National Track League Brings Olympic Excitement to Victoria

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national track_league

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

Victoria, BC (ISN) – It was an Olympic level atmosphere at UVic’s Centennial Stadium on Wednesday night as many Canadian and International Olympic track and field athletes were on hand to compete in the National Track League’s Victoria Track Classic.  

Buoyed by the cheers of the many elementary school students who stayed around after participating in the Vikes Relays on Tuesday and early in the evening Wednesday, more than 240 athletes from 12 different nations participated in the event, many who were attempting to meet qualifying standards for the 2012 Olympics in London.
 

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Future Olympic hopefuls hit the track first on Wednesday in the finals of the Vikes Relays. Here, Grant McQuay (left) from St. Joseph’s and Desiree Leal (right) from St. Patrick’s, anchor their team’s victories in the 4 x 100m relays (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Following the Relays and after Developmental races for the Men’s and Women’s 800m and the Men’s 1500m, one of the first big race events was the Men’s 5000m, the longest of the races scheduled for the evening.  The race was a cat and mouse affair between Mexico’s Martin Martinez and Canada’s Aaron Hendrixx, with the runners exchanging leads a number of times, but with Hendixx prevailing at the end in a time of 14:14:56.
 

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In the Men’s 5000m, Mexico’s Martin Martinez (left) led early, but was overtaken in the end by Canada’s Aaron Hendrixx (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Shortly after the 5000m had completed, one of the two highlight field events took place – the Javelin, with Canadian record holder Scott Russell favoured.  Russell seemed to struggle however, and it would be Curtis Moss who would wow the crowd with a series of consistent throws, the longest being 81.21 metres, easily topping the personal best of 80.43 he set last week at the Harry Jerome meet.  Russell would finish second with a throw of 75.56 metres.
 

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Canadian Curtis Moss would wow the crowd with his winning throw of 81.21 metres in the Javelin toss (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Also throwing in the Javelin was local Lambrick Park high school product and BC High School Provincial Champion in the Javelin, Mason Kereszti.  Kereszti finished with a throw of 61.93 metres.
 

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Canadian record holder Scott Russell (left) would finish second, while Lambrick Park’s Mason Kereszti also participated in the Javelin toss (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

The other field highlight of the night was the Shot Put, where heavily favoured Dylan Armstrong was competing along with six others.  Armstrong is coming off a first place performance of 21.24-metres at Harry Jerome which saw him take the early lead in the NTL standings with 8 points. Throwing alongside Armstrong was Justin Rodhe of Kamloops, B.C., who is second in the standings with 6 points. Armstrong and Rodhe both have the Olympic A standard and are focused on finishing top three at the Canadian Trials later this month to secure their tickets to the 2012 Olympic Games.
 

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Crowd favourite Dylan Armstrong would not disappoint, winning the Shot Put with a throw of 21 metres (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

On Wednesday, Armstrong did not disappoint the crowd, throwing a distance of 21 metres on his very first throw to take the win.  China’s Ming-Huang Chang was second at 19.96, while Rhode was third at 19.71.
 

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Chinese Taipei’s Ming-Huang Chang (left) and Canada’s Justin Rhode (right) would finish second and third respectively in the Shot (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Moving over to the Women’s Long Jump, it was Brianna Glenn of the United States who would easily out-jump her competition including Canada’s Ruky Abdulai, the NTL leader heading into the event.  Glenn’s winning jump was 6.33 metres while Abdulai’s second place mark came in at 5.97. Alice Falaiye of Brampton, Ont., who came second at Harry Jerome, finished in third with a jump of 5.87 metres.
 

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Brianna Glenn hits the mark perfectly and flies through the air with ease on her way to the Long Jump win (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Once the field events had completed, it was time for the premier running events of the evening, starting with the Men’s and Women’s 800m races which were won respectively by Canada’s Tyler Smith (1:48:55) and the USA’s Bethany Praska (2:05:51).

In the Men’s 400m, it was Manteo Mitchell of the USA winning in a time of 45:97, while the Women’s 400m was won by Puerto Rico’s Carol Rodriguez, who finished nearly 1.5 secnds ahead of second place finisher April Panteau of the United States.

In the 1500m event, Canada’s Julie Kawamoto looked to have the Women’s race won in the homestretch, but was nipped at the wire by Kate Van Buskirk.  Both runners improved though on their 7th and 8th place finishes respectively at Harry Jerome.  On the Men’s side, 2009 World Championship semi-finalist Nathan Brannen made his 2012 NTL debut and did not disappoint, defeating Garrett Heath of the USA.
 

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Julie Kawamoto (left) looked to have the Women’s 1500m wrapped up but was nipped at the wire by Kate Van Buskirk who was tucked closely behind.  In the Men’s 1500m, Nathan Brannen made his NTL debut a good one by taking the win (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

One of the quickest and most exciting events of the evening then took place – the Women’s 100m Hurdles.  Featuring nationally known hurdlers Perdita Felicien, Nikita Holder and Phyllicia George of Canada the race came down to the wire with the USA’s Ginnie Crawford stealing the win from the Canadian girls with a time of 12.92 seconds.  Felicien was able to hold on for second, just ahead of third place George.
 

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Perdita Felicien (left), Phyllicia George (centre) and Ginnie Crawford (right) are neck and neck halfway through the 100m hurdles Wednesday. Crawford would come away with the win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)
 

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Perdita Felicien (left) and Phyllicia George (right) clear the final hurdles as they battle for second place Wednesday (Photo by Chrisitan J. Stewart – ISN)

Next on the track were the speed burners – the 100m sprint runners.  In the Women’s race, a photo finish was required to determine the winner in the closest and most exciting finish of the evening.  In the end it was Canada’s Crystal Emmanuel edging out Kerri Ann Mitchell for the win.  On the Men’s side, another exciting race saw Ansn Henry narrowly defeat Justyn Warner, who was fresh off an Olympic B standard performance at the Oslo Diamond League last Thursday.

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A photo finish was required in the Women’s 100 m with the win going to Crystal Emmanuel (centre)(Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)
 

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Carol Rodriguez (left) was the winner in the Women’s 400m, while Anson Henry took first in the Men’s 100m (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

The final events of the evening were the Women’s and Men’s 800m races.  The Women’s race featured a star studded line-up that included Melissa Bishop of Eganville, Ont., who captured the Olympic A standard just over a week ago. Bishop was also joined by Victoria’s Diane Cummins and Hillary Stellingwerth and UVics Rachel Francois.

In the race, Bishop paced herself, trailing early, but in the end was took home the win in a time of 2:01.  Lea Wallace finished second while Cummins was third.  In the Men’s 800m, Duane Solomon of the United States won easily in a time of 1:46:14.  Canada’s Kyle Smith was second at 1:47:40.
 

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Melissa Bishop (left) trailed early in the Women’s 800m but would grab the win in the end, while the USA’s Duane Solomon (right) would win the Men’s race in fairly easy fashion (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Full results of the Victoria Track Classic can be found on the NTL web site at http://www.nationaltrackleague.ca/

The NTL now moves on to Edmonton, where the Donovan Bailey International takes place on June 16th.

Additional images from photographer Christian J. Stewart are also available HERE.

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