© Copyright – 2022 – Athletics Illustrated

Athletics Canada named eight athletes Friday, June 3 (not the whole team) to the 2022 World Athletics Championships that will take place this summer in Eugene, Oregon. They include Canada’s fastest racewalker and Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Evan Dunfee from Vancouver, as well as St. Catharines Mo Ahmed for the 10,000m event — he earned silver in the 5000m event in Tokyo. Six marathon runners were also named.

The women’s marathon team

Kinsey Middleton ran the Ottawa Marathon on Sunday, May 29. She wasn’t expecting to win. But she was hoping to run under 2:29:30, which is the qualifying time for the 2022 World Athletics Championships. She missed the mark but the temperature was warm and she ran the best marathon of her career to date. Middleton came from behind to take the win over the rolling course. She clocked a new personal best time at 2:30:09. According to the World Athletics scoring tables, it is her best performance over any distance.

The 29-year-old seemed to have hit all of her personal bests from 2017 to 2019. Perhaps the pandemic got in the way. In 2020, she ran the Houston Half Marathon and frustratingly had a performance that was not what she was looking for. The Boise, Idaho resident clocked a 72:15. Running 2:30:09 in Ottawa was a great step forward in her marathon career. It puts her on the start line of the global championships that are comparable to the Olympic Games.

MIddleton posted on Facebook: “I’M GOING TO THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!!! So many emotions!! But most of all, I’m so excited to represent Canada on the world stage and race my absolute heart out. Road to Eugene starts NOW!!”

Kinsey Middleton. Photo credit: Alan Brookes, Canada Run Series

With Middleton, will be fellow Canadians Leslie Sexton from Kingston, Ontario, who last year relocated to Vancouver, BC. The move seems to have worked out well for her. Also on the start line will be Élissa Legault, who also ran well in Ottawa clocking a new personal best of 2:33:27. It was a strong performance for the 28-year-old from Vaudreuil-Dorion, a suburb of Montreal, QC.

Six months prior — in Nov. 2021 — in Philadelphia, Sexton ran her personal best with a 2:28:35 performance. Not that proving fitness is still a thing with qualification for a global championships, but Sexton did run a 10,000m race in May in Vancouver clocking a new personal best at age 35 with a 32:31.89 performance.

“Representing Canada at a major championship has been a goal my coach (Steve Weiler) and I have been working towards for nearly 12 years, so this opportunity is exciting, to say the least!” shared Sexton. “I’m also very happy to see that Canada will have a full marathon team competing in Eugene, our marathon depth has come a long way and I’m proud to be a part of this amazing group of athletes.”

Like Middleton, Sexton is hitting her stride. She seemed to have perpetually run well into the 2:30s for several years. She dropped from 2:50:56 in 2014, to the 2:30s, but seemed stuck, until her Philadelphia performance. Sexton takes that run to the start line as the fastest Canadian in the field.

Legault has run at least three new personal best in 2022. In January she ran 73:06 at the Houston Half Marathon. In May, she clocked a 33:19.94 10,000m performance at the Pacific Distance Carnival in Vancouver. Then there was Ottawa.

The men’s marathon team

Like Middleton, Rory Linkletter has not been able to hit the standard of 2:11:30. His best is from Dec. 2020, where he ran 2:12:54 in Chandler, Arizona at the one-off The Marathon Project. A year later, he fared hardly better at the Sacramento Marathon, a downhill course that doesn’t count towards Olympic qualification. He finished in the time of 2:12:52. However, a month later, in Houston he dropped the hammer clocking a 61:08 half-marathon to break the national record.

Linkletter took to Twitter posting, “We are going to Eugene.”

There is no telling if the Houston performance sealed the deal for Linkletter, but it was a great performance five weeks after a marathon. He is coached by Ryan Hall, the American record holder in the half-marathon and the coach of his wife Sara Hall, who has had an incredible run of it over the past two years.

Cameron Levins is on the team. The Vancouver Island-raised athlete owns the national record in the marathon at 2:09:25 from the 2018 running of the Toronto Marathon. Levins competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games in the 10,000m event. He missed the Rio Olympic Games and was dead set on making Tokyo. After a few rough marathons including London 2020, in the cold temperatures and rain, a rough fade after 32K in Chandler among others, he wasn’t giving up. At the 11th hour he flew to Austria and pulled off a 2:10:14 to qualify for Tokyo. Perhaps he ran too many marathons to qualify, as he had a rough race in Sapporo. Levins is known for bouncing back well. It will be interesting for Canadians to see if he can race at his best in the same time zone that he trains in, when in Eugene.

Levins will be looking for redemption as he mentioned on social media.

Asked if he was surprised about being selected, due to his rough go in the Olympics he said, “I still had a strong qualifying performance/time from last year so, despite a rough Olympics, I felt pretty confident I would be selected. [I am] Training really hard, and actually racing Canadian half marathon championships in a couple weeks; that should give me a pretty good idea of where my race form is at.”

Ben Preisner, who is living in Vancouver and competes for the Miles2Marathon club will also toe the line in Eugene. The 26-year-old ran a personal best in Chandler at 2:10:17. He competed in the Tokyo Olympics finishing in 48th position in the time of 2:19:27. It was a hot day and all times were relatively slow. Preisner will be looking to run faster and place higher in Eugene.