Track Classic: Footy runs last for Cats' speedy rookie
BY TEO PELLIZZERI
Macedon Ranges Weekly
06 Mar, 2012
HE'S getting unprecedented attention on the athletics track but Sunbury's Mark Blicavs is not letting a bit of instant celebrity get in the way of his goals.
The Athletics Essendon middle-distance runner shot to statewide prominence last year when AFL premiers Geelong Cats called his name in the rookie draft.
Such is the parochialism of Aussie Rules that it was inevitable Cats fans would adopt Blicavs, 20, as their man to cheer for on the athletics circuit.
After originally targeting the 3000m steeplechase for an Olympics berth, Blicavs is now focusing on the 1500m and competed in the event at Lakeside Stadium on Friday in the Melbourne Track Classic.
He finished ninth in 3:46.11 in a race won by Australian Ryan Gregson (3:38.51).
The Olympic A-qualifying time is 3:35.50.
A strong headwind at Albert Park was always going to make a good time difficult in the race, but Blicavs left the track happy with his tactics.
"I knew the top guys were going to fly out at world record pace or something ridiculous," he said.
"I'm very happy with some of the guys I beat today.
"Timewise I don't think it was that quick. I just sit on someone and make sure I'm behind someone (into the wind) which was good.
"The last 100 hurt a lot, a lot actually. I was able to finish not super strong but strong enough to suggest I can go a lot quicker.
Overall I'm pretty happy with that.
"Today the best guys ran a (three minutes) 38. Seeing that I'm happy."
Geelong has taken to Blicavs keenly, with local news documenting his progress on the Athletics track and the Cats' website and Twitter accounts regularly updating his progress.
"I guess there's a bit of pressure," Blicavs said.
"I came into that race as the slowest qualifier. There was potential that I could run well and come last.
"I'm handling it well, not thinking about it too much, just training well. People can write and say what they want to say."
Blicavs will compete in the national championships at Lakeside Stadium in April and is heading to Europe to follow the Diamond League and observe some of the world's best athletes in person.
His coach is Essendon Athletics middle-distance specialist Gregor Gojrzewski, and Blicavs competed on Saturday to help one of his middle-distance stablemates succeed in the 800m.
Blicavs set the pace in the first lap of the 800m B-race, an event where Essendon club-mate Joel Hogarth went on to post a qualifying time for this year's World Junior Championships.
Footy is on the backburner for now. Geelong pulled the surprise pick in the rookie draft when it recruited Blicavs as a previously unregistered player.
The 198cm-tall Blicavs had not played since he was 14.