Fiona Benson

Fiona Benson

World-class athletes race 1,500 in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Three Olympians compete in 1,500-metre race at B.C. Athletics Championship Jamboree.

Some of Canada’s best runners chose Nanaimo’s Rotary Bowl stadium for a star-studded match race.

The men’s and women’s 1,500-metre finals Saturday at the B.C. Athletics Championship Jamboree ended up being a bit of a who’s who of elite runners, with three Olympians and others who were close to making Team Canada.

Olympians Natasha Wodak, Chris Winter and Lucas Bruchet all ran the 1,500m, though they’re going to Rio de Janeiro for different events – Wodak is a 10-kilometre competitor, Winter runs the 3,000m steeplechase and Bruchet will race the 5,000m.

“We all come together at the 1,500 and we’re able to have a really good race,” said Winter. “I don’t think anyone here was taking it too seriously, and that’s not a bad thing, I think everyone was looking for just a good, competitive race and wanted to run hard and it was fun that way.”

Winter was fifth in his race, with Bruchet 10th. Justin Kent won in three minutes, 48.77 seconds, with Cameron Proceviat second and Cole Peterson third. Former Olympian Jessica Smith won the women’s final in 4:19.71, with Fiona Benson runner-up. Wodak placed third and enjoyed the opportunity to race against some former university teammates.

“We would never race each other any other time. They’re 800 girls, I’m a 10K girl. So it was really fun,” she said.

She was happy with how the race went for her, and kicked as hard as she could on the final lap as a training exercise.

“I was really concentrating on the last lap to treat it like, this is my last lap at Olympics, push hard,” she said.

Winter had a similar focus, knowing he’ll need to “close fast” at Olympics.

“A lot of times the races are tactical. They go a bit slower and then a big, hard finish,” he said. “So doing the faster stuff on the end, 1,500s and stuff, is really good for building the kick and getting ready for those last couple laps in the steeplechase.”

The distance runner Wodak basically finished her race and kept on running, completing her workout with another nine kilometres or so of change of pace in and around the stadium.

The Nanaimo Track and Field Club was excited to host such high-calibre athletes, and Winter said meeting youths at the stadium reminds him of being nine years old and looking up to local Olympians at the time.

“And it’s kind of cool to complete the full circle, and I hope that these young kids that are here today get excited by hearing about Olympians in the crowd,” he said. “Hopefully it inspires them to reach for something great in the future.”

Wodak tells youths that even if they didn’t win their race this weekend, it doesn’t mean they can’t be really good one day.

“When I was their age, I was just getting seventh and eighth place and I was never that all-star,” she said. “So I hope I can show them that hard work does pay off. It may take a while, but it does.”