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Stafford crackles in women's 800 metres at Victoria Track Classic

Event a tuneup for nationals later this month in Montreal
Lucia Stafford sprints to the finish line winning the Victoria Track Classic elite women’s 800-metre race at Centennial Stadium on Wednesday night. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Public-address announcer Paul O’Callaghan set the tone for the evening Wednesday at ­Centennial Stadium, after the opening playing of O Canada, by intoning to the crowd: “Let’s hope we listen to that a lot more this ­summer from Paris.”

The Victoria Track Classic, a key prep meet for the Canadian Olympic trials June 26-30 in Montreal, produced some ­interesting results on a cool but otherwise good night for racing.

The highlight was Lucia Stafford of Toronto — who has already reached qualifying standard for the 2024 Paris Olympics in the 1,500 metres — winning the women’s 800 metres in a blazing 2:01.63.

“It’s always fun to go fast. I want more. I’m ready for more,” said Stafford, semifinalist in the 1,500 metres at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“It was a little windy but it felt good. I’ve put in a good stretch of training. That’s all I can really do, and hope in Paris I’m in the final, and let’s see what happens.”

Unfortunately, Stafford’s sister and Victoria-based Gabriela DeBues-Stafford had to pull out of the women’s 1,500 metres Wednesday but gamely acted as pacemaker for a preliminary race.

DeBues-Stafford was an impressive fifth in the women’s 1,500 metres at the Tokyo Olympics after placing sixth at the 2019 world championships in Doha. She is getting over a series of setbacks and has targeted the 5,000 metres for the Paris Olympics.

“The injury situation has not been ideal but it’s been a positive two years training in Victoria,” said DeBues-Stafford.

“I am feeling good about the last block of training and am feeling cautiously optimistic about Paris. If it happens, it happens.”

Don’t count her count, said her sister Lucia: “I know ­Gabriela will be back in no time. She’s got that Stafford fire in her and you can’t extinguish it.”

With DeBues-Stafford out, it was Cameron Ormond from the Royal City Athletics winning the women’s 1,500 metres in 4:16.44.

Dawson Mann from Tough Track won the men’s 800 metres in 1:51.19 and Brayden ­Mytopher from the University of Regina ­Cougars the men’s 1,500 metres in 3:47.85. David Akiri of ­Athletics Victoria blitzed the men’s 100 metres in 10.94 seconds. Travis Harfield from Athletics Victoria won the men’s javelin at 65.03 metres and Isaac Clements of Athletics Victoria the pole vault at 4.47 metres.

Agnes Essner continued her quest for Paris by winning the women’s discus with a throw of 60.50 metres. The Islander from Duncan, out of Frances Kelsey Secondary in Mill Bay and the three-time ­Canadian champion and three time all-America with the NCAA Big Ten University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, has been close to Olympic ­qualifying in the past and is looking to finally make the breakthrough in France this summer.

It was an important meet for the host University of Victoria Vikes.

“This is our only home meet and to have our runners racing against Olympians is cool,” said UVic head coach and two-time Olympian Hillary Stellingwerff.

TRACK NOTES: There was a moment of recognition during the meet for the late local and international track and field official Keith Newell and coach Gerard Dumas, each with more than five decades of service in track and field, who both died in the past year.

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