Six-time Canadian champion Jessica Zelinka has usually had an easy path to victory at nationals, but it was anything but smooth this time around at her home track in Calgary. Zelinka found herself in the unusual position of having to chase down the leader Ruky Abdulai in the 800m, the final event of the gruelling two-day competition at the Canadian track and field championships on Thursday.
Zelinka won the 800m, but not by a large enough margin to take the gold away from Coquitlam, B.C’s Abdulai, who was just as surprised as anybody. “I wasn’t expecting to beat her,” Abdulai told the Canadian Press. “We just pushed each other.”
Both athletes broke Catherine Bond-Mills’s meet record of 6,058 points, set in 1998. Abdulai had 6,150, achieving the “A” standard for the world championships, while Zelinka, originally from London, Ont., finished 18 points back with 6,132.
Zelinka, who is on the July cover of Canadian Running, was happy for Abdulai. “Good for her,” she said. “That’s what the heptathlon is all about…. leading into the last event and moving forward. She did that really well.”
In the men’s decathlon, Damian Warner of London, Ont., broke the 8,000-barrier, finishing with 8,102 points, well ahead of second-place Chris Crossley of Saskatoon, who had 7,264 points. Warner, just 21 years old, didn’t expect such a high score this early in his career, and he said it bodes well for the future.
In Wednesday’s competition at the Canadian track and field championships, Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton, Ont., claimed the 10,000m title without actually winning the race. He was overtaken in the final lap by Kenyan-born Kip Kangogo, who lives in Lethbridge, Alta. (Kangogo is still waiting to receive his Canadian citizenship, so he’s not eligible to win a national title). Both runners ran pedestrian times for their standards, Kangogo clocked 31:28.78, while Coolsaet ran 31:36.38. Coolsaet, Canada’s top marathoner, will also run the 5000m on Friday night.
The women’s 10,000m continues to suffer from lack of entries, as Bevin Kennelly won the race in 36:40.42. There were only two runners in the event.