Liz Gleadle to face strong field at Jerome Track Classic today

Diane Cummins bids adieu with 800-metre silver at Victoria Track Classic



Lethbridge-based Liz Gleadle cruised to victory in the women's javelin Tuesday at Centennial Stadium.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

The 26th Victoria International Track Classic, featuring 12 Olympians from London 2012 and several athletes prepping for the upcoming 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, was conducted under near-ideal conditions Tuesday evening before an appreciative gallery at Centennial Stadium.

The highlight was Olympian and 10-time Canadian champion Diane Cummins’ final 800-metre race on her old training track. Cummins finished second to the new queen of the Canadian women’s 800 — London Olympian and Glasgow-bound Melissa Bishop of Egansville, Ont. — who won in a personal best 1:59.70.

“Don’t blink, it will be gone. An 18-year [career] has flown by,” said Cummins, three times a medallist at the Commonwealth Games and a Pan Am Games gold medallist.

“It’s emotional in that there will never be an 11th national championship,” added the 40-year-old, who was across in 2:02.36. Cummins will retire after this season.

“Victoria is the best city in Canada. Thanks for being loyal fans through thick and thin. We had the best group of people tonight to cheer us on.”

There was $20,000 up for grabs through the National Track League, of which the Victoria meet is the third of four events, for any Canadian athlete breaking a national record. It went unclaimed.

Bishop fell short of Cummins’ now-venerable Canadian record of 1:58.39, set in 2001.

“The record would have been great. But that record is hard to get. We did what we could,” said Bishop.

“But I was under two minutes and that’s always good. I’m not complaining.”

Added Bishop: “Diane was my role model and it’s hard to see her go.”

Rising UVic Vikes runner Thomas Riva from Qualicum Beach won the Gary Reed Men’s 800 Metres Race, named after the former Victoria star who was world championships silver medallist and fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Riva was across in a personal best 1:46.95.

Liz Gleadle, a graduate of Kits High School and now based in Lethbridge, Alta., warmed up for Glasgow by winning the women’s javelin with a throw of 60.88 metres. But the London Olympics finalist was unable to best her own Canadian record of 64.50 to collect the $20,000.

The explosive men’s 100 metres featured two members of the Canadian 4x100 team — Gavin Smellie and Dontae Richards-Kwok — that won bronze at the 2013 world track and field championships in Moscow. Joe Morris of Colorado won in 10.26 with Smellie second in 10.27 and Richards-Kwok third in 10.46.

“I had a false start at the [U.S. national championships] and had to redeem myself,” said Morris, who did.

The men’s javelin featured two American Olympians from London 2012 — Cyrus Hostetler and Craig Kinsley — with Kinsley winning with a throw of 81.35 metres.

Akheem Gauntlett, silver medallist with the Jamaican 4x400 relay team at the 2013 world championships in Moscow, threw down the gauntlet in winning the men’s 400 metres in 45.88. The five-time NCAA all-American from the Arkansas Razorbacks finished ahead of runner-up Joel Lynch of Panama (46.51), third-place Michael Robertson of Ottawa (46.51) and Olympian Daundre Barnaby of Brampton, Ont., who was fourth in 46.65.

NCAA All-American Briana Nelson, wearing the kit of the Texas Longhorns, won the women’s 400 metres in 51.74.

The 31-year-old veteran Nichole Denby of Nigeria captured the women’s 100-metre hurdles in 13.40 with Kierre Beckles of Barbados second in 13.49 and London Olympian Nikkita Holder of Pickering, Ont., third in 13.53. The B.C. high school champion, emerging Cowichan Grade 10 student Chicago Bains, gained invaluable experience in placing fifth in 14.89.

There were events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games and 60th anniversary of the Bannister-Landy Miracle Mile from the 1954 Vancouver Games, including the Miracle Mile relays as kids tag-teamed to try to break that formerly magical barrier.

The 2014 NTL season closes out Thursday with the 31st Harry Jerome Classic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.

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