Melissa Bishop takes 800 at Jerome Classic, just misses 2 minute barrier
Canada's Melissa Bishop (purple top) takes the women's 800 M in Harry Jerome Classic at Swangard Stadium Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen , PNG
METRO VANCOUVER - The four-minute mile, first accomplished 60 years ago, was celebrated Thursday night at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium.
But there’s a more current barrier that is bedevilling some of Canada’s finest female 800-metre runners.
“Ugghhh!!! I know, it’s right there, eh,” said Canadian champion Melissa Bishop after running 2:00.06 to win the event at The Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome International Track Classic.
The Eganville, Ont., native is one of just four women in Canadian history to have gone under two minutes, with a personal best of 1:59.69. She wasn’t far off Thursday, two nights after coming within 1/100ths of a second at the Victoria Track Classic with a 1:59.70 finish.
“It does become (a mental thing) because you’re so focused on hitting your splits that — sometimes you just need to put it out of your head and friggin’ run,” said Bishop.
One of the other Canadians to break the two-minute mark is North Vancouver’s Jessica Smith. She has a personal best of 1:59.86, but was second Thursday in 2:02.08.
“There’s a reason not many girls are on that list,” said Smith. “It’s just one of those things.
“You’ve just to keep at it and that’s the internal struggle with this sport. The successes are few and far between. When you do find one, it keeps you in the sport and I’m sure Diane can attest to that.”
Diane Cummins is the Canadian record-holder at the distance (1:58.39, set in 2001). The 40-year-old who called Victoria home for several years is retiring at the end of this season and was fourth Thursday in 2:02.15.
Cummins has silver and bronze medals from the Commonwealth Games, but didn’t qualify for 2014. Both Bishop and Smith are headed to the Games in Glasgow later this month where they are expected to be medal contenders.
The best 800-metre time by a Commonwealth runner this year is a 1:58.48 from Kenya’s Eunice Jepkoech Sum.
Both Bishop and Smith are eagerly anticipating running in Glasgow.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my career,” said Smith, a refrain echoed by Bishop. “I’ve been having unbelievable workouts. Hopefully, there’s some PBs coming soon.”
Bishop said she was disappointed not to crack two minutes at the Jerome.
“Maybe I’m just saving it for the Commonwealth Games. That would be nice.”
The rarely run men’s mile was contested Thursday to mark 60 years since Roger Bannister and John Landy both broke four minutes at the 1954 British Empire Games in Vancouver.
But with the designated rabbit setting too slow a pace, it turned into a rather pedestrian affair, with 32-year-old Canadian Nate Brannen crossing the line first in 3:57.48.
“It was way too slow, no one wanted to go. They all just looked at me. Everyone knows my style, I’ll be there at the end and I’m going to kick hard. So if you’re going to beat me, you better go,” said Brannen, who won $6,000 but failed to get the $4,000 bonus for going under 3:56.00.
“That was the main goal,” said the Cambridge, Ont., athlete. “My wife is eight months pregnant. The 10 grand would have been nice. Worst case, go for the win, miss out on the (extra money).”
Brannen won the 1,500 metres at last month’s Canadian track and field championships in Moncton, but failed to meet the standard to race in Glasgow. In fact, no Canadian male will race the distance at the Games.
It was a tough night Thursday for some of the top Canadians.
The country’s newest sprint star, Aaron Brown of Toronto, false started in the men’s 100 metres and was disqualified. Earlier this year, Brown — who has a personal best of 10.05 in the 100 metres — broke Atlee Mahorn’s 23-year-old Canadian record in the 200. And a week ago, he beat a stacked field at that distance in Edmonton.
In the javelin, Canadian record-holder Liz Gleadle of Vancouver, a medal contender at the Commonwealth Games, was a disappointing third with a throw of 58.70 metres, nearly six metres off the record throw she unleashed in May in Lethbridge, Alta.
Gleadle said her mechanics have been off lately.
“I just haven’t been spending a lot of time with my coach (at her base in Lethbridge). I came back (to Vancouver) for a week to get physio and it’s just kind of all over the place.
“It’s frustrating because you can see the javelin just flies out of my hand, there’s so much power in the throw. And you think, ‘Man, if I just hit the angle properly it would just go 10 metres further.’ It’s frustrating to not be able to do it at Harry Jerome.”
Gleadle said she’s still confident that two solid weeks with her coach will have her ready to throw well in Glasgow.
“It’s just the angle of the throw. That’s it.”