Hurdler George uses Meagher meet to set up Pan Ams, Worlds,Olympics

Phylicia George

Chronicle Herald


The Aileen Meagher International Track Classic is a significant event on Phylicia George’s calendar.

The Canadian star hurdler will make her fourth appearance at the June 2 meet, the site of a few firsts for George.

“The first time I ran a 12.7 was at the Aileen Meagher,” the 27-year-old said of her record-breaking run in the 100-metre hurdles in 2011, the first year she competed at the Track Classic.

She returned to the meet at Saint Mary’s University two years later and established a new mark, a 12.65. That 2013 record remains the benchmark in women’s hurdles for the meet.

“I have a very special place in my heart for the Aileen Meagher,” said George, who finished third (13.22) to Lavonne Idlette of the Dominican Republic last year. 

“It has a small, hometown feel. The crowd is really supportive so that’s cool. And it’s a nice track to compete on.”

Heady praise from an Olympian who has raced on some of the top tracks in the world.

“Doing hurdles, we’re always trying to find a rhythm,” said George, who also ran a 12.65 at the 2012 London Olympics to finish sixth. 

“I use meets like Aileen Meagher to really find my rhythm and work on things that I’m not finding in practice. Coming to meets like this gives us an opportunity to work on things that need to be worked on. And right now things are feeling really, really good.”

That’s encouraging, considering the busy summer schedule which lies ahead.

The first major event is the Pan Am Games, July 10-26 in Toronto. George is excited to compete in front of a hometown crowd in a rare international competition held on home soil. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said George, who hails from nearby Markham, Ont. 

“We rarely get to have international competitions on home soil. It’s a really good opportunity for all the athletes and an even greater opportunity for the people of Toronto to experience it.”

There won’t be much downtime for track and field athletes following the Pan Am Games. The world championships begin a month later, Aug. 22-30 in Beijing.

“It’s a busy summer, two major championships in one year,” said George, a former track captain at University of Connecticut. 

“These are my goals for the season. I want to go to Pan Ams, I want to be a medallist. I want to go to worlds, I want to be a medallist.”

Things don’t really slow down for Canada’s elite athletes following the world championships. They’ll have less than a year remaining to prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio Janeiro, which begin in August, 2016.

George, for one, isn’t concerned. Recent performances have her feeling optimistic. Earlier this month, she was fourth in the 100m hurdles at the Jamaica International with a 12.94, placing behind Olympic hopefuls Jasmin Stowers of the U.S. (who set a meet record with a 12.39) and the Williams sisters — Danielle and Shermaine — of Jamaica. 

“This year has been turning out really well,” she said. “I’m kind of where I want to be. The big picture is getting to the Olympics and that’s when I want to be at my peak. I feel like I’m setting really good stepping stones toward 2016. The Olympics are always in the back of my head but I’m good at staying in the moment.”

The 22nd annual Aileen Meagher is the second of five stops for the National Track League. The league opener is this Saturday at the Speed River Inferno in Guelph, Ont. Similar events are slated for Vancouver, Victoria and Edmonton over the next six weeks.

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