The Canadian national track & field championships were this weekend

Some dominant performances, some upsets and more! We recap the four-day event here.


The Canadian national track & field championships were this past weekend, so this newsletter has a big recap of what went down between July 25-28 in Montreal. I wrote a quick preview last week, highlighting seven storylines I hoped to see play out.

(You can read all past Run the North issues on the website, BTW. You don’t even need to be a subscriber.)

The Athletics Canada champs double as the world championship trials. The winner in each event is automatically named to the team Canada is sending to Qatar from Sept. 28-Oct. 6, providing they have the world standard. They don’t need to get the standard at the national champs, they just need it before the qualifying window closes.

The 2019 PanAm Games have started. They run until Aug. 11 in Lima, Peru. Canada is sending 46 track athletes to the Games — you can meet the team in this issue of Run the North.

We’re deep into summer marathon training season now. If you’re training something — Berlin, Chicago, Toronto, New York or another 42.2 out there — good luck and stay cool.

Aaron Brown beats Andre De Grasse in 100m, also wins 200m

The 100m final was a photo finish, with Aaron Brown winning in a time of 10.021 . He just edged out Andre De Grasse, who ran 10.024. That’s three-hundredths of a second faster. Both ran sub 10 seconds in the semis — Brown ran 9.96 and De Grasse ran 9.98.

Third place went to Bismark Boateng, who ran 10.246

Brown also beat De Grasse last year, but it was announced the following day that De Grasse suffered from a season-ending hamstring injury. Brown knew he wanted to beat De Grasse at his best.

From Lori Ewing at the Canadian Press (as published on CBC Sports):

"I knew from last year when I won, when [De Grasse] came back to form, I knew if I didn't win this year that [win] would get nullified. So to speak within the media because they would say 'Oh he was hurt. Your win last year was only because he was hurt,"' Brown said.

Brown was quicker out of the blocks, but De Grasse, a triple Olympic medallist, closed hard over the final 20 metres, bringing a Claude Robillard Stadium crowd — it included Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi and retired MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre — to its feet.

Then the wait was on to determine the winner. The runners didn't take their eyes off the scoreboard until Brown's name flashed at the top. The 27-year-old from Toronto erupted in screams, running down the track pumping his fists.

"Never [waited that long]," Brown laughed. "Oh my god. That was crazy. I guess that just comes with it, a heavy dose of drama at the end of a 100 metres."

Despite taking silver, De Grasse said he wasn’t disappointed in the result. Rather, he’s glad to be healthy and racing again (from the same Canadian Press article):

"I'm not at all, I'm just happy to be back," said De Grasse, whose time in the semis was his fastest since Rio. "Fighting injuries for the past two years, I'm just happy to be back here on the track, getting back to where I was running before, getting close to my personal best, I feel like I'm in good shape, I feel like I'm ready for the rest of the season."

Aaron Brown also won the 200m, while De Grasse opted to sit the event out.

Brown’s winning time was 20.03. Second place went to Brendan Rodney, who ran 20.50, and third place was Jerome Blake, who ran 20.57.

You can watch the 100m race below:

Crystal Emmanuel wins 100m, withdrew from 200m

Crystal Emmanuel, Canada’s best female sprinter, won the 100m with a time of 11.17. Rounding out the podium were Leya Buchanan, who ran 11.28, and Shaina Harrison, who ran 11.45.

It was Emmanuel’s fourth national 100m title in a row. Despite her dominance, she always tries to bring it for the crowd watching.

From Lori Ewing at the Canadian Press:

"Every time I touch a track I try to not prove a point but show that every time I touch a track it's going to be something new," she said. "Doing it 12 times, one time, I'm just trying to show I'm strong."

Emmanuel then unexpectedly pulled out of the 200m semi-finals, citing calf tightness. Her coach said they didn’t want to risk injury with the PanAm Games and world championships coming up, as per Postmedia’s Dan Barnes:

Emmanuel’s absence meant the 200m was wide open.

Leya Buchanan claimed her first national championship title with a run of 23.25. Ashlan Best ran 23.32 to take second place and Aiyanna-Brigit Stiverne took third in 23.36.

Madeleine Kelly upsets Melissa Bishop-Nriagu in 800m

Melissa Bishop-Nriagu was making her return to the national stage after taking a season off to give birth to her first child.

