By Melissa Fraser, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The 27th annual Victoria International Track Classic (VITC) is returning to Centennial Stadium on Jun. 10 as the final stop of the National Track League Canadian Series. University of Victoria Vikes track standouts and UVic Athletes of the Year Thomas Riva and Rachel Francois turned down the opportunity to race at the 2015 FISU World Universiade Games to compete in the local Track Classic event for the chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games.
The VITC is an internationally recognized athletics event where athletes from across the globe at Olympic, International, and National levels compete to achieve qualifying standards to compete in higher level competitions like the Pan-American Games hosted this year in Toronto, or the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“Both Thomas and Rachel are currently in the best shape of their careers,” says head coach Brent Fougner, “Next weeks race will put them up against the best in the country plus some quality international athletes. Both athletes turned down selection to the World Student Games to go after the big teams this summer – Pan-am’s and world Championships.”
Francois, a four-time CIS All-Canadian and four-time defending CIS 600-m gold medalist, will compete in the 800-m elite race. Francois will be looking to find her position on the Canadian squad and with Canada’s best all-time 800-m runner, Diane Cummins, retiring in 2014 there are some big shoes to fill this year.
Currently, Francois boasts a personal best of 2:02.18 and to qualify for the team she will need to come in under 2:01.00. Francois will face familiar competition along 2012 Olympian and Canada’s current fastest 800-m runner Melissa Bishop, North Vancouver’s Jessica Smith, and Trinity Western third-year athlete Fiona Benson. Second-year Vike Andrea Robinson will also be racing the 800-m, but in the development level.
In addition, Vikes Nicole Soderberg, Shauna McInnis, and Emma Bibault will be competing in the women’s 1500-m national race.
Riva is looking to find his a spot on the Canadian roster through the 800-m elite race. Earning three silver medals at the 2015 CIS Track and Field Championships Riva will be looking for redemption with Olympic incentive on the line. Joining him will be fellow Vikes and CIS gold medalists Brendon Restall and Adam Paul-Morris.
First-year Vike Isaac Penner will be competing in the 800-m national against fellow Canadians Geoff Harris, Cameron Mitchell, and Justin Kent.
Vikes Derrick Evans, Cody Therrien and Ben Weir will all be competing in the 1500-m national race.
To prepare for the VITC most of the Vikes athletes will be also be competing in the Jerome Track Classic in Vancouver on Jun. 8.
Live streaming and ticket information for the VITC are available at trackclassic.com.