© Copyright – 2013 – Athletics Illustrated

This is an exciting time for women’s middle-distance running in Canada, specifically in the 800-metre distance. The team is world-class and getting stronger. Currently, there are eight women who have run under 2:03, four under 2:01 and three under 2:00.00. Two of them are 1500m specialists. One of them, Melissa Bishop said, “It’s great that the 800m field in Canada is getting so strong, the National Track League (NTL) highlights us very nicely. I think in a few years we (Canada) will have a very competitive group of 800m runners in the world. Getting to know these girls is great because when we get to those meets outside of Canada it’s nice to know some of the competitors and have a friendly face around.”

Leading the way with recent strong results are Bishop from Eganville, Ontario, Victoria, BC’s Lemlem Bereket and North Vancouver, BC’s Jessica Smith, who has run 1:59.82, 2:00.80 and 1:59.86, respectively. All three qualified and competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games.  The Canadian standards to qualify for the Olympic Games (for London) were: “B” standard 2:01.30 and 1:59.90 for the “A” standard. Six of the athletes have run fast enough to qualify for those Olympics at some point during their career. Smith said when asked about her upcoming season, “Everything is going well; it has been good to get some hard training in this past week. I’m confirmed to race in Halifax and Toronto in the National Track League (NTL) so far. It will be my first trip to Halifax so I’m excited to race there, and looking forward to a fast race in Toronto!”

Long one of a few international-level 800m runners representing Canada, Diane Cummins (current Canadian record holder, 1:58.39) no longer finds herself a clear-cut favourite on home soil; the field is crowding around her. However, Cummins, at the age of 39 continues to perform at a competitive-level while heading into the five-meet National Track League’s 2013 season. During the middle of the League, the Canadian championships take place in Moncton, NB on the dates of June 20th to 23rd. “I’m looking forward to racing both the Harry Jerome and Victoria meets,” said Cummins, who joked, “…and I hope I get into the fast sections!”

Qualification standards for the 2013 Moscow, IAAF World Track and Field Championships will be ever-so-slightly easier to attain than the Olympic marks, as the “B” standard is 2:01.50 and 2:00.00 for the “A” standard. Only Karine Belleau Beliveau and Helen Crofts would miss the standard based on their personal bests to date however, they have until July 29th to meet the requirements. The Worlds take place in August from the 10th to the 18th.

At this time it is not the standards that pose a barrier to making the Worlds for Canada’s 800m runners, it is domestic competition.

Until 2012, only two Canadian women in history had run under 2:00.00 for the distance, Charmaine Crooks who ran as fast as 1:58.52 and had owned the national record until Cummins came along and set the new record with her 1:58.39. The number of sub-two minute runners has doubled as Bishop and Smith have entered the fray, will there be more?

Crofts, who runs for Simon Fraser University, won the NCAA Div. II 800m title May 25th, finishing in 2:08.18.

Here are the top eight’s best times:

Diane Cummins – 1:58.39

Melissa Bishop – 1:59: 82

Jessica Smith – 1:59.86

Lemlem Bereket – 2:00.80

Hilary Stellingwerff (1500m) – 2:01.22

Nicole Sifuentes (1500m – 5000m) – 2:01.30

Karine Belleau Beliveau – 2:01.79

Helen Crofts – 2:02.10

The National Track League will begin Sunday, June 9th in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the Aileen Meagher meet and ends in Victoria, BC on Friday, July 5th at the 25th annual Victoria Track Classic. The other meets happen in Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver, see the full schedule at www.nationaltrackleague.ca. Flotrack.org will be covering each of the meets across Canada.