© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
The Victoria International Track Classic’s 27th edition happening Monday, June 8th at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium is offering a very exciting night of competition provided by a range of elite-professional and developing athletes.
The meet starts off at 6:00 PM with the 100-metre heats as well as three competitive development races in the men’s and women’s 800m and 1500m distances.
The National Development and Development races will be filled with some of Canada’s best University and High School athletes who are ready to break through to the next level. These are Canada’s future Olympians, Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games competitors. Many of them will be looking to qualify for the 2015 Junior Pan Am/Parapan Am Games that will be taking place this summer in the City of Champions or TrackTown, Canada as Edmonton has adopted for 2015.
The elite sections will be fun to watch as many of Canada’s best as well as international athletes will take in the track meet, seeking to qualify for a trifecta of global championships, starting with the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games taking place in Toronto, as well as the 2015 Beijing IAAF World Track and Field Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Entry standards are tough and the athletes have little time left in the season to qualify for the Pan Am Games and World Championships. The pressure should provide Victoria with a very entertaining athletics display.
The Men’s 100m sections include several high-end sprinters led by headliner Wallace Spearman of the US. He is more of a 200m specialist; however, owns the fastest seeded time of the field with a personal best of 9.96; his 200m best is a world-class 19.65. Spearman is a multi-time medallist in the Olympics and World Championships.
Meanwhile, a very unique Curtis King races a full range of distances well from 55m to 5,000m. It is rare that an athlete will be both an effective sprinter as well as long distance runner. His personal best for 100m is 10.35, while his 5,000m is a respectable 14:07.26. Both personal bests have been achieved over the past year.
Several countrymen will also be toeing the line including, Mark Jelks (9.99), Jordan Hoppel (10.58), Tucker Peabody (10.36), Daveon Collins (10.33) and Rubin Williams (10.12).
Samoan Jeremy Dodson will be looking to improve his best of 10.25, while Barbadian Ramon Gittens will want to break that 10-second benchmark, as he has come close with his best of 10.02. Canadian Aaron Brown will also be looking to improve as the 23-year-old’s best is from 2013 at 10:05. Benjamin Williams just ran a new personal best time in Calgary on May 31st with his performance of 10.27. Rounding out the field is 20-year-old Jerome Blake with his best from 2014 of 10.71.
The Elite men’s 800m features two of Canada’s top middle-distance runners in 800m specialists Anthony Romaniw, who owns a competitive time of 1:45.60. He will be up against Nate Brannen, who is a 1500m specialist with an 800m best of 1:46.00 from 2002 – a long time ago. A couple of hometown favourites are University of Victoria Vikes Thomas Riva, who this year won the UVic Male Athlete of the Year – all sports, his best is 1:47.02 from the 2014 Victoria Track Classic. Teammate Brendon Restall is coming off of a new personal best performance from May 17th in Oregon, where he ran 1:48.43. This will be an exciting race.
The Men’s Developmental 800m currently has listed 17 Canadian athletes. It is likely that some of the faster runners will move up to the elite section including Geoff Harris from Halifax, who owns a best of 1:45.97, although he has suffered injury with some downtime since that performance during the 2012 London Olympic Games. Last week in Halifax at the Aileen Meagher meet the temperatures were cold and the rain was heavy, so to avoid injury he ran a conservative time. He has the talent, it remains to be seen if he is in top-shape just yet.
The women’s 800m races include some of Canada’s very best athletes. Two of Canada’s four women to break the two-minute barrier are competing; they are North Vancouver’s Jessica Smith – a 2012 London Olympian, she owns a best of 1:59.86; however, she has been injured off and on for nearly two years. It will be interesting to see if the former Simon Fraser University athlete is ready to regain her form. Eganville, Ontario’s Melissa Bishop also competed in the 2012 Olympics as well as the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She is Canada’s fastest active 800m runner with her best of 1:59.70. She sprained her ankle in May and is working her way back to fitness. Smith and Bishop will be pushed by Rachel Aubrey, Rachel Francois and possibly Kate Van Buskirk.
Van Buskirk is one of Canada’s best 1500m runners and is a bronze medal winner form the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, but like Smith and Bishop is now just getting over injuries. Her 800m best is a solid 2:02.62. Aubrey has run 2:02.05, while Vike Francois has gone as fast as 2:02.18 and just ran a season best 2:03.15 on May 30th. Triathlete Sasha Gollish will be racing. She considers herself more of a runner and owns a competitive 2:03.36 personal best time from the 2015 Occidental meet.
Although the men’s 1500m elite section indicates that Canada’s record holder in the 3,000m steeplechase event Matt Hughes is racing, he is not. However, the event will be exciting regardless as at least three Speed River Track and Field Club members will be competing in Ross Proudfoot, Jeremy Rae and Alex Genest.
Genest is a London Olympian and two-time World Track and Field Championships competitor in the 3,000m steeplechase. His best over 1500m is 3:51.81. Twenty-two-year-old Proudfoot owns a solid best of 3:39.46. The fastest of the group is Rae with his best of 3:38.29. The hometown runner in this event is Vike, Karl Robertson who owns a best of 3:46.30.
In the women’s 1500m elite section the big name is 2012 London Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff. She is Canada’s fastest current middle-distance athlete and is beginning to round into form, post-pregnancy. Her best is an impressive 4:05.08. Langley’s Fiona Benson is coming off of a fantastic race from May 30th, where she dropped her 800m best from 2:08.54 to 2:01.58, which is the lead Canadian time for 2015. She is less than a half of a second away in that event from qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and the 2015 Beijing World Championships. Based on her 800m performance, the 23-year-old may just drop her best of 4:18.67, to sub-4:10 on Monday night.
There are several west coast Canadians entered into the two women’s 1500m events including UVic Vikes, Shauna McInnis and Nicole Soderberg. Other local athletes are Erica Digby, Alyssa Mousseau and Emma Bibault to name a few. National record holder in the 3,000m steeplechase Jessica Furlan is scheduled to compete in this event. Her best at the longer distance race is 9:33.45, while her 1500m time is a competitive 4:15.17.
The full list of athletes registered to date, click here.
Preview of the field events, men’s 400m and women’s sprints will be posted soon.