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Last weekend for athletes to qualify for Pan Am Games

Photo: Brenden Cleary
Photo: Brenden Cleary

The qualification process for the Pan American Games is pretty simple: be one of the two top athletes in your event.

Sunday marks the final day for Canadian athletes to try and qualify for the upcoming Games in Toronto, meaning this weekend will be a busy one as those just on the outside will be looking to make the team while those currently sitting in a position to qualify will be hoping to keep their spot. And the start lists around the country and in the U.S. are showing it.

Some events are particularly tight. In Portland, Ore., at the Portland Track Festival, four of Canada’s top five female 1,500m athletes will be looking for one of two spots on the team. Sasha Gollish, currently with the top time in Canada, will line up alongside Kate Van Buskirk, Hilary Stellingwerff and Sheila Reid on Saturday evening. Nicole Sifuentes, ranked second in Canada, is competing in Windsor, Ont., at the Ontario championships.

In the women’s 800m, Melissa Bishop and Jessica Smith, currently ranked second and third respectively, will race with Rachel Francois, ranked fifth. Rachel Aubry, ranked fourth, will compete in Windsor, Ont.

Similar races are unfolding on the men’s side. In the 800m and 1,500m, most of the top athletes are all competing somewhere, with the added challenge of a few NCAA athletes competing at their championships. Brandon McBride, the top 800m runner in the country, is looking to defend his 800m title in the NCAA and Rob Denault will compete in the 1,500m final.

The 5,000m and 10,000m events are less contested, though there are similar races unfolding there also, as well as in the sprints and field events.

Canada has decided to send a full team to the Pan Am Games, meaning there will be at least one, and likely two, athletes competing for a home crowd in Toronto. Early plans where to have the top two athletes from the upcoming national championships be selected to the team, though time constraints forced a change to the selection criteria.

The selection process differs from those for world championships and Olympics in that standards are set relatively low and there is now trials competition. For most world and Olympic teams, athletes must meet difficult standards as well as compete well at the nationals championships.