Last stop to Moncton for many at the Toronto International Track and Field Games

By Madeleine Cummings

We’re privileged to have Madeleine Cummings covering the 2013 Toronto NTL Meet for TrackFocus this week. Madeleine is a recent graduate of McGill University where she ran both cross country and track. You can follow her on Twitter @madcummings.

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Tuesday night was the last chance for many of Canada’s elite track and field athletes to get in a great performance before the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Moncton.

Melissa Bishop won the women’s NTL 800 with a spectacular kick down the homecoming stretch, passing Marilyn Okoro of Great Britain. Fellow 2012 Olympians Jessica Smith and Sheila Reid were 4th and 7th respectively.

Anthony Romaniw won the men’s 800 in 1:47.47, though boasted a faster time at both the Speed River Inferno and Aileen Meagher International Track Classic (NTL Meet #1 in Halifax, this past weekend).

All eyes were on Sarah Wells at the start of the women’s 400 metre hurdles, who was running on her home track with a packed stands at her back. But Wells was beat by rising star Noelle Montcalm, who won the event in 55.96.

Wells says she knew the race got off to a bad start. She took one less step than normal before the first hurdle and paid for her mistake later on.

“I really thought it was going to be alright. I got back in the race and I thought it would be okay, but in the end that wasn’t the case.”

Jenna Martin also had a disappointing race. The 2012 Olympian came fourth in the 400, running 53.65, slightly slower than her performance in Halifax this weekend, and well off her personal best.

The men’s NTL 400 was won by Manteo Mitchell, with the only Canadian contenders placing 4th through 7th.

Tucked between the elites, some younger up-and-coming athletes had the chance to test their legs on the track. Brianna Gayle and Nasir Willabus-Stephen, both Torontonians, won the Fastest Girl and Boy in Ontario titles. As for the high school 4x100m relay, the team from Jamaica won the women’s race while the Americans took the men’s. Oakland College must be doing something right, as both their men’s and women’s teams ended up on the podium.

Going into the women’s 1500, Toronto runner Kate Van Buskirk knew she would have to do a lot of work if she wanted to run a fast time. The plan was to run with a rabbit and hammer home to get the World B standard of 4:08.90. She executed the plan perfectly, running 4:08.34, a personal best.

“I love this meet. I love this crowd!” she told announcer Perdita Felicien immediately after the race. Van Buskirk had an impressive and adorable fan section on the stands, complete with signs that bore her name.

“I felt good. I felt like my foot was on the gas pedal the entire time,” she told me. If she’s not able to come in the top three at Nationals in the 1500, she’ll consider jumping in the 5000m race there as well.

While there was a considerable gap between Van Buskirk and the rest of the 1500m field, star high schooler Jaimie Phelan ran a solid 4:22.41 for second place. She’ll run for the University of Michigan in the fall.

Canadian Shai Davis won the women’s 100, beating Olympian Crystal EmmanuelJustin Warner was the first Canadian in the 100, coming in second place. Damian Warner took the 110 metre hurdles title, though told Felicien he was hoping to run a faster time.

No surprises in the men’s high jump as the gold went to Derek Drouin, who only had to jump 2.33 to beat American Dusty Jonas. Heather Hamilton won the women’s pole vault with a jump of 4.35, but no other Canadians were on top of the podium in the field events.

The meet came to a close with the women’s 100 metre hurdles event. In it, Jessica Zelinka emerged triumphant with a time of 13.06. Like Damian Warner, she would have liked to run a faster time, but was happy and relieved with the win.

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