Canadian National Championships: A few surprises

July 11, 2017 0

© Copyright – 2017 – Athletics Illustrated

The usual suspects did the expected damage at the Canadian Track and Field Championships last weekend in Ottawa. There were also a few surprise improvements. The nationals are a final step for athletes to qualify for the 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships and FISU 2017, or the World University Games.

For Canadians, hitting standard and being top-three in advance of nationals is important, but the meet is where the athletes need to demonstrate their ability to perform in a championship-style event.

Andre De Grasse, 2016 Harry Jerome Track Classic. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

The world championships are taking place in London, UK, Aug. 4 to 13.

As expected Andre de Grasse won both the 100m and 200m final events. He finished the 200m with a wind-aided 19.96, while he ran the final of the 100m in 10.17. He ran 10.13 in qualifying. He ran 10.17 one week before at the Harry Jerome Track Classic. He is likely racing fast enough to win only, to save himself for London. He does love to run in front of his fellow Canadians. In Vancouver and Ottawa he was surrounded by autograph seekers.

De Grasse gets to work right away in London; on day one he will be running a 100m qualifying event as early as 11:00 am PST or 2:00 pm EST.

Melissa Bishop did what she needed to do to win. The two-time Olympian is the national record holder with a personal best of 1:57.02. The thoroughbred was fourth in the Rio Olympic final. A race that will forever have question marks regarding her competitors. The top-three finishers are suspected to be intersex or to live with a condition called hyperandrogenism. They naturally produce elevated volumes of testosterone, a banned performance enhancer when not produced naturally. In Rio, Bishop was all class saying that she simply didn’t run fast enough to win.

An IAAF study done by Drs. Stéphane Bermon and Pierre-Yves Garnier published this spring indicates or proves that women with Hyperandrogenism can benefit from 1.8 to 4.5% in performance. This may change the rules on who can compete in women’s races, however not in time for London. The 28-year-old Bishop is the 2015 Beijing World Championships silver medallist.

Jenna Westaway

In Ottawa, she cruised to a 2:00.26 in front of 23-year-old Calgary native Jenna Westaway, who crossed the line in 2:03.88, two seconds off of her personal best of 2:01.97. Third was Vancouver’s Lindsay Butterworth, who finished in 2:04.34, also nearly two seconds off of her best performance of 2:02.67.

Nationals and global championships are typically tactical races that can surprise athletes who have raced hard throughout the spring, then find themselves to be at a season-defining meet and in a race that comes down to a 200m sprint.

Brandon McBride won the 800m finals in the time of 1:45.23. He finished well in front of Robert Heppenstall (1:46.95) and Anthony Romaniw (1:47.63). He told Athletics Illustrated that he is pleased with his performance.

Sage Watson, the 2017 NCAA Division one champion ran 54.97 in the 400m hurdles on Sunday morning, where she set a new championships record. Her personal best is half a second faster at 54.52. The national record is 54.39.

Genevieve Lalonde also performed as expected, easily making Team Canada. In advance of nationals she has run as fast as 9:33.95 in Eugene in May this year. The standard is 9:42.00. She won in 9:37.45. Lalonde is the national record holder at 9:30.24. Second and third were Alicia Butterworth and Maria Benard.

Lalonde is a two-time world championships competitor and Rio Olympian. She has also competed twice in both the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the junior world track and field championships.

The men’s 1500m final top-two was no surprise with Charles Philibert-Thiboutot winning in a tactical 3:45.32, while veteran Nathan Brannen finished second in 3:45.49. Cole Peterson of Edmonton is a 2017 grad from the University of Victoria and the national U Sport champion. He finished third in the time of 3:45.60.

Philibert-Thiboutot posted on social media, “Step 1/2 completed this weekend in Ottawa by winning the Canadian championship at 1500m for a second consecutive year. Now, chase 3:36.0 to confirm my place at the London World Championships, this Wednesday at the track Richard Garneau in Ste-Thérèse. It’s on!” “I am very happy with my performance,” Shared Peterson. “My goal for the weekend was to make the FISU team, and with only two spots available and most of the field eligible and with standard, I figured you might need to medal to make the team. I wasn’t surprised with the placing as I knew it was possible and had my sights set on it, but I’m certainly thrilled to have my best race of the season (so far) when it counted most.”

Edmonton’s Angela Whyte continues to age gracefully by winning the 100m hurdles in the time of 13.02. She bettered Toronto’s Phylicia George, by .o4 of a second and Ottawa’s Ashlea Maddex finished third, stopping the clock at 13.26.

Unfortunately, Whyte did not qualify for London as she needed to be under 12.98 during the qualification period and has not done that. George was the only Canadian to do so having run 12.85 in April.

With full respect to George and her qualifying time, Whyte demonstrated that she is the fastest on the day, but rules are rules, it appears the great Canadian veteran will be watching the games. George continues to look smoother with each race.

The men’s 3000m steeplechase was won by Matt Hughes to no one’s surprise. He finished in the time of 8:30.91. His nearest competitors were nearly 17 and 23 seconds back. Gareth Hadfield finished second while Christopher Dulhanty finished third. Hughes’s best is 8:11.64. He finished 10th at the Rio Olympic Games.

The men’s 5,000m which could be a marquee event this year with the national record holder Mo Ahmed of St. Catharines and Justyn Knight of Toronto racing a solid field that also included Rio Olympian Lucas Bruchet of Vancouver as well as Ross Proudfoot of Guelph, to name a few. The studs ended up in a tactical race that allowed Ahmed to finish first, but one minute slower than his national record of 13:01.74. He finished in 14:02.36. Knight was nearly a second back, while Vancouver Bruchet was another couple of seconds behind in third.

The leaders at the bell were Ahmed, Bruchet, and Knight, in that order. Ahmed laid out a 54.82 final lap to take the win. Knight was nearly as fast, but he finished in 55.12, which was enough to secure a spot on the team. He was a couple of steps behind going into the final lap. It was a hard gap to close and not necessary – he did what he needed to do.

Both Knight and Ahmed had run under the qualification standard of 13:22.60 in advance and simply needed to finish 1-2 at nationals.

Jessica O’Connell at Vic City Invite 2017. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Andrea Seccafien of Toronto won the women’s 5,000m. She finished in the time of 15:39.66. Jessica O’Connell of Calgary was second in 15:40.91, while Sasha Gollish of Toronto was third in 15:42.59.

“I am happy for Jess and Andrea. And congratulate them on their golden tickets,” shared Gollish. “While I’m disappointed in how I ran – and overall with my season – I know that all the fitness is still inside my legs and I’m excited for the future.”

The standard to be under was 15:22. Seccafien entered the race with a 15:20.77 performance to her credit, which was the second-fastest time to O’Connell’s 15:16.79 from this spring.

Two athletes that would have surprised a few by not mixing it up for first or second were a pair of Vancouver area runners in Rachel Cliff, who qualified in advance for the 10,000 with a 32:07.94 and Natasha Wodak who owns the national 10,000m record 31:41.59 and is a Rio Olympian.

Natasha Wodak

Wodak said on social media, “Very disappointed with last night’s race. Sometimes you got it – sometimes you REALLY don’t…”

Wodak recently switched coaches from Richard Lee of the BC Endurance Project to Lynn Kanuka.

Full results from nationals are available here>>

For all of the London world championships information, click here>>

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