VICTORIA – It’s the last stop on the road to the Rio Olympics for a number of athletes this weekend at the 2016 Canadian Championships and Rio Selection Trials in Edmonton from July 7-10 and current and former Vikes are making the trip.
Rachel Francois, Cole Peterson and Brendon Restall are the current Vikes attending while recruits Brendan Hoff and Alyssa Mousseau are also hitting the track in Edmonton. Also running will be former Vike Thomas Riva, who will be looking to defend his 1,500-metre title, and assistant coach Hilary Stellingwerff, who has hit Olympic standard and is looking to attend her second Olympics.
The trials represent the last chance for athletes to earn a spot at the upcoming Olympics against the top competition in the country. Athletes who hit trials standard will go directly to the semi-finals while those who haven’t have to make it through a qualifying round.
But just because the field is deep, doesn’t mean the races will be at their fastest.
“Going into nationals we prepare for a championship race, which means it’s not necessarily going to be fast but you have to be there for the last 200 metres,” said head coach Brent Fougner.
Francois, moving into her fifth year of eligibility, is one of the athletes who will be heading straight to the semi-finals. She set a personal goal of making it to the 2016 Olympics and will have one last chance to make it before setting her sights back on 2020.
“Just getting to the finals this year is going to be tough—there’s sixteen girls that have run under 2:04 or so, so it’s amazing how deep it is,” said Fougner. “[Rachel] ran a great nationals last year and she’s been having some great finishes in her races so that would be what we’re looking for this weekend: the best place we can get at nationals in one of the deepest fields in the whole league.”
Peterson is also one to watch at nationals as he hits the track for the 1,500-metre race. The recent grad will be back for his final year of eligibility next year as he works towards a master’s degree. He heads into nationals with a solid chance to make the finals.
“Cole is doing great,” said Fougner. “He’s ranked high in the country—him making the finals will be a challenge but I think he’s got a great chance the way he’s been training. From there, it’s being patient in that final. He was patient at the indoor CIS Championship and it paid off.
“He’s a very good tactical runner, so if we can just get him in the finals then he’s got a great shot at being in the top half of the field at finals.”
Restall is riding a wave of strong workouts into the 800-metre event at nationals. Both he and Peterson have managed to impress their coach with their progress this summer.
“Brendon’s season is really coming around,” said Fougner. “He’s had some great workouts while I’ve been gone. I think going to nationals he’s ready. On the men’s side it’s just making those finals.”
After going through a busy stretch of the summer, Riva is headed to nationals with a chance to pick up two straight 1,500-metre titles. He entered the summer with the goal of qualifying for Rio and has one more chance to do so on the biggest stage yet.
“He’s a target because everybody knows he’s got that speed so there’s probably going to be people trying to take that race a little bit faster,” said Fougner.