Talented Competition Highlights Sunday’s Track Classic

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It’s an Olympic year which means that Sunday’s Victoria International Track Classic will see many athletes setting their sights on attaining that coveted Olympic standard. No more so than Rachel Francois, a fifth year Vike and one of our best 800m specialists. Her personal best of 2:02 is just shy of the standard she needs (2:01) and is confident she can go one better. “It is very achievable for me,” she says. She has two chances this weekend with the Harry Jerome meet on Friday in Burnaby before Sunday’s race at Centennial Stadium. “Doing both distances within 48 hours isn’t enough to take a ton out of me so I will be going for it in both races,” she adds.

Fellow Vike Thomas Riva is also running the 800m on Sunday, only because the 1500m specialist doesn’t want to run the longer distance back-to-back, so at Jerome he will do the 1500m. “My best is 3:37 and the Olympic standard is 3:38 so it is within my reach,” he says.

Rachel Francois, Sultana Frizell and Heather Steacy

Rachel Francois, Sultana Frizell and Heather Steacy

Incoming Vike, currently graduating from Reynolds High School is Brendan Hoff, who is setting his sights on the World Junior standard to compete in the IAAF World Junior Track and Field championships later this summer. He needs a 3:48 and he has a personal best of 3:51.17 set last year in London, Ont. Doing 1500m back to back races isn’t an issue with him. “I have done three races in three days at provincials so I am trained to do it. I also train with Geoff Harris and Dan Gorman and find they give good advice,” says the Campbell River native.

For Hilary Stellingwerff the main work is done – she met the 1500m Olympic standard earlier this month in Portland. She was fourth fastest out of five (4:05:61) and three get to go to Rio. So it is all down to the Olympic trials in July. “I am very excited but I know now I have to practice my tactics so I can get to the line,” she says. At 34 she is considered something of a veteran and now with a two-year-old son she has to balance her training with family. “My son goes into day care in the mornings so I can train, and I have to manage more now at 34 than 24 for sure.”

Sunday will also see two of Canada’s top Hammer throwers compete. Heather Steacy, the 2012 National Champion and Sultana Frizell, the Canadian record holder. For two-time Olympian Frizell it is a matter of proving her fitness. The Olympic standard is 71m and her personal best is 75.73m, but with a disappointing 2012 Olympics where she didn’t qualify for the finals, she is out to prove her worth. “To medal in Rio you have to throw 74 and higher and I have done that,” she said.

With reigning world high jump champion Derek Drouin, four-time Olympic medalist Jeremy Wariner and Canadian middle-distance sensation Melissa Bishop also competing Sunday’s meet will be a classic to watch.

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