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Race start. Photo credit: Joseph Camilleri for VSN.

Runners and walkers of all abilities traced the steps of Olympians and many past winners during the 39th annual Harriers Pioneer 8K on Sunday. Four-hundred and seventy-nine athletes were undeterred by the conditions that featured cool temperatures, rain and a strong onshore breeze.

At the front of the pack was Rio Olympian Luc Bruchet (5,000m) from Vancouver. He led from the gun and never let up. He finished in the respectable time of 24:06. It was a good performance considering he ran alone the entire way, with temperatures hovering around 5C. The event record is 22:58 from 1983 by Carey Nelson, who won his 55-59 age-group in the time of 29:53 – a very strong age-group win.

“I just got out there and tried to run it hard as if it was a workout and to win a bit of prize money is nice, so it was a good day’s work,” said Bruchet.

Luc Bruchet defends title in 24:06. Photo credit: Jospeh Camilleri for VSN.

The second place finisher was UVic Vike Matt Noseworthy crossing the line in the time of 25:29. Noseworthy also ran alone as two other Vancouver-based athletes, Theo Hunt and Justin Kent that were expected to toe-the-line, would have made for more competition. They failed to make the trip.

Shelby Drope of Nanaimo, running for the Bastion Running Club, finished third in the time of 26:08. Jeremy Grosvenor, a Prairie Inn Harrier club member and Drope were credited with the same time, however, Drope pipped him at the line, with a strong finishing sprint.

Rachel Cliff of Vancouver won the women’s race. Natasha Wodak and Erica Digby finished second and third respectively. Cliff, the defending champion, finished ninth overall in the time of 26:23. Event and national record holder and five-time winner Wodak (25:29), also a Rio Olympian, finished second in the time of 26:39. Digby finished third in the time of 27:15.

“It was nice to come back and find out that I am ahead of last year,” shared Cliff. “It is a decent course. I don’t think it is faster than the old one, but is comparable, so that was good. I was lucky to get into a pack of guys and run with a few six-foot tall guys into the headwind.”

Cliff and Wodak will go head-to-head in one week’s time in Houston as they will be racing the Houston Half Marathon.

Asked if she will be going after her personal best of 1:11:20 or the national record of 1:10:47 held by Lanni Marchant, Wodak said, “I just want to have a fast performance. I’d like to take advantage of the fact that there are so many fast girls running and it is good opportunity to get in a good time.”

Cliff ran 26:51 in winning the 2017 Pioneer 8K in better weather conditions. She followed that race up in March of 2017 with the NY Half Marathon in the time of 1:12:07, setting a new personal best time for the distance. She will be looking to better that next Sunday.

Scotland’s Sarah Inglis took in the North Saanich race, finishing in 27:15. She will be racing a half-marathon as well next week; however, it will be the Phoenix Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon.

“I couldn’t get into Houston,” shared Inglis. “So, I had to race a different one, but Phoenix will also be fast and warm and there will be some good competition to run against. I will also be going to California for some training.”

Rachel Cliff defends title in 26:23. Photo credit: Joseph Camilleri for VSN.

Inglis currently calls Langley home, however, will return to the UK in March for a half-marathon in London, to try to be one of the top-five in the UK Athletics qualification process for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

Bruchet will be going the other direction in distance and location. He will be racing an indoor season, trying to make Team Canada to compete in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in the 3,000m distance. Bruchet will be competing in New York and Boston and will be heading down to Florida for a warm-weather training camp.

Victoria’s Craig Odermatt won the masters division (40-plus) with a strong performance. He crossed the line in the time of 26:58. The Harrier narrowly defeated his former UVic Vike teammate Mark Cryderman who now lives in Campbell River. Cryderman finished in 27:00. They both compete in the 45-49 age-category.

Shane Ruljancich, also of the Harriers was the third master overall, crossing the line in the time of 27:38.

Victoria’s Lucy Smith, fresh off of a Nova Scotia Hall of Fame induction broke the 50-plus age-group and event and national record with a very strong time of 29:05. Marilyn Arsenault finished second in the time of 29:39.

“It’s fun to chase these records, just because they are there,” shared Smith. “Ultimately it’s still just about showing up, being totally in the moment, doing what I love and dealing with the elements or the course or the competition is just part of that process.”

“That was a rust buster. I haven’t raced since this event last year,” shared Arsenault.

Heather McDonald (40-44) finished as third master in the time of 30:05.

The top junior runners in the men’s division (16-19) were all Prairie Inn Harrier Youth Team members. In fact, the first nine were all PIHYT athletes and are all coached by two-time Olympian Bruce Deacon. The top three were Kalum Delaney, Liam Dwyer and Cooper Langard. The Harriers are noticeable for their horizontally striped English harrier style racing singlets.

The top three female runners in the 16-19 age-category were Harriers Maddie Perry in 34:31, Sarah Bryan 34:20 and Harrier Bridget Mateyko who crossed the line in the time of 34:58.

The PIHYT had a winner in the under 16 age-group as well. Twelve-year-old Trevor Neil won the 01-15 category with a very strong finish of 31:31.

Olivia Lundman won the girl’s 01-15. She competes for the Bastion Running Club of Nanaimo and crossed the line in the time of 36:20.

Race video to follow.

For full results>>

Interviews with: Rachel Cliff, Natasha Wodak and Lucas Bruchet