By GARY KINGSTON
BURNABY – The women’s 800 metres at Tuesday night’s Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome International Track Classic may well turn into a tactical battle of positioning and patience.
But if the pacer does her job and the conditions are optimal, it could also be a speed race that propels an athlete or two to the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., in a month’s time.
Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, the only Canadian woman currently qualified, on the basis of her 1:58.28 run from July 10 of last year, won’t be at Swangard Stadium, nor will she be at Worlds. She’s expecting her second child in July.
But the scheduled field of runners is still extremely strong, led by two women who have already gone under the magical two-minute mark this spring, two of just nine Canadian women to ever do so. North Vancouver’s Lindsay Butterworth ran 1:59.59 and Madeleine Kelly 1:59.83 at a meet in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., on May 6.
In a stellar 11-woman field at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday where the winner American Athing Mu won in a world-leading time of 1:57.01, Butterworth was eighth in 1:59.93.
“It was a great opportunity to compete on the world stage and practice race tactics,” said Butterworth, who appeared to get boxed in a bit as the runners rounded the final turn. “I know I’m in a good spot, even if I’m not super happy with a sub two. I know there’s lots more there.
“I know the standard is well within range for me and I would like to achieve that.”
Butterworth and Kelly still need to get under the 1:59.50 qualification standard to ensure a spot at Worlds, but Butterworth, a Tokyo 2020 Olympian, is in good position to be one of 48 to go to Eugene based on her position in the World Rankings quota at 29th. Kelly, a native of Pembroke, Ont., currently sits in the 36th rankings spot.
Kelly said that going under two minutes for the first time in May was “kind of relieving. I’d gone 2:00.1 twice, which was painfully close.
“The cutoff date for qualification (for Worlds) is the end of June. I can get in on points, but it would be much nicer to run standard, a more certain route to go.”
With Bishop-Nriagu out of action, a trio of other Canadians will be pushing for that third Canadian spot at Worlds. Lucia Stafford of Toronto has a personal best of 2:00.80, while Julianne Labach (2:00.88, PB) and Coquitlam, B.C.’s Addy Townsend (2:01.24) will also be in the mix.
“I really like the 800,” said Stafford, who has already qualified for Worlds in the 1,500 along with her sister Gabriel DeBues-Stafford. “I haven’t run too many competitive ones, but every season I try to do one or two of them. And since I already have the 1,500 standard, I can run more of them.
“The thing with the 800 is the more you do them, the better you get. I’ve been wanting to do the Jerome for years and this year it really made sense. It’s a good field . . . with everyone a second-and-a-half, two seconds apart (in PBs). I’m really excited to see what happens.”
Also scheduled to be in the field are New Zealander Alison Andrews-Paul, who just completed her senior season at SFU and has run a 2:01.43 PB this year, American Rebecca Mehra (2:00.82 PB) and Mexico’s Luisa Mariela Real Crespo (2:00.92 PB).
Tickets to the meet are now available online at www.harryjerome.com
For more information contact
Nigel Hole, meet director
Marek Jedrzejek, president Achilles Track and Field Society
Gary Kingston, media co-ordinator
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