July Running News

This issue includes:monthlyruningnews

  • statistics about the 2016 Canadian Olympic track and field team;
  • a recap of the Canadian Trials from July 7-10;
  • other recent results from Canadian athletes; and
  • highlights from the US Olympic Trials.

Olympic Team Announced

Athletics Canada announced the Canadian Olympic team on July 11th, and it is being touted as the largest (65 athletes) and strongest team we have sent in track and field. On the whole, Athletics Canada took a more inclusive approach than in previous years, in terms of selecting athletes to the team. However, credit must be given to the athletes themselves, as more of them achieved the qualifying standards than in previous years. A complete list of athletes and coaches who have been named to the team can be found on Athletics Canada’s website. Here are some key stats on Canada’s Olympic track and field team:

  • 37 women will compete in 20 events
  • 28 men will compete in 16 events
  • By hometown:
    • 11 athletes hail from British Columbia;
    • 9 from Alberta;
    • 2 from Saskatchewan;
    • 34 from Ontario;
      • Nate Brannen (1500m) of Cambridge is the sole representative of Waterloo Region, although he has lived in the States for many years now;
    • 5 from Quebec;
    • 2 from Manitoba;
    • 1 from New Brunswick; and
    • 1 from Nova Scotia
  • By discipline:
    • 27 athletes will compete in mid-distance or endurance events (including race walk);
    • 23 in sprint events;
    • 13 in field events; and
    • 2 in multi-discipline competitions (heptathlon and decathlon)

It’s hard to know if the social media campaign and petition to get Lanni Marchant entered in both her events were instrumental, but Marchant was named to the team for both the 10,000m and the marathon, making her the first Canadian woman to have earned this opportunity.

Canada's Olympic team takes shape on pivotal weekend

Canadian Trials Recap

July 7-10 was full of great racing (and jumping and throwing). If you weren’t able to watch the Trials live, or want to re-watch some of the highlights, you can view the entire weekend of events on Athletics Canada TV if you have a RunnerSpace account; otherwise, CBC has some highlight videos, which include full-length races for most final events.

Day 1
The main event of Day 1 was the 5,000m finals. The men’s race was run in two timed sections, while the women raced as a straight final.  The women were up first, and the race was fairly slow with all the predictable names at the front. Marchant was the first to fall off pace from the front group, and Natasha Wodak followed with 800m to go, leaving the three standard holders (Jessica O’Connell, Andrea Seccafien and Rachel Cliff) and Sasha Gollish to fight it out for position. Cliff took over the lead and picked up the pace, but was badly out-kicked in the final lap, losing 10 seconds to the other ladies in the final 400m. Seccafien executed beautifully for the win, and Gollish just edged O’Connell for second place.

This outcome resulted in one of the most controversial team decisions: Seccafien and O’Connell were both named to the Olympic roster; however, Cliff has been left off the list. Cliff’s husband, steeplechaser Chris Winter, confirmed that she filed an appeal; however, she was ultimately unsuccessful.

The men’s race was also run at a careful pace, much slower than the qualifying standard and well within the capabilities of most of the entrants. For the most part, the race played out as expected: Canadian record holder Mohammed Ahmed sat at the back of the field for the first few laps, and then slowly moved up through the field, finishing with a fierce 56-second final lap for the win. Lucas Bruchet was almost able to match Ahmed’s kick and took second place, with Nova Scotia’s Mike Tate finishing third. A disappointed Cam Levins finished seventh. In interviews after the race, Levins confessed he has been struggling with an ankle injury for the past year and did not expect to be named to the Olympic team. His prediction was realized on July 11th, when only Ahmed and Bruchet were named for the 5,000m and Ahmed for the 10,000m, despite Levins having achieved both standards in 2015 prior to his injury.

Day 2
The highlights of Day 2 were the women’s 400m hurdles and the women’s steeplechase events. 2012 Olympian Sarah Wells (who recently launched a clothing line at Winners) finished a disappointing fourth to three women who all ran the Olympic standard in the finals, led by University of Windsor alumna Noelle Montcalm. Montcalm’s victory was all the more impressive as it was her first time running the Olympic standard.

Montcalm earns the win and a spot at the Olympics on July 8, 2016.

The evening ended with the women’s steeplechase, in which five out of eight competitors held the standard. Canadian record holder Geneviève Lalonde made the first move to split up the pack and looked good for the win, until Erin Teschuk made her move with a lap to go. Lalonde ended up a close third behind Maria Bernard, and all three women have been named to the Olympic team.

Day 3
Day 3 was a busy one, and the 1500m races certainly proved exciting. The women’s race unfolded a little differently than expected: race favourite and top seed Sheila Reid was unable to start due to injury, and Fiona Benson, who has the standard for both the 1500m and the 800m, decided to focus on the 800m. This left just three women with the standard on the starting line, and they took spots 1-3, with Gabriela Stafford as the new Canadian champion. Stafford, Nicole Sifuentes and Hilary Stellingwerff have since been named to the Olympic team.

