© Copyright – 2018 – Athletics Illustrated
Athletics Canada has sent two full teams to the 2018 Valencia IAAF World Half Marathon Championships that will be taking place Saturday, March 24 in the country’s third-largest city. Four men and four women will toe-the-line to compete with the best from around the world.
Canada had as many as 13 women run under the qualification standard of 1:16:00 during the qualification window. Vancouver’s Rachel Cliff also ran a new national record in Woodlands, TX, outside of the qualification dates with her 1:10:08. Her qualifying performance of 1:11:52 was good enough for second-fastest Canadian leading up.
Natasha Wodak was the fastest Canadian with her performance of 1:11:31 in January 2018 from the Chevron Houston Marathon and Half Marathon.
The qualifying dates were: April 23, 2017 – Jan 31, 2018
Both athletes will not be attending the world championships as they intend to compete in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia. Cliff and Wodak will be racing in the 10,000-metre distance event. Cliff, a 5,000-metre specialist until 2016 has had some strong improvements over the longer distances, especially with that half-marathon national record. Wodak currently has the 10,000-metre Canadian record of 31:41.59 from 2015.
Cliff isn’t far behind, running as fast as 32:00.03 at the 2017 London World Track and Field Championships. In that same race, Wodak finished in 31:55.47, a season’s best performance for her.
As a tune up race, on the roads in Vancouver, Wodak and Cliff tested themselves in the St. Patrick’s Day 5K. Wodak broke the Canadian all-comers record with a 15:39 performance. Cliff was close behind at 15:51.
“I am super happy with that,” shared Wodak. “It is a confidence builder before the Commonwealth Games.”
Dayna Pidhoresky also of Vancouver has chosen not to race either the world championships or the Commonwealth Games. Instead she plans to defend her Around the Bay 30K title from 2017. She is a three-time champion. During the 2017 edition, she ran what may have been an all-time best performance at any distance finishing in 1:47:27, which was within three minutes of the event record of 1:44:40 – in North America’s oldest distance race.
The Around the Bay 30K takes place Sunday, March 25.
Of the remaining women available to compete in the world championships, there is a good mix of new and established talent. Toronto’s Sasha Gollish (Q – 1:12:55) and Cold Lake’s Emily Setlack (1:14:00) have all of national and international experience needed, while Kinsey Middleton (1:12:30) and Hamilton’s Victoria Coates (1:13:45) bring the youth element.
The latter two are both 26-years-of age.
All seven men that ran fast enough to qualify (sub-1:06:00) did so in the same race, the 2018 Chevron Houston Marathon and Half Marathon.
Geoffrey Martinson of Vancouver is a former University of Victoria Vike athlete, who went on to compete for Canada in the 1500-metre distance during the 2011 Daegu IAAF World Track and Field Championships.
Cameron Levins is the lone Olympian of the bunch having competed in the 2012 London Games. He is a two-time NCAA champion from Southern Utah University and a former Canadian record holder in the 10,000-metre distance.
After graduating from university, his career looked promising, as he got to work with Nike’s Alberto Salazar, known for coaching Olympic gold and silver medallists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp. As much success Salazar’s style of coaching had with some athletes, it appears to backfire with others.
Levins did have some strong races, coupled with some down times exacerbated by injuries and bugs that got him at inopportune times.
He is back with his college coach Eric Houle. Levins is capable of running 60-61 on talent; however, he will need to get back to his old fitness levels to entertain a top-level time.
Martinson seems to run faster, the longer the distance happens to be. We likely haven’t seen the best of either Levins or Martinson.
Twenty-six-year-old Evan Esselink has also proven to run faster over longer distances. His best performance to date at any distance is likely his half marathon in Houston.
Toronto’s Sammy Jibril always seems to be on the edge of a breakout. His performances have crept up in quality steadily over time. He has limited international experience for Canada; perhaps a difference maker may be running a second time for team points as hard as he can in a stacked international field.
The 27-year-old did run for Canada at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda last March.
Canada will not be able to crack the podium in the individual standings or as a team, the Kenyans and Ethiopians are just too strong as are the Bahraini women (former Kenyans), Americans and Japanese. But if all eight Canadian athletes run as well as they are capable of, Team Canada could walk away with an all-time best performance at this event.