened up for the race and was just looking to have an easy hit out,'' Reeves said.
"I just can't believe how much he is improving.
"His training, what I would say, well within himself.
"He's not smashing himself. He's very, very good at what he's doing and he's just improving in staggering amounts.''
Given Thomas hadn't eased off before his latest record run, Reeves expects him to lower the time even further.
Reeves oversees Ipswich's accomplished NANCI Running squad, which has competitors like Thomas regularly achieved personal bests and setting new standards over multiple distances.
Thomas had qualified for two World Junior Championship events scheduled for this year.
But with those unlikely to proceed, Thomas' focus switches to the cross country circuit.
The 2019 Oceania championships gold medallist was hoping to represent Australia at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships for open and under-20 runners in Bathurst, if they go ahead in January next year.
Reeves said missing his final junior opportunities could be a blessing as Thomas moves into the more challenging open ranks in a powerful position.
"In my 50 years of following the sport, how many juniors come and go and you never see them again?'' Reeves said.
"They lose the hunger. They train too hard.''
However, Reeves said Thomas was training "easily'', setting himself for a successful open competition future over distances from 800m to 5km.
"In the 1500m that he did on Saturday, that would have ranked top 10 in the open (ranks) for Australia last year,'' Reeves said.
"As a junior, he is number one.
"He's right up there. I think he's one of our best ever.''
Reeves is tipping Thomas to challenge for another under-20 record - at the 3km state track championships at Runaway Bay in three weeks.
That record has also stood for more than 40 years.