Cam Levins: Canada’s next great distance running hope

Canadian distance runner Cam Levins is quietly becoming one of the best track stars this country has ever produced.

He’s just 23 years old, but Canadian distance runner Cam Levins is quietly and quickly becoming one of the best track stars this country has ever produced.

Levins’s latest feat was an astonishing 13:18.47 performance in the 5000m at the highly competitive Mt. Sac Relays on Friday, beating favourite Lawi Lalang in a sprint finish. All young distance runners should watch the video of this race on FloTrack. Yes, he closed in 55 seconds for the final 400m, but it wasn’t a sit-and-kick effort.

Levins ran comfortably in fifth or sixth place for the first half of the race, always in a position to cover any surges, before moving to the front of the field for the most of the final 2K. He took his turn leading, but still had the ability to come from behind in the final lap.

“I know with one lap to go, I had him,” Levins told FloTrack after the race.

The most noticeable part about Levins’s race was how calm and relaxed he looked at all times. It might be an indication of his potential to not only take down Jeff Schiebler’s Canadian record of 13:13.96, but also be competitive on the international stage.

Consider this: in his first outdoor race of the season, Levins of Black Creek, B.C., made the Canadian ‘A+’ Standard, virtually guaranteeing him a spot on the Olympic team. His time is the second fastest all-time for a Canadian. He’s also coming off a spectacular indoor season, which saw him run 7:48 for 3000m and 13:42 for 5000m on the same weekend at an early meet in Washington.

Although he didn’t win a medal for Southern Utah at the NCAA indoor championships, he was near the front of the field in a race that was almost as competitive as this year’s world indoor championships.

To top it all off, Levins is doing it while maintaining a near-ridiculous training volume in excess of 240K (150 miles) per week.

In Canadian running circles, from Reid Coolsaet to Kevin Sullivan, everybody speaks highly of Levins. He’s confident, personable and motivated.

Just three years ago, Levins was running to a gold medal for Team B.C. at the Canada Games. Now, he’s on the verge of breaking the Canadian record and potentially qualifying for the Olympics in two events, the 5000m and 10,000m.

Levins said he’ll run the 10,000m at the Payton Jordan meet on April 29, no doubt gunning for the Canadian Olympic ‘A’ standard of 27:45. Does he have a shot? Most certainly. Does it also mean he has the makings of being Canada’s next great marathoner? Maybe, but history has shown the marathon is difficult to predict. Just ask Simon Bairu, who like Levins, will also be chasing the 27:45 mark in Palo Alto, California.

Bairu struggled at his jump to the marathon, but seems to have regained his form on the track after running 13:37 for 5000m at the Stanford Invite on April 7. The 27:45-qualifying time is definitely within Bairu’s reach, given his recent marathon buildup and the fact he holds the Canadian record of 27:23.65.

It’s been a good week for Canadian distance runners, with Dylan Wykes joining Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis on the Olympic marathon team. And when the trio of Wykes, Coolsaet and Gillis retire, we have 27-year-old Rob Watson (2:13 in Rotterdam) and Levins, with bright futures ahead of them. Throw in the recent performances by youngsters Matt Loiselle, Lucas McAneney and Kelly Wiebe, and it seems that Canadian men’s distance running is in good hands.

Good weekend for Canadian milers and Sheila Reid
While Cam Levins was the highlight of the Mt. Sac weekend for Canadian fans, milers Taylor Milne and Nate Brannen both had strong races at the early-season meet. Milne finished second in the Puma mile in 3:54.29, while Brannen was third in 3:54.81. Hilary Stellingwerf, Milne’s Speed River teammate, won the women’s mile in 4:31.04.

Villanova star Sheila Reid of Newmarket, Ont., was fifth in the women’s 5000m in 15:23.35. She made the Olympic ‘B’ standard and was just three seconds off the ‘A’ standard.