Bruchet retains title at 39th Harriers Pioneer 8K

The conditions were wet and less than ideal Sunday for the 39th Harriers Pioneer 8K. But then again, where else in Canada can you hold a road race in January?

It will be a lot drier and warmer for Olympian Lucas Bruchet for his training camp in Florida. Bruchet, who represented Canada in the 5,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympics, slogged through the rain and a headwind to defend his men’s title. His time of 24:06, however, was well off his winning time from last year of 23:24.

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“The weather played a role and it isn’t as fast a course as the old one,” Bruchet said in a statement. “But I put in a good, hard effort today.”

Matt Noseworthy was second in 25:29 and Shelby Drope third in 26:08.

Rachel Cliff defended her women’s title in 26:23. Natasha Wodak, who represented Canada in the 10,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was second in 26:39 and Erica Rigby third in 27:15.

Wodak is the women’s record holder, with her 25:28 in 2013 setting both the event and Canadian 8K road-race records. Bruchet and Wodak are preparing for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April at Gold Coast, Australia. Cliff is also a candidate for the Canadian team.

The Pioneer 8K is the annual first race of the eight-event Island Race Series and has traditionally been the fastest.

More than 500 registrants took part on the new out-and-back 2018 course on the Saanich Peninsula. In an age-group highlight, veteran Lucy Smith set the women’s Over-50 Canadian 8K record in 29:05 to break the mark of 29:28 set by Diane Legare in 2001.

After the race, Smith was named to the Harriers Pioneer 8K four-decade all-time all-star team along with Olympians Debbie Scott, Carey Nelson, Bruchet, Wodak, Commonwealth Games performers Ulla Marquette (Hansen) and Peter Butler and Steve Osaduik.

Nelson’s Pioneer 8K men’s record of 22:58 from 1985 is still standing. The versatile Nelson is a member of the University of Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and represented Canada in the 1,500 metres at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the marathon at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The 54-year-old contested Sunday’s race in the age-group category. So did Butler, who set the original Pioneer 8K men’s record of 23:09 in 1982.

Butler, who turns 60 next month, has run the fifth-fastest marathon in Canadian history with a 2:10:56 in 1985 and represented Canada at the 1982 Brisbane and 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.

The Island Race Series continues with the Cobble Hill 10K on Jan. 21, Cedar 12K on Feb. 4, Hatley Castle 8K on Feb. 18, Port Alberni Paper Chase 15K on March 4, Comox Valley RV Half Marathon on March 18, Tri-Stars 10K on March 25 and the Synergy Health Management Bazan Bay 5K on April 8.

The Harriers Pioneer 8K is also the lead event for the B.C. Super Series, which features 12 races this year on the Island, Lower Mainland and Okanagan.

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