Smith looking to cement her place at Pan Ams

Jessica Smith, right, from North Vancouver, B.C., competes in the women's 800-metre semi-final event at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, June 29, 2012. Smith will be looking to cement her place on Canada's team at the Pan Am Games when she competes at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic on June 8. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Whenever she needs motivation, Jessica Smith turns on highlights of the 2012 Harry Jerome International Track Classic.

The 800-metre runner needed a time below Canada's Olympic standard of one minute 59.90 seconds at the event three years ago to qualify for the London Games later that summer.

The official broadcast of the race is nice, but it's another version that really gets her competitive juices flowing.

"My family members took a video from the crowd," said Smith, who would run what remains a personal best time of 1:59.86 to qualify for her first Olympics. "That moment, just hearing their excitement, their enthusiasm cheering me on ... that's a moment that I don't usually hear.

"Watching that just makes me run harder and makes me proud to represent my family and the country."

The North Vancouver, B.C., native will be looking for a repeat performance, or close to it, when she competes at this year's Harry Jerome on June 8.

The meet at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C., is one of the last events for athletes hoping to qualify for Canada's team at this summer's Pan Am Games in Toronto.

The top two Canadians in each track and field discipline as of the June 14 cutoff date will earn a spot, and the 25-year-old Smith currently occupies the second position in the women's 800 metres with a top time in 2015 of 2:02.82.

Montreal's Karine Belleau-Beliveau has the year's best time 2:02.49, while Melissa Bishop of Eganville, Ont. — who has been injured this season but like Smith competed in London — will also be in the mix if she can get healthy. Belleau-Beliveau and Bishop are both expected at the Harry Jerome.

"We don't know what to expect from (Bishop), but obviously she's not my only competition," Smith said Tuesday at a press conference promoting this year's meet. "I've got plenty of girls that are right on my heels. I'm just looking to go out there and compete with the best.

"In Canada right now there's eight ladies that are completely capable of running the time."

A number of other track and field events will take place at this year's Harry Jerome, which includes Canadian athletes as well as international competitors.

Smith finished 22nd at the London Games and would love the opportunity to compete on home soil this summer.

"It would just be unbelievable to have Canadians come together as a whole and just have that support across Canada to be one as a team in your own country," she said. "It's just a remarkable experience and you can only hope that you'll perform at your best and you're going to go out and make Canadians proud."

But Smith — who will compete in Victoria on June 10, and another race somewhere else if she needs to in order to qualify for the Pan Ams — knows there's still lots of work to do to make that a reality.

"It's going to come down to the wire," she said. "There's been other teams where people have been bumped out on the final day. That can always happen. It's out of your control. All you can (control) is what you do on the track. You leave everything else behind."


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