Jess Thornton during the closing stages of the women's 400m final at the 2022 Australian Track and Field Championships.
Jess Thornton during the closing stages of the women's 400m final at the 2022 Australian Track and Field Championships (Credit: Athletics Australia // Steve Christo)

Food Science student and 2016 Rio Olympian Jessica Thornton claimed the Australian women’s open 400 metre silver medal at the national track and field titles completed on Sunday.

Her fourth-placed finish was enough to secure a podium spot with eventual winner Isabel Neal and third-placed Rosie Elliott, both representing New Zealand, ineligible for a medal.

The winner’s time of 52.86 was eight tenths slower than Thornton’s personal best in her Olympic year of 2016 suggesting anything is possible as the 23-year-old matched it with the best in Australasia right up until the final 50 metres. 

Thornton represented Australia in the 4x400 metre relay in Brazil, and just missed a second appearance in Tokyo last year. For her achievements, she received a university Blue last year.

Just six weeks after posting a personal best in the 400 metres, 22-year-old Masters of Commerce student Liam Webb finished fourth in the men’s open national final, four tenths of a second outside that time he posted in February at the NSW State Championships.

With the New Zealander competing for NSW, Webb also claimed bronze as part of the state’s 4x400 metre men’s relay on the final day of competition at Sydney Olympic Park.

Exercise physiology graduate Bethany Halmy also claimed a silver medal in the 4x400 metre women’s open relay, after unfortunately missing the final of both the 400 and 800 metre individual events. Commerce and science alumni Leonard King anchored NSW’s silver medal winning 4x100 metre relay.

Tokyo Olympian and alumni Georgia Winkcup finished an agonising four one-hundredths of a second from a bronze medal in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final.

In a timed final, Commerce and Economics student Jamie Karabesinis was even closer to the podium, by just one one-hundredth of a second in the men’s open 100m. 

Other UNSW athletes who narrowly missed the podium included Ben Lexcen scholar and science student Genevieve Cowie, who finished fifth in the women’s open 400 metres hurdle final.

Engineering and Commerce graduate Hannah Jones, now training in Queensland with Olympic gold medal hurdler Sally Pearson, was also fifth in the women’s 100 metre hurdles final.

Inspirational para-athlete James Tirado was fifth in the men’s ambulant 100m final just three hundredths of second off the time he posted to win the NSW state title. The just as inspiring Tamsin Colley was seventh in her final of the women’s 200 metre ambulant.

Current students Susie Douglas and Sophia Cibei both just missed out on their respective finals in the 400 metre and 100 metre hurdles, while Arts and Law graduate Stefan Music was seventh in his heat of the 1500 metres.

The Australian Track and Field Championships presented each competing athlete with the opportunity to grab automatic selection spots for the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, and automatic nomination to Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, both mid-year.

Next big event for the UNSW athletes will be the UniSport Nationals on the Gold Coast, mid-April.