Hilary Stellingwerff. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2016 – Victoria Sports News

London Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff will be competing in the Victoria Track Classic on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19 at Centennial Stadium.

She will be racing the 800-metre event, which will serve as an under-distance run, as they say in the track and field business. Stellingwerff specialises in the 1500-metre event and is currently seeking to improve her Rio Olympic Games qualification status.

By competing in the shorter event, she will benefit from the intensity. Running under distance provides a training stimulus and an opportunity to practice utilizing a strong finishing kick, because Sunday she will be chasing one of the world’s best 800-metre runners.

The race will be exciting for Victoria sports fans, as Canadian record holder Melissa Bishop will also toe-the-line. Bishop won a silver medal at last year’s world championships. Her national record is 1:57.52.

“I’m doing the 800-metre event to work on finishing speed and sharpness as both will be important at the Olympic trials,” Shared Stellingwerff. “The meet directors have put together excellent fields and the women’s 800m is a great opportunity to race against world-class athletes in front of my home town crowd at the university track where I also help coach [the Vikes].”

Rachel Francois. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

One of those Vikes, Rachel Francois, who has red-shirted this year to spend more time on her training will be in the race. Francois is an 800-metre specialist and has come close to the Olympic standard with her personal best of 2:02.18. The time she needs to get under is, 2:01.50.

So far Stellingwerff has run under the magic qualification time to compete in Rio, which is set at 4:07.00 in her event, but so have a few other Canadians. Stellingwerff has run a 4:05.61 during the qualification window.

Canada is rich with women who can run at a world class level in the 1500-metre event. In fact, 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Kate Van Buskirk, who is from Toronto, but has been training in Victoria, is finding it tough to make Team Canada, as is Langley’s Fiona Benson, who had a dream season in 2015, so much so, that she ended up competing in the 2015 world championships in the iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium.  The two are trying to regain their form.

One would think that when those two top performers are not having their best seasons it would make life easier for Stellingwerff; however, today, she sits fourth fastest in the country, for now.

“Canadian middle distance events are the deepest they’ve been in a long time with several athletes already having the qualification time for Rio (11 athletes between the men’s and women’s 800m and 1500m). It’s an exciting time to be a part of that and I know I’ll have to bring my “A” game each time I step on the track with these women in both events,” said Stellingwerff.

Toronto’s Sheila Reid, an NCAA champion who suffered for a few years with injuries is back in the mix as she has run the fastest 1500-metre time during the qualification window, so far. She was back and in near form last year, but is now truly at an international level. This year she has run an outstanding 4:03.96. Her lifetime best is 4:02.96.

Winnipeg’s Nicole Sifuentes has twice run under the qualification standard this year, which means she has hurdled the “competitive readiness” requirement as set by the governing body, Athletics Canada. Athletes are required to run under their standard to prove fitness, a second time.

Sifuentes is ranked second at the moment having run 4:03.97, which is her personal best. Sifuentes earned a bronze medal during the 2013 Sopot, Poland IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Stellingwerff has run as fast as 4:05.08.

All will come to a head in Edmonton – dubbed TrackTown Canada – from July 7 to 10th in the Rio Olympic Trials.

One thing we know for sure, there will be some talented Canadian women left off the Rio Olympic team.

What does all this mean for Sunday? It will be an opportunity for Victoria sports fans to witness Olympic-level track and field, at Centennial Stadium.

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