© Copyright – 2020 – Athletics Illustrated
Team Canada is ready to go for Saturday, Feb. 29 at Bear Mountain for the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup.
For Team Canada there is Geneviève Lalonde, Natasha Wodak and Maria Galea-Bernard and the men’s team is made up by John Gay, Connor Black, and Jean-Simon Desgagne.
“I’m excited to get out there,” said Gay.
The 23-year-old Vancouver runner – a graduate of the University of British Columba is fit. He ran at least three new personal bests in 2019 and already set two new best in 2020 including a 4:05.02 indoor mile at the Dempsey Indoor meet in Seattle, WA. He also ran a 7:48.57 3,000m on Feb. 15.
He has gone sub-14 in the 5,000m with a 13:57.04 in Feb. 2019 and then a month later ran a 14:06 road 5K at the St. Patrick’s Day 5K in Stanley Park.
“That St. Patrick’s Day course seems to get faster every year so I’m definitely keen to finally put the record under 14!”
Gay doesn’t shy away from cross-country. In 2017, at the Vikes Invitational, in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, he won the 10K race in the time of 31:10.11, days after helping the Thunderbirds to an NAIA cross-country title.
Gay will be one of the pre-race favourites, as will 2019 U Sport Cross Country Champion Connor Black. Black, in 2018 finished second at U Sport – again in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park – to Yves Sikubwabo. The following year – after working towards the day for five years – he finally won the event that was this time held in Kingston’s Fort Henry Park.
Twenty-one-year-old Desgagne runs for the University of Laval Rouge et Or. He competed in the 2019 FISU Summer Universiade and has represented Canada three times. He owns an impressive 13:56.43 5,000m best from Ninove, Belgium from July 2018 – two days after his 20th birthday.
As for the women, Lalonde is the two-time (2018, 2019) national cross-country champion, 2016 Rio Olympian and the national record holder in the 3,000m steeplechase.
She is a pre-race favourite.
She told Athletics Illustrated, “[I am] feeling fit and ready to go. Training has been going really well and we have put in a lot of work, so I’m excited to see that all come together on Saturday in front of a home crowd!”
She moved to Victoria from Guelph, ON less than a year ago and is enjoying the year-round running on the area trails. She was born in Montreal, raised in Moncton and enjoy a prolific U Sport career with the University of Guelph.
Lalonde is expected to be nominated by Athletics Canada to run in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The qualifying period for her event (3000msc) started May 1, 2019, 17 days later, she improved upon her own national record in the event running a 9:29.82. The qualification standard is exactly 9:30.00.
Natasha Wodak of Vancouver, much like Lalonde is a 2016 Rio Olympian, World Cross Country Championships competitor and national record holder. She has run the fastest 10,000m all-time at 31:41.59. She has run under 32-minutes several times including a spectacular race at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Earlier this year, she became the first Canadian to run the half-marathon distance under 70-minutes. She had the national record for two weeks at 69:41 attained on January 19 at the Houston Half Marathon.
It was bettered by Andrea Seccafien in Muragame, Japan to 69:38 on Feb. 2.
Wodak gave video testimony approving the Bear Mountain route last spring and is ready to go and is fit, “I sure am; it’s going to be fun,” she said when asked about her fitness. It will be like a home-course advantage having tested it for the video approval and having her coach Lynn Kanuka on-site announcing.
Maria Galea-Bernard competed in the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships in the 3,000m steeplechase. The former UBC Thunderbird finished third at the national club cross-country championships in Abbotsford, BC in 2019 to earn her spot on Team Canada for Pan Ams. She now resides in Calgary.
Both teams should medal on Saturday.
There are also junior races, the 33rd annual Can-Am Masters Championships, kid’s and community races.
CBC.ca will live stream the Pan Am Cross-Country Cup on Saturday morning. All details about the meet are available, here>>