© Copyright – 2018 – Athletics Illustrated

On Saturday, Jan. 27, Toronto’s Kate Van Buskirk pulled off the type of indoor mile race performance that may just set the tone for the rest of Canada’s middle-distance athletes this year. It was the early-season type of performance that often changes one’s plans for the rest of the indoor and perhaps outdoor seasons.

She took Sheila Reid’s Canadian mile (1609m) record running 4:26.9 at the Dr. Sander Invitational at the Armory in New York. Reid’s record was 4:27.02. Fellow Torontonians Gabriela Stafford was 5th in the time of 4:28.8 and Lucia Stafford was 6th in 4:31.6. The second place finisher was Rachel Schneider who finished over a second back at 4:27.30 and third was Karissa Schweizer who crossed the line in 4:27.54.

The mile isn’t run as often as the more common metric mile, the 1500m. Interestingly, the national 1500m record is held by Nicole Sifuentes of Winnipeg at 4:07.61. According to the worldwide governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and their scoring tables, Van Buskirk’s mile performance converts to a 4:07.00.

Buskirk took the lead early and never relinquished it.

“Overall, I was pleased with my race execution on Saturday,” said Van Buskirk. “I knew that the field was strong and the pace would be solid through 800m (2:15.099) thanks to our rabbit Heather Wilson. I tried to measure my effort through the first half, and stayed patient from 800-1200m, knowing that I had another big gear to tap into. I ran wide for a lap late in the race and spent some unnecessary energy doing so, but I applied pressure to the lead and kept the pace hot over the last 400m.”

The two-time national 1500m champion has experienced highs in her post-collegiate career and some lows. Winning the bronze medal during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the 1500m event (4:09.41) was a big high; however, the effort would find her hobbling with an injured hamstring.

A year later, she had back issues and missed the opportunity to compete in the Beijing IAAF World Championships.

This time, her build up was as good as ever and her new level of fitness allowed her to control the race.

“Going in, I knew I was in shape for a personal best, but this being a season opener, it’s always hard to know exactly what you’re capable of. I felt really strong at the end, and feel like there’s more in the tank. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities this season to explore my potential!”

She indeed appeared poised, breaking the tape.

Asked what the difference was this year, to previous buildups she said, “The main thing that has been different in this build-up compared to previous years is the consistency in my health and training. I had a very solid four months through the fall base phase, and while my workouts were similar in structure to what I’ve done with my coaches in previous years, staying injury and illness-free meant that I adapted far more quickly to mileage and intensity than I have in the past. Dealing with so many injury setbacks over the last three years has taught me a tremendous amount about my body and this knowledge helped equip me with the tools I need to stay healthy and strong.”

Van Buskirk has been training with a collection of talent from the Greater Toronto Area including national 3,000m steeplechase record holder Matt Hughes.

“I did a number of workouts with Matt Hughes since he was home in the GTA throughout the fall and he really helped to elevate my training level. He’s the epitome of professionalism, so not only was I positively affected by this from a workout environment perspective, but having someone as strong as him to work within training sessions meant that I was running times this year that I haven’t touched in the past.”

As with any success, there were others that helped along the way. The two-time All-American from Duke University this past autumn worked out with Sami Jibril, Matt Viveiros, Laura Desjardins and others.

“I did most of my hard long runs with Laura Desjardins, and she and I cranked through some speedy 25km’s together along the Toronto Lakeshore. Once I moved my workouts indoors to York University in December, I worked consistently with Sami Jibril, since his Houston Half Marathon prep workouts were ideal for strengthening my 5km and 3km fitness. Matt Viveiros, who runs for the University of Memphis, also worked in with me on the faster turnover training while he was home for the winter break.”

“With every passing season, my trust and belief in my coaches, training plan and support network increases. I am so lucky to work with Dave Reid and Eddie Raposo, two of the most capable and selfless coaches in the running world and my partnership with these guys gets stronger with each success and set-back. We know each other so well after working together for years, and I think that we’ve hit our stride (pardon the pun) as a unit.”

Van Buskirk has represented Canada internationally at least three other times, twice at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2005 and 2006 as well as the IAAF World Track and Field Championships that took place in Moscow, Russia in 2013 – competing in the 1500-metre distance.

It’s early; however, with this level of performance, it may just result in another top-level result during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and IAAF World Indoor Championships if she is nominated to team Canada.

The selection criteria for the Birmingham, UK Worlds for the 1500m distance includes the mile run at 4:28.50 (1500m at 4:11.00). The event happens March 1-4, 2018.

“In general, I’m feeling very grateful and excited for myself and my team, and for the future of women’s mid-distance in Canada!”