Tight Lalonde, Kelly duel highlights Victoria Track Classic

Genevieve Lalonde is qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s 3,000-metre steeplechase. But she can relate to those still chasing qualifying standards in their events.

Lalonde outlasted Mariah Kelly in a riveting 1,500 metres Wednesday night to highlight the Victoria Track Classic at Centennial Stadium, crossing in 4:11:01 ahead of Kelly’s 4:11.24. Kelly’s other chances of making the qualifying standard of 4:04.20 are at the Harry Jerome Classic on Saturday at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, at a meet in Guelph, Ont., this month and the Canadian Olympic trials June 24-27 in Montreal.

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“It’s a pleasure and privilege to be able to race. It is taking a lot of work to put on these meets,” said Lalonde, of the few opportunities remaining for runners to qualify for Tokyo amid the pandemic season.

“There is so much depth in Canadian women’s middle-distance right now,” added Lalonde, a world championship semifinalist in the steeplechase.

Much of that middle-distance group is based at the Athletics Canada Western Hub training centre at PISE on the Camosun College Interurban campus, part of a network of national training centres in several sports based on the Island.

“The vibe in our Western Hub is really elevating. And also to be surrounded by sports people such as we are in Victoria – the rugby players and rowers — really elevates all the athletes,” said Lalonde.

“We have shared goals and shared experiences and that really helps.”

Lindsey Butterworth, another Western Hub runner, won the women’s 800 metres in 2:01.63, which was flirting with the Olympic qualifying standard of 1:59.50.

“This was a good rust-buster,” said Butterworth, as she now looked to the Harry Jerome meet on the weekend, the Guelph meet and the Olympic trials in Montreal.

“I know the [qualifying standard] is within me. It’s in me. It’s just when the breakthrough is going to happen.”

Mount Douglas Secondary-graduate Liam Dwyer, the former Island high school steeplechase champion running for the UBC Thunderbirds, bested his personal best time by eight seconds in winning the men’s 3,000 metres in 8:29.32.

“The UVic boys really helped me do what I did today,” said Dwyer, of the field that pushed him.

“I was really excited to get the opportunity to race today. It was only my fourth real race in 18 months.”

Jack Boden of the UVic Vikes won the men’s 800 metres in 1:52.87.

The meet was restricted mostly to Island competitors due to the B.C. travel restrictions, which are expected to be lifted Tuesday. Nationally-carded athletes, however, can travel between regions in the province, which will allow several of the competitors from Centennial Stadium on Wednesday to contest the Harry Jerome meet on Saturday at Swangard Stadium.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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