Her return so far has been strong, but she failed to reclaim her national 800m championship title. Instead, Madeleine Kelly unleashed a killer kick to win in 2:02.37, claiming her first national title in the process.

Bishop-Nriagu came second in 2:02.40 and Laurence Côté rounded out the podium in third with a 2:02.50 performance.

Kelly’s goal going into the race was to podium, she told Canadian Press’s Lori Ewing:

Kelly said on a perfect day, she believed she might win bronze.

"I surprised even myself," Kelly said, with a laugh. "I've been super consistent around 2:02, 2:01, so I thought I could be in the mix. Very happy with how it went."

She was also quick to credit Bishop-Nriagu for being a role model to look up to:

"We're both from the Ottawa Valley, so I've been very aware of her my entire life, from our crappy county meet, she had all the records," Kelly said. "So I've admired her for such a long time, she's been such an inspiration for me, so pretty surreal to do that today.

"But I also give her a lot of credit for showing me that running that fast was possible."

Bishop-Nriagu’s focus now is to get the world standard and get herself back in international competition. She’s run three 800m races since her return, but has yet to get the 2:00.60 time needed to run for Canada this fall.

Kelly is also going to chase the standard now, as she has an auto spot on the worlds team as national champion — providing she puts up the time.

Brandon McBride edges out Marco Arop in 800m

Brandon McBride set a national championship record en route to his 800m victory. His time of 1:44.63 bested the previous record of 1:44.93, set by Gary Reed in 2007.

McBride edged out collegiate standout Marco Arop, who won the race last year. Arop crossed the finish line in 1:46.93. Coming in third was Abdullahi Hassan, who ran 1:47.59.

McBride said that his original plan was to take the lead and control the race, but at the last minute added a plan B in case Arop had the same idea.

From Lori Ewing at the Canadian Press:

Brandon McBride, his coach Kurt Downes, and sports psychologist Penny Werthner sat down before Saturday's 800-metre final to map out a race plan.

"The original plan was to take (the lead) and control it," McBride said. "But [Werthner] said 'Let's map out a Plan B just in case. Plan B was Marco [Arop] runs aggressive and takes [the lead].

"And let's just say it's a good thing we mapped out Plan B, because that's exactly what happened."

Phylicia George, Damian Warner win 110m hurdles

Phylicia George won the 110m hurdles, edging out Mariam Abdul-Rashid 13.304 to 13.306. Third place went to Michelle Harrison, who ran 13.309. The entire race was clooooose:

The victory was a return to form for George, who made a big career change in 2018, when she decided to swap track for bobsled. The gamble paid off: she won a bronze medal as part of a two-person team with bobsled driver and icon Kaillie Humphries.

However, in order to be in the best possible shape for bobsled, she had to remake her body, which had been optimized for hurdling for years.

Now with Tokyo 2020 in sight, George had to reverse engineer all the changes she made to be primed for bobsled. As she told Lori Ewing of the Canadian Press, it’s been a long, slow process:

"I'm probably only in the last month back to the weight I feel comfortable at, so it's been definitely a long process. I didn't run the hurdles at all last year, so this year is finding my rhythm again and that's taken a little bit of time. The big picture is Tokyo (2020 Olympics), but things are coming together really well now."

George believes her bobsled experience can be a boost to her track career.

"I think it just showed me how tough I am mentally," she said. "I had to do something totally new in six months. I think it really showed me how much of an athlete I am and how capable I am of adjusting to things. I just gives me more confidence doing well in the hurdles now."

On the men’s side, Damian Warner, one of the best decathletes in the world, ran the 110m hurdles as a warmup to complete in the decathlon at the PanAm Games in Lima, Peru. He blew away the competition, crossing the finish line in 13.53.

Second place went to Oluwaseg Makinde, who ran 14.29. Anast Eliopoulos came in third, running 14.49.

Moh Ahmed defeats Justyn Knight in 5,000m

Moh Ahmed, the Canadian record holder in the 5,000m, held of a hard-charging Justyn Knight to claim the 5,000m national championship. Ahmed crossed the finish line in 13:54.92, with Knight just behind him in 13:56.68.

Thomas Fafard came third in 13:58.75.

While Ahmed is the stronger runner, he’s enjoying Knight challenging him and pushing him to be better. As he told the Canadian Press:

"It's very good, (Knight) is pushing me, I'm pushing him, we're definitely pushing all of Canada which is good," Ahmed said.

