Runners will be chasing qualifying times, and dreams, tonight at the Victoria Track Classic at Centennial Stadium. Get the right clocking, and the 2022 world track and field championships down I-5 in Eugene, Oregon, beckon, as do the 2022 Games in Birmingham, England, for athletes from Commonwealth countries.
There is a sense of urgency for the more than 160 elite athletes from 16 nations. Victoria is one of the last meets in which to meet qualifying standards before the last-chance Canadian trials this month at McLeod Stadium in Langley, and for Americans the U.S. trials at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, also the site of the world championships July 15-24 in what is nicknamed Track Town USA.
“The window is closing, and you can earn World Athletics ranking points in Victoria, so this is a big night for many of the competitors,” said meet director Keith Butler.
That sense of urgency will be felt in the men’s 800 metres. Canadian record-holder and two-time Rio and Tokyo Olympian Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont., ran 1:45.22 on Saturday in Portland, just off the world championship qualifying standard of 1:45.20. McBride, two-time NCAA champion while at Mississippi State, will try to find that 2/100ths of a second this evening on the Centennial Stadium track.
McBride will be challenged in the 800 by the Mexican record holder and Tokyo Olympics semifinalist Tonatiu Lopez, who met the worlds qualifying standard by running 1:45.12 last weekend in the New York Grand Prix meet. U.S. 600-metre record-holder Shane Streich will pace the 800-metre race in an attempt to pull as many runners under the qualifying standard as possible.
Another marquee event is the men’s 3,000-metre steeplechase with Canadian Jean-Simon Desgagnés out of the Université de Laval looking to make standard after missing it by 2/10ths of a second last weekend at the New York Grand Prix. He will be pushed by NCAA Pac-12 and Ireland national champion Brian Fay of Dublin. Fay’s University of Washington Huskies teammates are so keen to help him reach standard that two of them have come up to Victoria as pace setters for the race, including reigning NCAA 1,500-metre champion Joe Waskom.
Another featured race is the women’s 800 metres with Canadians Olivia Romaniw from the Victoria-based Athletics Canada Western Hub and Julianne Labach from the University of Saskatchewan coming in with personal bests of 2:01.53 and 2:00.88, respectively. They will be up against Mariela Liusa Real, the Mexican record holder at 2:00.92 and finalist in the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games. Another strong contender in the women’s 800 metres tonight is Swedish 1,500-metre champion and 2019 world championship semifinalist Yolanda Ngarambe, out of NCAA University of Vermont, who has clocked 2:02.18 in the 800. Brentwood College-graduate and UW Huskies Pac-12 runner Madison Heisterman from Nanaimo, with a 4:14 in the 1,500 metres last week, will also be a factor in the 800 metres tonight on a track she knows well.
Highlighting the field events are U.S. long-jumpers Tristan James, Pac-12 silver- and bronze-medallist with the University of Oregon Ducks, and Rayvon Grey out of LSU, who in 2016 eclipsed legendary 1968 Olympic-champion Bob Beamon’s New York state long-jump record that had stood for more than five decades.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with youth events starting at 6:20 and the elite competitions at 7 p.m.