The Canadian Track and Field Championships are back this weekend in Langley, B.C., after not taking place in 2020 due to the pandemic and holding an elite-only competition in 2021. Between June 22 and 26, McLeod Athletic Park will host over 1,100 open and U20 athletes, who are all vying for a shot at a Canadian title.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Canada’s gold medallists from Tokyo (Damian Warner and Andre De Grasse) will be scratched from the national championships. Warner has been dealing with a knee injury, while De Grasse tested positive for COVID-19 when he returned to Canada from competing in France.
Last year, athletes were not required to compete at nationals to be named to Team Canada for the Olympics, because of COVID-related travel restrictions, but this year, it is back to business as usual for most athletes.
Athletics Canada has confirmed that Warner and De Grasse have medical/injury exemptions and are expected to be healthy and able to compete at World Championships; the others are injured and will not be selected.
Here are some of the major storylines we’re following at this year’s championships.
With De Grasse out, who will be crowned Canada’s fastest man?
De Grasse and Aaron Brown have ignited their rivalry over the 100m in recent years, but with the Olympic bronze medallist out, the 100m sprint crown is up for the taking. Brown has had several good performances over 100m this season, taking a win at Birmingham Diamond League in 10.13 and a season’s best performance of 10.09 seconds at the PURE Athletics Global Invitational in Clermont, Fla. Brown will be the likely favourite heading into the race, since he’s the only athlete in the field who has dipped under the 10-second barrier, but he will face strong competition from Jerome Blake on his home turf.
Blake, who grew up in Jamaica, moved to Burnaby, B.C. and took up sprinting from soccer. The 26-year-old was a part of Canada’s silver medal-winning 4x100m relay team in Tokyo and has run personal best times in both the 100 and 200m this season.
Bolade Ajomale and Bismark Boateng are two other athletes who could seize the day in the 100m. Ajomale was seventh in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships last March, while Boateng had a solid season in 2021, dipping under 10.20 seconds on three occasions.
The men’s 100m qualifying will begin on Thursday, June 23, while the semis and finals will take place on Saturday, June 25.
The women’s 800m is loaded
On paper, the women’s 800m is the race of the championships. The depth of the field is insane with seven women having seed times under 2:02. Last year’s champion Lindsey Butterworth returns home to defend her national title, while 2019 champion Madeleine Kelly continues to improve her personal best over the two-lap distance. Both women represented Canada in the 800m in Tokyo but did not make it out of the heats. Both women have also run close to the world championship standard of 1:59.50 this season.
Although Butterworth and Kelly are the most experienced in the field, you can’t ignore the other women who could win this.
Aurora Rynda tore up the track on the NCAA this season, running for the University of Michigan. Rynda won both the 600m and 800m conference championship and set school records in both distances. Rynda has not dipped under 2:02 this outdoor season but is well-rested heading into nationals.
Julianne Labach and Addy Townsend are also two up-and-coming 800m runners on the Canadian running scene, who could pull off an upset on a good day. Townsend clocked a personal best time of 2:01.24 in her season opener back in April and Labach holds a PB of 2:00-flat from 2021.
The women’s 800m qualifying will begin on Thursday, June 23, while the semis will take place on Friday evening and finals on Saturday, June 25.
Who will be the new king of the men’s 3,000m steeplechase?
Matt Hughes won seven straight Canadian steeplechase titles from 2013 to 2019, but after announcing his retirement from competitive track and field last week, a new steeple victor will be crowned. Last year, Vancouver’s John Gay ran a massive personal best to hit the Olympic standard and take the win at Canadian nationals. Gay will be the favourite heading into Friday night’s men’s steeple final but is up against fierce competition from Jean-Simon Desgagnés and Ryan Smeeton.
Smeeton is coming off a personal best performance of 8:20.06 and a fourth-place finish at the 2022 NCAA Championships with Oklahoma State University. He’s run back-to-back personal bests in his last two races. Desgagnés smashed his previous steeplechase best in May by over two seconds to open his season in New York City. He comes into nationals in good form, collecting a win at the Victoria Track Classic last week in 8:27.94.
The steeple is bound to be a shootout between these three athletes with Smeeton and Desgagnés looking to write their names in the history books.
The men’s 3,000m steeplechase final will take place on the night of Friday, June 24.
How to watch and follow the 2022 Canadian Track and Field Championships
The 2022 Bell Canadian Track & Field Championships will be broadcasted live from Friday through Sunday, June 24 to 26 on AthleticsCanada.tv with a Runnerspace+ subscription. Live results can be found here.
You can watch on-demand videos from the meet here. Field events will be shown as events on the track allow, but will not interrupt the broadcast of track events. Click here for the full event schedule.