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B.C. runner wins two NCAA conference titles

Five Canadian women took home titles at their respective NCAA conference championships

Grace Fetherstonhaugh Photo by: Oregon State Athletics

Canada’s top up-and-coming athletes competed over the weekend at their respective NCAA conference championships south of the border. Canadians Grace Fetherstonhaugh, Ceili McCabe, Simone Plourde, Aurora Rynda and Savannah Sutherland all ran to conference titles, giving them tremendous momentum as they move through the final few races of the season; Fetherstonhaugh won both the 3,000m steeplechase and the 5,000m on back-to-back days.

Regan Yee, Ceili McCabe and Grace Fetherstonhaugh
Regan Yee, Ceili McCabe and Grace Fetherstonhaugh at the 2022 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Langley, B.C. Photo: athletepics.ca

Two wins for Fetherstonhaugh

Fetherstonhaugh is a fourth-year runner from New Westminster, B.C., who runs for Oregon State University. She has had a solid tenure at Oregon State, setting multiple school records in the 5,000m and 3,000m steeplechase. In March, she competed at the NCAA Indoor Championships in New Mexico, racing to a 12th-place finish in the women’s 3,000m.

On Saturday, she lined up in the 3,000m steeplechase, flying to the win in 9:39.23 and crossing the line a whopping six seconds ahead of second place. On Sunday, Fetherstonhaugh toed the line once more, this time in the women’s 5,000m. Despite having run a tremendous race just a day earlier, she once again crushed the rest of the field, cruising to the win in 16:01.78 and winning by six seconds.  

Last year, she made her senior national team debut, representing Team Canada at the 2022 World Championships in the 3,000m steeplechase.

McCabe’s big weekend 

Like Fetherstonhaugh, McCabe grew up running in B.C. before heading east to run for West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.V. She won the 2019 U20 national championship in the 3,000m steeplechase and represented Team Canada at the 2022 World Championships, and she’s had an excellent career so far at West Virginia University, with several top-five finishes at NCAA Championships. 

This year, it looks like McCabe is on track to have yet another big showing at the NCAAs in June. She won the Big 12 conference title in the steeplechase on Saturday with a stellar 10:12.79 finish, beating the second-place runner by five seconds.

Plourde takes the win 

The Montreal native running for the University of Utah took down a stacked field in the women’s 1,500m at the Pac 12 Championships, breaking Shelby Houlihan’s conference record of 4:11.06 by nearly two seconds (4:09.48). Plourde won the race down the final straight, edging out Stanford’s Melissa Tanaka and pre-race favourite and U.S. U18 800m record holder Roisin Willis. 

Plourde has had a great 2023 campaign that has seen her only miss the podium in just two of her last nine races (including heats). One of those races was the 3,000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships; but her PB performance of 9:14.59 earned her a fourth-place finish in the nation. 

Rynda and Sutherland lead Michigan to team title

Toronto’s Rynda earned her third-consecutive Big Ten conference victory on Sunday in the women’s 800m, winning in a time of 2:05.95 and collecting her 10th Big Ten conference title during her five-year collegiate career at the University of Michigan. 

Sutherland, who is from Borden, Sask., shone yet again in her strongest event, the 400-metre hurdles. She cruised to victory by over a second, in 55.75 seconds. Her time was the second-fastest in school history (behind her PB of 55.36 from earlier this year) and was her first individual Big Ten title.

Next up for these five Canadian women are the NCAA Regional Championships on May 25-27, after which they’ll head to the nationals (if they qualify). Should they make it to Austin, all five runners will have great chances to do something special and record huge results for their respective schools. 

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