On the other hand, Knight appreciates having someone to chase down:

I've looked up to him for quite a while, just knowing that I can kind of keep up with him," said Knight, a 23-year-old from Toronto. "I just need to learn how to finish a little bit stronger so I can finish alongside with him, but just knowing that I'm in good company here in Canada and we're doing something special is a good feeling."

Jessica O’Connell wins 5,000m, Rachel Cliff placed third

Jessica O’Connell came out on top in the 5,000m, running 15:46.54. Second place went to Andrea Seccafien, who finished in 15:47.93. O’Connell thew down a hard kick at the end to overtake Seccafien and claim gold.

Canadian marathon and half-marathon record holder Rachel Cliff came third in 15:51.25. Cliff gave up a marathon spot on the world championship team to compete in track this summer.

Cliff told Canadian Running making the switch back to track has been tough:

Cliff has always said that she wanted to have a proper track season this summer, and she’s making it happen. But it hasn’t been easy: “Changing from the track to the marathon, I did notice a difference in my strength and my speed,” she says. “The marathon gives you real confidence in your strength, but your speed can suffer. It’s been a lot tougher than it used to be to go fast. I can’t go out too hard any more, but I am very confident in my ability to hold a pace.” The Canadian record-holder also says that while the marathon training has made speed a little more difficult, it has helped with her patience.

Cliff has the world standard in the 5,000m but not the 10,000m.

The rest of the track results from the national championships

Those were the highlights and interesting storylines from the four-day meet. Here are the rest of the track results, in no particular order. I’ve included only the senior events, just for the sake of space.

  • Surprising no one, Gabriela DeBues-Stafford won the 1,500m, running 4:09.09. It’s her fourth straight national championship in the distance. Coming in second was Jenna Westaway in 4:12.54 and third was Mariah Kelly in 4:12.68

  • The men’s 1,500m was won by William Paulson in 3:48.75. Second place went to Corey Bellemore in 3:49.05. Third place was claimed by Mike Tate in 3:49.69.

  • Genevieve Lalonde set a championship record when she won the steeplechase. Her time of 9:34.85 tops the record of 9:37.45 she set in 2017. Regan Yee came second in 9:40.73 and Charlotte Prouse came third in 9:43.17.

  • In the men’s steeplechase, Matthew Hughes came out on top in the closely contested match, running 8:45.85. Ryan Smeeton picked up silver in 8:47.03 and John Gay rounded out the top three in 8:48.26. All three had achieved the world standard at previous races.

  • Sage Watson won her second national championship in the 400m hurdles, finishing in 56.34. She previously won in 2017. Noelle Montcalm came second in 58.07 and Kelsey Balkwill was third in 58.29.

  • The top three in the men’s 400m hurdles were: 1) Gabriel Slythe Léveillé in 51.58; 2) Saj Alhaddad in 51.6; and 3) Oliver Grant in 52.53.

  • Philip Osei won the 400m race. His time of 45.64 topped Joshua Cunningham’s second place finish of 46.03 and Austin Cole’s third place finish of 46.24.

  • The top two finishers in the women’s 400m scored the world standard. Kyra Constantine won the race in 51.22. Aiyanna-Brigit Stiverne came second in 51.63. Third place went to Kat Surin, who ran 52.43.

  • Evan Dunfee won the 20K racewalk in 1:24:22. Mathieu Bilodeau came second in 1:32:44 and Alger Liang came third in 1:37:24.

  • Rachel Seaman was the only participant in the 20K women’s racewalk. Her final time was 1:41:39.

You can see the complete results at the Athletics Canada website.

Still with me? OK, let’s change gears and look at the OTHER running news that happened this week.

Rory Linkletter turns pro, joins NAZ Elite

Canadian Rory Linkletter just graduated from Brigham Young University, after a successful running career there. His next move was announced this week: he’s joining the pro running team NAZ Elite, which is sponsored by Hoka One One, coached by Ben Rosario and boasts top American marathoners on their roster such as Scott Fauble, Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor.

Linkletter was born in Calgary, Alberta and grew up in Utah. While at BYU, he was a six-time All American and was on the BYU team that podiumed twice at the NCAA cross-country championships.

Up next for Linkletter is the PanAm Games, where he will compete in the 10,000m.

Andre De Grasse talks about his injuries and comeback in the UK Telegraph

Andre De Grasse opened up about his injury struggle to Ben Bloom of the UK Telegraph alongside British runner Adam Gemili. The two are training partners in Florida and have been struggling with injuries since their respective breakout performances at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The two are using the changing face of track and their respective hustle as mutual motivation and inspiration:

“It’s inspiring to see because when I’m fit and healthy I can hopefully be challenging those guys for world and Olympic medals,” insists Gemili.

“Things really went well for me coming into the sport when I was 18. Since 2015 I had a half-good Olympics, but it wasn’t as good as it should have been, and since then I haven’t been able to progress and run to my full potential.

“For the last two years I haven’t been able to run at full whack really. I haven’t been able to train and when you don’t train you can’t put in the work.

“This is a comeback season to try and show people that I am still around and can still run.”

Using others as motivation is an outlook De Grasse shares. “Seeing new names come in and I wasn’t in the mix definitely hurt just sitting back and watching,” he says. “I tried to use that as fuel to make it back and be at my best at the top again.

“When I started training with Adam we had battled the same issues so we just encouraged each other to keep going, trying to figure out ways to bounce back. We helped each other a lot.”

Michael Woods finishes Tour de France, gets even more media attention

July 22, 2019

Michael Woods now holds the distinction of being the only person who has ever run a sub-4:00 mile and has finished the Tour de France. He crossed the Tour finish line on Sunday in 32nd place, making him the top Canadian in this year’s competition.

Woods’s race had some ups and downs. He talked to CBC Radio’s As It Happens about some of the crazy weather and the crash that broke two of his ribs:

You're riding with two broken ribs right now?  

Yeah, at the moment I am.

Wow. What does that feel like? 

Initially, it wasn't very pleasant, that's for sure. Breathing was really difficult. And, yeah, just standing and pushing the pedals is hard.

[Thursday] was the first day where I start feeling good again and managed to kind of infiltrate the breakaway and attack and I went to try to win but, unfortunately, I just wasn't the strongest guy of the day. 

I'm happy with how the race is going now, but definitely been facing some obstacles.

This is your first Tour de France. What has it been like for you overall? 

It's been an incredible experience. It's been this amazing high.

How does it feel to be entering the Tour de France at … 32?  

I think it's really special.

I find as I've aged, I don't get as many opportunities to be trying new things.

This is my first one, but this could also be my last one, so I'm just enjoying every moment. That's also one of the reasons why I continue to race ... with the broken ribs.

I may not have another opportunity to do this. 

Canadian Running highlights what Malindi Elmore, Reid Coolsaet eat in a day

Canadian Running continues the profiling of elite runners’s diets. The latest instalments are with marathoners Malindi Elmore and Reid Coolsaet.

Elmore approaches her diet with reason and few restrictions:

Elmore recommends runners avoid restricting their diets. “I’ve always eaten more or less the same. I eat as an adult the way I did as a kid, meat and vegetables and dairy and carbs. I don’t restrict and I don’t binge, I’m pretty moderate with everything.”

Coolsaet’s diet is a bit less variable, but his approach is equally chill:

“A typical dinner is chicken with rice and broccoli. I also usually have dessert, which is something like a cookie or toast with nutella. If it’s not a hard training phase I’ll also have a beer at night. I’m also always eating what my kids don’t eat, finishing their food.” It’s a little harder to document exactly how much that ends up being, but Coolsaet says it’s a common occurrence.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals made out of recycled electronics sent in from citizens

We are one year away from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The medals were revealed this week, and have a neat twist: they are all made out of recycled electronics that were donated by Japanese citizens.

According to CNN, about 79,000 tons of old electronics were donated to make the 5,000 medals that will be given out.

The medals were designed by Junichi Kawanishi, whose design was chosen from more than 400 entries in a nation-wide competition.

From CNN:

Junichi Kawanishi described the use of his proposal as a "great honor."

"I never dreamed that the design I submitted, only as a memorial to this lifetime event, would be actually selected," he said in a press statement. "With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes' efforts, reflecting their glory and symbolizing friendship."

The Tokyo Olympic Games will take place July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020.

That’s it for this week! As always, thanks for reading and keep on running.

A programming note for next week: the next newsletter will hit your inbox on Tuesday, Aug. 6 because Monday is a holiday.

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