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Bear Mountain to host top runners for Pan Am Cup cross-country event

The best harriers in the hemisphere are coming to Bear Mountain. The sweetest feeling for any bid committee is to morph into an organizing committee.

The best harriers in the hemisphere are coming to Bear Mountain.

The sweetest feeling for any bid committee is to morph into an organizing committee. That is what has happened to the Greater Victoria committee with the announcement Thursday the 2020 Pan American Cup of cross-country running will be held atop Bear Mountain with the region as a backdrop. The exact dates have yet to be finalized but the event will be staged in the second or third week of next February.

It was Canada’s option to host in the hemispheric rotation and the local committee beat out a bid from Vancouver.

It is a precursor to the main goal of hosting on Bear Mountain the 2023 IAAF world cross-country championships, an event followed avidly in countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia and across Europe.

“Bringing the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup to Victoria is an important first step toward hosting the 2023 world championship, which is the ultimate prize,” said two-time Olympian Bruce Deacon, who was part of the Victoria bid group.

“We have taken our critical first step toward bringing the 2023 world cross country championships to Vancouver Island. This is a journey that will leave a lasting legacy that will get more kids excited about running.”

The 2020 Pan Am championships will take place on the Bear Mountain Valley Course. The men’s race in the Pan Am or world championships is traditionally 12 kilometres, and women’s eight kilometres, and can be a loop or point-to-point.

“I have directed cross-country races in Victoria for 35 years and hosting the Pan American Cup will certainly be one of the highlights besides the 1994 Commonwealth Games,” said Bob Reid, a Victoria committee member, in a statement.

“We have a very experienced and conscientious organizing team assembled and can assure the event will be successful and well supported by all runners and running clubs on Vancouver Island. It is the first step in showcasing Victoria’s ability to stage a first-class cross country event to the world in hopes of applying for the world cross-country championships in 2023.”

Assisting in the successful bid, chaired by Chris Kelsall, was ’94 Forward, Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission, the Tourism Event Program of Destination B.C., VIA Sport, City of Langford, Ecoasis and Westin Bear Mountain.

The Pan American Cup is held every two years.

The 2016 event was hosted by Venezuela in the city of Vargas while the 2018 races were held in San Salvador, El Salvador.

It could springboard to the big prize. The IAAF world championships are held biennially in March with the next scheduled for 2019 in Aarhus, Denmark, on a course that incorporates the grass roof of the Moesgaard Museum. The 2017 world championships were in Kampala, Uganda, on the Independence Grounds, the 2015 event on the Guiyang horse racing track in China and 2013 at Bydgoszcz, Poland. The 2021 and 2023 world championships have yet to be awarded. Canada has never hosted the world cross-country championships. The last time they were held in North America was in Boston’s Franklin Park in 1992.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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