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Canadians run to wins, PBs at races around the world

This weekend was by far the busiest of the year so far for Canadian track athletes

The past few days were packed with races on the road and track, and while it was a busy in general, it was perhaps the busiest weekend for Canadian athletes so far in 2021. Racing opportunities are tough to find north of the border right now, but there are plenty of events being held in the U.S. and the rest of the world, and many Canadians have left home to seek out these competitions. Not only were there plenty of Canucks in action this weekend, but many of them ran to race wins and PBs, making for an exciting few days of racing. 

USATF Grand Prix

The USATF Grand Prix took place at the University of Oregon’s newly renovated Hayward Field over the weekend, marking the start of the 2021 World Athletics Continental Tour Gold series. A number of Canadians were on site for the meet, with several laying down PBs. Natalia Hawthorn raced the women’s 5,000m, running to a huge PB of 15:18.67, shaving close to 13 seconds off her previous best of 15:31.27. The run brings her within eight seconds of the Olympic standard of 15:10.00 in the 5,000m.

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In the men’s 3,000m steeplechase, John Gay was the lone non-American in the field. He ended up placing fifth and finishing in 8:23.96, a five-second PB that is just two seconds off the Olympic standard. Gay’s result moves him up to eighth in the all-time national rankings in the event. 

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Three Canadians raced the 1,500m, with Justyn Knight posting the biggest result with his second-place finish and 3:35.85 PB. Knight finished behind Australia’s Ollie Hoare, who won the race in a PB of 3:33.54, and he came extremely close to hitting the 1,500m Olympic standard of 3:35.00. His run ranks as the eighth-fastest 1,500m in Canadian history. On the women’s side, Lucia Stafford ran to sixth place in 4:08.25, finishing a couple of seconds off her 4:06.86 PB and a few off the Olympic qualifying time of 4:04.20. Laurence Côté also ran in the women’s 1,500m, but she was on pacing duties and did not finish. 

Finally, there were two separate women’s 800m races. Madeleine Kelly, the 2019 Canadian 800m champion, raced in the “College Invitational,” a race meant to be the slower of the two runs, but she ended up running the fastest 800m split of the day. Kelly took the win in 2:02.87, beating the second-place finisher in her race by more than two seconds. Her time was half a second quicker than the winner of the other 800m race, which featured Canadian 800m record holder Melissa Bishop-Nriagu. Bishop-Nriagu finished in fourth in that race, posting a time of 2:04.18. 

For full results from the USATF Grand Prix, click here.

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Drake Relays 

About 3,000 kilometres away from the site of the USATF Grand Prix, the Drake Relays were held in Des Moines, Iowa. Like in Oregon, multiple Canadians toed the line in Des Moines. One week after her opening 400m hurdles race of the year (which she won), Sage Watson was back in action. Unfortunately, Watson was unable to improve to a 2-0 record on the season in the 400mH, and she ended up in fifth place in 56.31 seconds. 

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In the 1,500m, Mariah Kelly ran to a ninth-place finish in 4:16.18, and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot finished in second place in the men’s race in 3:39.34. Kieran Lumb and Ben Flanagan raced the men’s 5,000m, both running to huge PBs. Lumb finished in second place behind Australia’s Morgan McDonald, and he ran a phenomenal time of 13:24.25. This shaves a whopping 16 seconds off his previous best, and it’s Lumb’s second PB in as many weeks after running a 3:38.21 in a 1,500m on April 17.

Flanagan finished just behind Lumb in fourth place, crossing the line in 13:25.39 and dropping 13 seconds from his previous best result. Canadian sprinter Johnathan Cabral also raced in Des Moines, competing in the 110m hurdles, but his final time of 14.20 seconds wasn’t enough to get him out of the preliminary heats. 

For full results from the Drake Relays, click here.

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Other track meets 

While the Drake Relays and USATF Grand Prix were the two biggest track meets of the weekend, there were others held around the world at the same time. Racing in Atlanta, Olivier Desmeules ran to an 800m win in 1:50.06. Outside of North America, Georgia Ellenwood opened her outdoor season with a heptathlon in Italy. This was Ellenwood’s first heptathlon since 2019, and she ended up placing sixth with a final score of 6,097.

RELATED: Cam Levins runs unofficial Canadian record with 1:01:04 half-marathon time trial

Hitting the road

While so many Canadians were busy on the track this weekend, Rory Linkletter and Cam Levins hit the road. Linkletter raced a half-marathon in Nebraska, where he took the win in 1:03:57. This was just the third half-marathon of Linkletter’s career, and it’s his first win of 2021. Levins also ran a half-marathon, but his result is an unofficial one, as he did it in a time trial. This is unfortunate, because he crushed the current Canadian record of 1:01:28, running a remarkable 1:01:04. The record won’t count, but it’s still an incredible statement from Levins, and it will be exciting to see if he can lay down a similar time in a real race soon.