The men’s field had just two standard-holders, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and 2004/2012 Olympian Brannen. Philibert-Thiboutot managed to stay in the clear by front-running most of the race, and took the win. Brannen almost got into trouble, clipping the heels of Adam Palamar with 500m to go. Palamar fell into the infield and did not finish; Brannen (likely having flashbacks to London 2012 when he fell in the semi-finals and finished near-last) stumbled but managed to stay on his feet, finishing third behind Justyn Knight. Knight does not have the Olympic standard, but is definitely someone to watch in the coming years. Both Philibert-Thiboutot and Brannen were named to the Olympic team.

Up next were the 100m finals. Despite three women having previously attained the Olympic standard, only winner Crystal Emmanuel and 100m hurdle specialist Phylicia George ran faster than 11.32 seconds during the finals. Only Emmanuel has been selected to race the 100m in Rio, but George, Kimberly Hyacinthe and Khamica Bingham will join her in the 4x100m relay. The men’s 100m was also exciting: Andre De Grasse ran faster than 10 seconds, and Aaron Brown was not far behind.

The final event of the night was the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Again, the favourite did not make it to the starting line. Matt Hughes suffered a minor but poorly-timed injury that kept him from racing. Fortunately for him, Alex Genest announced he was also injured and would not be able to compete or be ready for the Olympics in August. This left just two qualified athletes in the field, Taylor Milne and Winter, who easily finished 1-2. Given his strong performances over the season and last year (Hughes won gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games and was 8th at the 2015 World Championships), Hughes was also named to the team as the third member.

Day 4
The final day of the Trials featured more of Canada’s very best. Melissa Bishop put in another fantastic performance in the women’s 800m, running under two minutes once again, to win by four seconds – a significant margin in a top quality 800m field. The other standard-holders, Jessica Smith and Benson, have both struggled this season, and finished fourth and eighth, respectively. Only Bishop has been named to the Olympic team for this event. Smith submitted an appeal regarding her omission from the team; however, it appears she was unsuccessful as well. [Update: as of July 25, Smith is officially listed on the roster.] 

The women’s pole vault also took place on the final day. As mentioned in June Running News, there have been several strong performances by Canadian women this year. Although none of the contenders surpassed their personal bests, the top three did beat the previous Canadian championship record. Alysha Newman, Anicka Newell and Kelsie Ahbe have all been named to the Olympic team. Women’s pole vault is the only field event for which Canada is sending a full team of three athletes.

In the men’s 200m final, Brendon Rodney surprised many by becoming only the second Canadian to go under 20 seconds. De Grasse finished third, in a photo-finish with Brown. All three men will compete in the 200m in Rio.

The final event of the day, excluding relays, was the women’s 100m hurdles, an event that has been the pinnacle of Canadian track and field for quite some time. 2012 Olympians George and Nikkita Holder both ran under the Olympic standard, and 2004/2008 Olympian Angela Whyte finished third; all three will compete in Rio.

Post-Trials Results

In the week since the Trials, Canadian athletes have had continued success in international competition. In Monaco on July 15th, Philibert-Thiboutot ran a 1500m in which he almost tied his personal best, and Sifuentes set a 10+ second PB in the 3000m. That same evening, Bishop broke her own Canadian record, running 1:57.43 in Edmonton at the Tracktown Classic. This result ranks her third in the world this year in the 800m. Meanwhile, Derek Drouin, reigning world high jump champion, jumped 2.38m on July 17th in Germany. This is Drouin’s second best jump ever, and ranks him third in the world this year as well.

In the video below, Bishop answers some questions about her success, racing against intersex women and her coach, Dennis Fairall.


US Olympic Trials Highlights 

The US Trials spanned ten days and was structured to mimic the Olympics. This resulted in a few silly scenarios, such as a round of heats for the women’s 1500m to eliminate just three athletes before semi-finals. There was too much action to summarize effectively here; however, for those who are interested, full results are readily available, as are videos and stories on Flotrack. 41-year old Bernard Lagat won the 5,000m to make his fifth Olympic team.

One event stands out more than most, and that is the women’s 800m final. Alysia Montaño, noted for the flower she always wears in her hair when she races, and for racing in the US Championships in 2014 when she was eight months pregnant, took the early lead and held it for 600m. At this point the rest of the field crept up around her, and every athlete looked and felt fully in control. Just seconds later, jostling led to Montaño somersaulting across the track and two other top contenders, Brenda Martinez and Molly Ludlow, being forced out into lanes three and four to try to stay on their feet. Oiselle athlete Kate Grace, who has had a standout year, took the win, with Ajee’ Wilson (silver medalist at the World Indoor Championships this past March) in second. Ludlow finished fourth by an agonizing 0.04 seconds to newcomer Chrishuna Williams. As the top three finishers have all achieved the Olympic standard, there was little the women affected by the fall could do.  Martinez later qualified for the 1500m, but Ludlow and Montaño are left to come up with alternative ends to their 2016 seasons, as neither will compete in Rio this summer.

Next month’s Running News post will review results from the 2016 Rio Olympics.