Fiona Benson won the Portland Track Festival 800-metre high-performance section tonight with a new personal best of 1:59.94. She is the fifth Canadian in history to break the two-minute barrier. Two of those athletes were also in the race, Melissa Bishop of Eganville, Ontario and Jessica Smith of North Vancouver, who finished third and fourth in the time of 2:00.67 and 2:01.07, respectively. The second place finisher was American Shannon Rowbury of the Nike Oregon Project with her finish time of 2:00.53.
The only other two to break the two-minute barrier are the now retired Charmaine Crooks with her 1:59.52 and the national record holder Diane Cummins with her 1:58.39.
Based on the Portland result, which took place on the final day for qualifying for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, Benson and Bishop have secured the only two spots on Team Canada for for their event. Additionally, both have run fast enough to qualify for the 2015 Beijing IAAF Track and Field Championships. The qualifying time for Beijing was 2:01.00. Smith is still 7/100ths of a second from making Team Canada for the Beijing event; she can still make it happen by qualifying at the national championships in July. Finally, Benson and Bishop have run fast enough to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games; however, there is another year of racing ahead of them, where better times could theoretically be run.
For the Beijing World Championships, Benson and Bishop still need to run the Canadian Track and Field Championships that are taking place in Edmonton.
Benson, who on May 30th set Canadian running on its ear when she set her new personal best 800-metre time by over seven seconds from 2:08:54 to 2:01.58 at the Christie Phoenix Insurance Victoria Run Series. She has now run four-consecutive personal bests including the May 30th race. Benson who attends Trinity Western University and was representing the Langley Mustangs in Portland, followed-up her Christie-Phoenix Insurance Victoria Run Series race with a second-place finish at the Harry Jerome Track Classic on June 8th and a win at the Victoria International Track Classic two days later.
Bishop, who owns a personal best of 1:59.70 just ran her fourth race since coming back from a recent ankle injury and is now rounding into form.
Benson’s improvements from 2:08.54:
May 30th – 2:01.58 – Christie-Phoenix Insurance Victoria Run Series – Victoria, BC
June 8th – 2:01.48 – Harry Jerome Track Classic – Burnaby, BC
June 10th – 2:01.02 – Victoria International Track Classic – Victoria, BC
June 14th – 1:59.94 – Portland Track Festival – Portland, Oregon
Results – Portland Track Festival – Section 1
1 Benson, Fiona Langley Mustangs – 1:59.94
2 Rowbury, Shannon Nike Oregon Project – 2:00.53
3 Bishop, Melissa Nike – 2:00.67
4 Smith, Jessica Nike – 2:01.07
5 Mackey, Katherine Brooks Beast – 2:01.20
6 Leblanc, Annie Unattached – 2:01.87
7 Gall, Geena Unattached – 2:02.29
8 Murphy, Samantha Unattached – 2:02.80
9 Malasarte, Megan Brooks Beast – 2:04.40
10 Francois, Rachel U. of Victoria – 2:07.72
Interview after Victoria International Track Classic: