Kate Van Buskirk's Ode to Diane Cummins: "See How They Run" at the Jerome Track Classic this Thursday

Kate Van Buskirk Photo : Claus Andersen

Kate Van Buskirk will run the mile on Thursday and will face stiff competition from Sarah Brown, Kim Conley, Sara Vaughn and Jessica O'Connell.
In her blog yesterday, she acknowledges the inspiration she derived from the career of Diane Cummins who will compete in her last race at the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic.
Thursday will be especial day for track and field as it commemorates several significant events in the sport's history.
1. The 60th Anniversary of the Miracle Mile in the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
2. The 50th year since the founding of the Achilles Track and Field Society, organizers of the Jerome Classic
3. 50 years since Harry Jerome won his Olympic Medal in Tokyo
4. The official presentation of the World Championship medal to Dylan Armstrong 5. The final appearance of Diane Cummins, the Canadian record holder in the 800m after 16 years of competition

Over 300 athletes from 21 nations will compete in the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic featuring the 60th Anniversary of the Miracle Mile presented by Northern Gateway on July 10 at Swangard Stadium.

Tickets are $25 finish line and $10 general admission and are available at www.harryjerome.com

6 July 2014  Kate Van Buskirk's blog

Diane Cummins: Ode to a Hero

One week ago today I ran my 5th Canadian Senior National Championships in Moncton, NB, and claimed my second consecutive title in the 1500m. This was no easy feat: I barely held off a fast-charging Nicole Sifuentes, who kept me honest through every single stride. In the end, only 9 one-hundredths of a second separated us. We both ran 4:10 and change, which is the fastest finish time at a National final that I can remember. Although placement at these Championships didn't impact National Team Qualification this year (both Nicole and I had already been named to this summer's Commonwealth Games team), it was really special running stride for stride with this amazing competitor and comrade, knowing that we will be representing Canada together in Glasgow later this month. 

(Barely) winning the 2014 Canadian National 1500m in Moncton

It is impossible to adequately describe the emotions the accompany crossing the National finish line in front of your friends, family, teammates and supporters, victorious and elated. I have had the fortune and honour of realizing this twice and I have yet to find the words to do justice to this experience. It is even harder to imagine winning a national title 10 TIMES. As far as I know, the only Canadian athlete who can tell you how this feels is my hero of track and field, the ageless and sensational Diane Cummins. 

Proud after winning bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games

I grew up watching Diane on tv--in that glorious age of Canadian athletics when track and field meets still warranted live air time--and remember thinking that she was just the best thing since sliced bread. I began as an 800m runner and focused the event for years before finally moving up in distance during university. It made sense that Di, the Canadian 800m record-holder, multiple time medalist on the international stage, and all around awesome gal would be my role model. I idolized this phenomenal competitor who epitomizes athleticism and eloquence. She has always been beautiful to watch, not only for her striking looks and fluid stride, but because she is strength and passion personified. When Diane steps on the track, she exudes a confidence, focus and grace that captures her audience and makes a little piece of you want her to win, even if you have another favourite in the race. Her devastating speed and raw grit are balanced by her poise and sportswomanship; win or lose, thrilled or disappointed, Di is classy, honest, and positive. 

Smiling (as always) after Nationals. I love this woman!

They say you should never meet your heroes, because once those you've idolized take on their human forms they somehow lose an element of their majesty. The opposite was true when I met and quickly befriended Di. Her spirit is, quite simply, infectious. Despite being bubbly, joyous and full of positive and seemingly boundless energy, she somehow remains completely down-to-earth, unassuming, humble, and genuine. At first, I was starstruck; it was hard to believe that the woman whose performances and passion had brought me to tears many times as a teenager and inspired me countless times since could be so REAL, and that she would want to be my friend! But that's just who Di is: what you see is what you get, and you get a whole lot! Over her 15+year career, Diane has inspired hundreds--maybe thousands--more than just myself, and I know that many people reading this will relate. She is a proponent of fair and clean sport, an outspoken advocate for equality and accountability, and just truly wants everyone to do their best and love the journey. I cannot imagine a more perfect athlete for the role of mentor, idol and friend.

Last weekend's Nationals were significant in that they marked the final Canadian Championship that will see Diane Cummins compete. At 40 years young, Di claimed the bronze medal in her ultimate championship race, bringing the stadium to their feet and to tears. My dad stood next to me, tears on his cheeks, appreciating all that this tremendous woman has done for Canadian athletics and for his daughter. Di's retirement denotes the end of an era in track and field, but it needn't be a sad occasion; she has made her mark, and it is indelible.  For those who are in the Vancouver area, Di will be racing one last time at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic on Thursday, July 10th at Swangard Stadium. I encourage you to come out and join me in thanking this trailblazer for her enormous contribution to our sport and our lives. Thank you, dearest Di.

*all photos taken from Diane Cummins' personal Facebook page and/or the Athletics Canada official Facebook Page

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