Jessica Hull qualifies for Tokyo Olympics with 5000m Australian athletics title

Green and bold: Albion Park's Jessica Hull set a 5000m Olympic qualifying time at the Melbourne Track Classic. Picture: Adam McLean
Green and bold: Albion Park's Jessica Hull set a 5000m Olympic qualifying time at the Melbourne Track Classic. Picture: Adam McLean

Jessica Hull was scorching the track, her dreams realised and a dilemma raised all at once.

This result hadn't exactly aligned with career expectations.

It's not even her pet event.

But here was Hull, the Albion Park junior who came through the US College athletics system, kicking clear to win the 5000m national title.

In the process stopping the clock in 15:06.12 and booking her ticket to Tokyo, with an Olympic qualifying time.

It was almost six seconds slower than the time she set in Berlin in October, the first time, publicly at least, Hull could prove her credentials over the longer distance.

Because up until then Hull had shaped her future as a 1500m runner, with three Olympic standard qualifying times to show for it.

So now the 23-year-old has the coming months to consider a plan for the Olympics, especially if the 1500m and 5000m schedules are likely to clash.

"Luckily, the two events complement each other," she told World Athletics.

Hull had won four NCAA titles, a launching pad to the world stage when she turned professional in June.

At the time, Tokyo was a short-term incentive, but also something of a bonus, as Hull planned to learn her trade, before peaking for the Paris Games in 2024.

"She always had Tokyo penciled in, she knew she'd be graduating 12 months out from the Olympics," her father and junior coach Simon to the Mercury in September.

"The idea was to turn professional, get into a pro training group and have 12 months with a coach, then a whole four-year cycle for Paris. She'll hit her peak as a runner in Paris. Next year in Tokyo, she'll run well but we're not sure how well. She'll still be new to professional racing when she goes to Tokyo, it will take a little bit longer than that to reach her peak."

Suddenly, Hull looms as a wildcard to qualify for the 5000m Olympic final.

Because while Hull needed to make the Olympic qualifying time, it was the kick she produced which had everyone talking at the Melbourne Track Classic on Thursday.

Hull was locked in a three-way battle with Genevieve Gregson - the wife of men's national 1500m record holder Ryan, who's from Bulli - and Japan's Hitoma Niiya.

Then at the 600m, she turned up the heat, before kicking again with a lap to go.

Olympic races are often slow, tactical battles, where everyone is waiting for someone else to make a move.

"It's something you learn when racing internationally, the women over there don't just kick once, they kick two of three times," Hull told Athletics Australia.

"So I think the more times I can practice it the better I will be for it."

Just how good can Hull be?

"There's a lot more there," she said.

This story The dilemma facing Aussie track star, as Olympic dream realised first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.