The Olympic qualifying window for track athletes is open for one more month, and many Canadians took advantage of races in the U.S. this past weekend as they looked to book their tickets to Tokyo. With quick results from Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, Julie-Anne Staehli and more, it was another fast and successful weekend of racing for Canucks. On top of the Canadian results, there were also some big runs from Americans, including high school and NCAA records from Hobbs Kessler and Athing Mu. For those results and more, here is another edition of the weekend recap.
Canadians in Portland
DeBues-Stafford is the Canadian record holder in multiple events, with national bests from the 1,500m up to the 5,000m. She doesn’t race the 800m often (before this year, her last shot at the distance was in 2018), but she has run it twice in 2021, with the most recent coming on the weekend at the Portland Track Festival.
Earlier in May at the Sound Running Track Meet in California, DeBues-Stafford ran a PB of 2:00.03, just missing out on a sub-two-minute run. On Saturday in Portland, she ran a massive PB, flying under two minutes and the Olympic standard of 1:59.50 with a 1:58.70 finish, a time that won her the race. Despite the fact that the 800m is not a go-to event for DeBues-Stafford, she now owns the fourth-fastest time at the distance in Canadian history. The result also makes her the first Canadian woman to break two minutes in the 800m, four in the 1,500m, nine in the 3,000m, and 15 in the 5,000m.
In the 5,000m in Portland, Canadians Andrea Seccafien and Staehli finished in second and third, both running to massive PBs. Seccafien, who set the Canadian 10,000m record at the Sound Running Track Meet, charged to a 14:57.07 finish, giving her the third-fastest time in national history in the event. Staehli was right behind her, breaking 15 minutes for the first time in her career and finishing in 14:57.50.
Kate Van Buskirk recently broke 15 minutes for the first time in the 5,000m, but she was in action in the 1,500m in Portland, where she finished in sixth in 4:05.39. Her compatriot Natalia Hawthorn also raced the 1,500m, finishing in third in a PB of 4:04.47 (just off the Olympic standard of 4:04.20).
In the men’s 1,500m, para-athletics world champion Nate Riech lowered his own T38 world record with a new PB of 3:47.89. Will Paulson also raced the 1,500m, and he, too, ran a PB, finishing in 3:35.42. Finally, at the PT Qualifier in Boston, Canada’s Ben Flanagan ran a five-second PB in the 5,000m, posting a time of 13:20.67. This time won Flanagan the race, and it also brought him within 10 seconds of the Olympic standard of 13:13.50.
Also in the men’s 1,500m in Portland, American high schooler Kessler ran to Olympic standard and a national high school record with his 3:34.36 finish. Just 18 years old, Kessler finished in fifth place, and his time was well under the Olympic standard of 3:35.00.
With his run, Kessler beat Alan Webb‘s 2001 high school record of 3:38.26. Webb’s result came in a mile race in which he set the high school boys’ record of 3:53.43, but Kessler’s run is still incredibly impressive. This is the second high school record of the year for Kessler, who has committed to run at Northern Arizona University, as he already broke the national indoor mile record with a 3:57.66 run in February.
Just a year older than Kessler is Mu, who turns 19 in early June. The Texas A&M freshman has had an amazing season that has seen her run multiple collegiate and national records, plus one world U20 best in the indoor 800m (she ran 1:58.40 in February). Mu continued her dominance on Saturday, when she won a 400m race in Texas.
Mu came into 2021 with a 400m PB of 51.98 seconds, and she has beaten that on multiple occasions this year. She won her race in Texas on the weekend in a new PB of 49.68, which is the fourth-fastest U20 time in world history and the new NCAA record. Mu had already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials before Saturday, but her time only further proves that she is a threat to make the American team headed to Tokyo. She has also qualified for the trials in the 800m.