Jessica O’Connell – 2017 – at University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium, where she ran a 1500-metre race. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2018 – Athletics Illustrated

Fifty-eight years ago at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Kiwi Peter Snell demonstrated to the world that you don’t have to be the fastest to win gold in middle-distance running; but you do you have to be the best-prepared athlete. The story goes and was repeated four years later in Tokyo, that he possessed the slowest 200-metre personal best of all the athletes in the finals, but out-kicked all because he was aerobically the fittest athlete – those 22-mile (35K) runs over the Waiatarua hills and 85-110-mile weeks (137-177K) proved their value for the 800/1500-metre and mile (1609m) athlete.

At the 2018 Harry Jerome Track Classic, Calgary’s Jessica O’Connell – one known to be self-deprecating about her kick – appeared to channel a little Snell by outkicking her competitors for the win in the 1500-metre event – good stuff for a 5,000-metre runner.

“I was happy with my 1500m – it felt great! My training since the Portland meet a few weeks has been good, and I was confident that I was ready for a good race. I haven’t PB’d in the 1500m in four years, so it was time!”

During the race, she kept herself in the hunt throughout, knowing that if she was in good position with a lap or 200-metres to go, her big aerobic engine would allow her to kick.

“My plan was to commit to running with the leaders and then to finish strong with whatever I had left,” Said O’Connell.  “I felt comfortable the first few laps and impulsively made a move to the front at the bell, and ran as fast as I could because I could hear all the other racers right behind me breathing down my neck. I’ve trained alongside many of the racers before – I know they are pretty speedy! I’m pretty proud of my finishing kick – it’s not often that this 5,000-metre runner gets to kick down people these days! I would have loved to break the 4:10 barrier, but that dream will have to go down another day.”

She finished in the time of 4:10.66. Breathing down her neck and also running to a new personal best, was Saskatoon’s Courtney Hufsmith. She crossed the line in the time of 4:11.83. Fredericton’s Sarah MacPherson was third in the time of 4:12.15. MacPherson’s best is from 2017 where she finished in the time of 4:09.90 at the Harry Jerome Track Classic, which was run across town in Coquitlam.

“The race was a blast,” added O’Connell. “I was primarily a 1500-metre runner until midway through university, and I love the strategy and speed (And length!) of the event versus the 5000-metre. Plus, racing at the Harry Jerome in front of so many friends is always a treat. Now more than ever, I’m convinced that being aerobically strong translates to speed, which is pretty cool!”

Next up for O’Connell is the 5,000-metres at nationals taking place July 03 to July 08 in Ottawa, Ontario. She will then head to Europe for more 3,000-metre and 5,000-metre races.

SHOESTRINGS: O’Connell’s best in the 5,000-metres is a 15:06.44 from 2015 at the Payton Jordan Invitational.  The national record is currently 14:54.98 by Courtney Babcock from her Paris, France performance on August 30, 2003, during the IAAF World Track and Field Championships.

To get an idea where O’Connell’s 1500-metre performance stands, the qualification standards to make Team Canada in the IAAF World Track and Field Championships and Olympics has been as fast as 4:09, for a B-standard and the A, 4:05.50. The national record is 4:00.27 by Vancouver’s Lynn Kanuka from a Brussels, Belgium meet in 1985.

Toronto’s Sasha Gollish continues to toy with various distances. She will move up to the marathon in the fall. She has raced distances as short as 800-metres, finished fourth in this race in the time of 4:12.21, is a former triathlete and strong half-marathon runner.

Olympian and national record holder in the 10,000-metre event, Natasha Wodak took in the race, it was a big change for her, used to racing the 25-lap event. Coached by Kanuka, she worked on her speed and managed a respectable 4:15.27.


PL           Athlete Team     Time

1              O’CONNELL, Jessica         CANADA              4:10.66

2              HUFSMITH, Courtney     CANADA              4:11.83

3              MACPHERSON, Sarah     CANADA              4:12.15

4              GOLLISH, Sasha CANADA              4:12.21

5              FULTON, Eleanor              USA       4:12.46

6              DUBE-LAVOIE, Aurelie   CANADA              4:12.48

7              YEE, Regan          CANADA              4:15.23

8              WODAK, Natasha             CANADA              4:15.27

9              LEE, Kirsten         CANADA              4:19.23

10           HAWTHORN, Natalia       CANADA              4:22.77

11           CARLSON, Lindsay           CANADA              4:25.41

12           LI, Junqiao           HENAN 4:30.26

13           BUTTERWORTH, Alicia    CANADA              4:34.36