It’s conference championship week in Canada. On Friday and Saturday of this coming weekend, track and field runners across the country will lace up and toe the line in hopes of competing two weeks later at the U Sports Championships in Winnipeg. 

RELATED: Westaway and Arop set new Canadian records

The 2019 U Sports track and field conference championships are taking place in four venues (one for each U Sport conference) across the country on the weekend of Feb. 22-23.

OUA Track Championships
Stafford sisters at OUAs 2017.

The top athlete in each event from the RSEQ (Quebec) and AUS (Atlantic) conferences, and the top-two athletes in each event from the OUA (Ontario) and Canada West (Western Canada) conferences will automatically qualify for the U Sports national championship. Athletes can also qualify for the championship by running faster than U Sports standard times, as well as by being ranked in the national top-12 in a specific event.

Being distance running nerds, Canadian Running takes an in-depth look into the four middle-distance and distance events offered (600m to 3,000m) on the U Sports track circuit, while predicting the top-three finishers in each race.

Women’s 600m

Jenna Westaway of Guelph is the first-ranked runner in the 600m. The Guelph athlete is in her final year of eligibility and is fitter than ever, but with Lucia Stafford of Toronto and her teammate Olivia Romaniw right behind her, a win certainly isn’t a guarantee. It’ll be a battle between these three women, and Stafford isn’t one to bow down during a championship race. 

Predictions

1 – Jenna Westaway – Guelph
2 – Lucia Stafford – Toronto
3 – Olivia Romaniw – Guelph

U Sports Track and Field Championships
Men’s 600m prelims. Photo: U Sports.

Men’s 600m

The first ranked runner in the men’s 6oo is a newbie to the event. Jack Berkshire of Toronto is in his third year of competition but his first year of very long sprinting (also known as 600 metre running). With the second and third seeded runners using converted times, if Berkshire has a good day, he will likely come out on top. 

Predictions

1 – Jack Berkshire – Toronto
2 – Philip Osei – Guelph
3 – Micheal Petersen – Western

Women’s 1,000m

It’ll be a Stafford vs. Romaniw vs. Westaway showdown again in the 1K. But Westaway just smashed the Canadian 1K record and appears to be in the shape of her life. We’d say it’s pretty unlikely that anyone can take Westaway over 1 kilometre. 

Predictions

1 – Jenna Westaway – Guelph
2 – Olivia Romaniw – Guelph
3 – Lucia Stafford – Toronto

Boston University David Hemery Valentine
Indoor Track & Field Jenna Westaway, Guelph, breaks the national record of Canada in 1000 meters indoors 2:37.02

Men’s 1,000m

The men’s 1K might be one of the tightest races of the weekend. With the top five entries having run within one second of each other, this isn’t an easy race to call. Stephen Evans of Ottawa seems to be the favourite at the moment, but second and third is a toss up between Ben DeVito of Toronto, Akiva Goldberg of Waterloo and Alec Purnell and Mostafa Elkurdy of Guelph. Guelph is known for having their team ready for championship season, so it’s likely that one of the Guelph guys will improve on their ranking position at the championship.

Predictions

1 – Stephen Evans – Ottawa
2 – Ben DeVito – Toronto
3 – Alec Purnell – Guelph

Photo: Gabriela Stafford. Instagram.

Women’s 1,500m

Ranked first by a long shot is Canadian indoor mile and 5,000m record holder Gabriela Debues-Stafford. Her seed time is her Canadian mile record converted to the 1,500m. While she might not run 4:05 on Saturday, a win shouldn’t be an issue for the record holder. Westaway is ranked second in the event, but if history is any indication, Westaway will opt for the 1,000m and 600m over the 1,500, as a triple at OUA’s is difficult. 

Predictions

1 – Gabriela Debues-Stafford – Toronto
2 – Danielle Jossinet – Guelph
3 – Dana Earhart – Guelph

Men’s 1,500m

Toronto’s Craig Klomp is just a hair ahead of Western’s Jack Sheffar in the rankings, and based on Sheffar’s recent 3,000m, he’s likely got a little more in the tank than his 1,500 time would suggest. It’ll certainly be a battle between these two men.

Predictions

1 – Craig Klomp – Toronto
2 – Jack Sheffar – Western
3 – Connor Black – Guelph

Women’s 3,000m

Debues-Stafford is far ahead of the rest of the competition in this event as well, but it’s unlikely that the Canadian record holder will do both the 1,500m and 3,000m. In the event that Stafford opts for the 1,500m, the race will become a very close battle between Branna MacDougall, Danielle Jossinet and Kristina Popadich. All three women are former OUA and U Sports medallists on the track and in cross-country. 

Predictions

1 – Gabriela Debues-Stafford – Toronto
2 – Branna MacDougall – Queen’s
3 – Danielle Jossinet – Guelph

U Sports 3,000m
Men’s 3,000m. Photo: U Sports.

Men’s 3,000m

Jack Sheffar is the favourite to win the 3,000m, being significantly ahead of the rest of the competition heading into the championship. However, second and third place will be very tight between McMaster, Western and Guelph with six pf their runners all hovering around the 8:14 mark. When the times are that close, it comes down to experience and who feels good on the day. 

Predictions 

1 – Jack Sheffar – Western
2 – Alex Drover – McMaster
3 – Mark Patton – Guelph

Stay tuned for AUS, RSEQ and Canada West previews.

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