© Copyright – 2021 – Athletics Illustrated
Ten races took place at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium on Saturday. It was a mini-meet cobbled together under the shadow of strict COVID-19 restrictions. There were three races each in the 800m and 1500m distances, as well as two 400m and 5000m races.
Athletics Canada coaches Geoff Harris and Heather Hennigar put on the event. No media access was available
The performance of the meet would likely be Nate Riech’s 5000m T38 world para record of 15:00.42 – see results below. It was a very strong performance for an athlete who has focussed more on the middle distances and 3000m.
The previous record was held by Saidi Abbes of Tunisia with his 15:57.25 from 2005.
Vancouver’s Natalia Hawthorn, who ran an official 5000m personal best of 15:31.27 put up a strong performance. Her previous best was 15:49.15. The conditions were not perfect, with a fair amount of wind and pacers and competitors who dropped off at around half-way.
“Yes it was very windy, but both of us are very happy with the result, said Chris Johnson, her coach. “She won by 48 seconds.”
“[I am] Feeling happy about my race given the circumstances and very excited to get in another race with more people and better conditions,” shared Hawthorn.
Maria Bernard-Galea finished second in the time of 16:19.14, in third position was Jessy Lacourse clocking a 16:22.91.
“We were fortunate to have Mariah Kelly and Lucia Stafford pace for the first 2.4km because conditions were yes, very windy! Then, I was solo for the last 2.6km of the race,” added Hawthorn.
In the women’s 800m race, Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, who has temporarily made Victoria her family’s home to train close to coach Trent Stellingwerff and to escape the Ontario winter, toed-the-line. She finished a strong second in the time of 2:02.51. The result is more than five seconds off of her personal best, which is 1:57.01 and the Canadian record. The season is early and a cold and windy Centennial Stadium is light years away from a competitive European meet where the best is brought out middle-distance athletes.
Bishop-Nriagu is a world athletics championships silver medallist. She is seeking a Tokyo Olympic qualifying performance this season.
Madeleine Kelly ran a good race and finished just a second off of her lifetime personal best, for the win. She recorded a 2:02.14. Her best is from 2019 when she finished in 2:01.27 in Hamilton, ON. Laurence Cote followed in for a third-place finish in the time of 2:05.18.
In addition to pacing duties, Stafford took in one of the 1500m races and own in the time of 4:08.35 over Lindsay Butterworth (4:13:59) and Mariah Kelly (4:17.51). In that race, Cote and Bishop-Nriagu provided pacing help.
“It was definitely much colder and windier than predicted, but the athletes didn’t really bat an eye,” shared Hennigar after the meet.
“It’s March in Canada and so I think just getting this season rolling, and for most getting on a start line and competing again in some fields with athletes outside their own training groups, was a good step forward. For some athletes, it’s been over a year.”
The group has put together of series of time trials and meets at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence and UVic, sometimes partnering with the Vikes. This was the third and final meet of the series.
“Throughout the three meets, we had some stellar performances for a little twilight series that it was,” added Henniger. “Some highlights were two WPA World records by Nate Riech, an impressive solo effort by John Gay in the 2k steeple, Natalia Hawthorne’s massive 5000m PB, and a couple of attempts and close encounters with Olympic standard in the women’s 1500m, among many more.”
“It was a good group of coaches and athletes that came together collaboratively to make the meets happen, and of course thanks to the organizing committee members and to the West Hub and 94 Forward for sponsoring the series.”
|Results||Victoria, BC – Centennial Stadium – UVic||March 27, 2021|
|Result||Victoria, BC – Centennial Stadium – UVic||March 27, 2021||Time|