VANCOUVER, BC – The Canadian Track and Field Championships make their way to Langley, BC, for the second straight year this week, once again acting as a precursor to the World Championships.
After COVID-19 postponed the Oregon World Championships to 2022, it’s back-to-back years for the prominent competition, with the Budapest 2023 World Athletics Championships looming in August.
For Canadian athletes, the national championships offer one of the final opportunities to hit the world championship standard while also competing for Canadian glory. As well, this year presents a chance to round off their final pre-Olympic summer in top form.
With over 1,000 athletes set to compete, including Canada’s fastest sprinters, Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown, here are three things to watch at the Canadian Track and Field Championships at McLeod Athletic Park from July 27-31.
A big tuneup and some new hardware
The shouts of shock and celebration can still nearly be heard still echoing north from Eugene, Oregon’s Hayward Field, where the Canadian men’s 4x100m relay team captured World Championship gold just a year ago.
A year before that, the same group of Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, and Brendon Rodney sprinted to the Olympic podium at Tokyo 2020.
On Sunday, the group will likely, once again hit the track in Langley, looking to tune up ahead of their World Championship defence, with Canada’s fastest man and relay anchor runner Andre De Grasse set to hit Langley after missing the event in 2022.
The Canadian team hasn’t had many opportunities to run in races this season but did reconvene for an early season meet at the Florida Relays in March, where they ran a 37.80, which stands as the world’s fastest relay time in 2023.
The National Championship race provides an exceptional opportunity for the group to tune up in front of a home crow and capture a national title before looking to Budapest and another World Championship.
On Saturday, the group will also receive their upgraded Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medals after Team GB had theirs stripped due to CJ Ujah’s doping violation. China was upgraded to Canada’s previous bronze medal position.
With COVID-19 having taken a year off the Olympic cycle and compacted two World Championship years, the Canadian team has a tremendous opportunity to win a major title for four years in a row, building off Tokyo’s 2021 medal and the world title and their aim at another world podium and 2024 Olympic medal.
Can Marco Arop heat up before Budapest?
Edmonton’s Marco Arop has high expectations — there’s no doubt about that, for the athlete who finished with a World Championship bronze medal and Canadian Championship title last summer.
Still, the 2023 season hasn’t been the fastest for the 24-year-old, hitting his peak time with a 1:43.30 at the Paris Diamond League meet in June. Compared to last season, where he ran a 1:44.28 to win the World’s bronze.
In his final race before the Canadian Championships, he clocked a 1:43.22 to win the bronze medal at the Monaco Diamond League.
In comparison, however, Arop began heating up for worlds on the track in Langley in 2022. He is likely starting his final tuneups once against the Canadian Championships as he looks for a third title in the event.
This season, the looming element for Arop has been the final 100 metres of his 800m, where he faded to third after leading in Monaco and let a potential Canadian record slip through his grasps after running at a record-breaking time.
Still, the possibility and target of breaking teammate Brandon McBride’s national record of 1:43.20 loos for Arop as he enters the major portion of his summer season.
Arop will run the 800m as the top-seeded runner in Langley, with heats set for 6:15 pm PT on Friday and the finals scheduled for 8:15p PT on Saturday.
What can we expect from Andre De Grasse, Sarah Mitton?
Two of Canada’s top athlete at the championships haven’t quite gotten up to their top performances this season, but will be using the Langley event as a springboard to the Worlds where they are among the medal favourites.
For Andre De Grasse, who has yet to break the 10-second mark in the 100m in 2023, the tune up season is upon him, as he looks to peak for the biggest meet in Buadpest in August. After years of success, albeit plagued with injury, he is entering his first peaking phase under Irish head coach Jon Coghla, who he began working with in 2022.
While the switch to Coghlan hasn’t seen record ties for De Grasse yet, the coach understands the intricacies of De Grasse’s career, and his adept skill of peaking at the right time. “He’s surprised people a few time… when they thought he wasn’t setting the world [on fire] and then shows up at the right time,” Coghlan told CBC Sports.
Although the Langley may not see De Grasse break 10 seconds in the 100m, he will want to hit that mark ahead of worlds, after last hitting it at the Tokyo Olympics. The men’s 100m is set for Friday’s evening session, with the 200m, set for Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, shotputter Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, Nova Scotia is looking to continue the form she showed last season, where she became the first Canadian woman to break to 20-metre mark, throwing 20.33 for a Canadian record at last year’s National Championships.
Mitton finished fourth at the World Championships last year, but has thrown at the level that could put the 27-year-old on the podium in Budapest. On June 15, she won her first Diamond League event with a throw of 19.54 metres, and will look to break her personal and Canadian record ahead of Worlds.
“Another year of evolution, another year of growth. I think that I’m very much situated to be on that podium and I’m hungry to not end the season in fourth place,” Mitton told The Canadian Press. “I’m definitely motivated to not let myself be in that situation again,”
She will start in the shotput circle at McLeod Athletics Park on Sunday.
U SPORTS athletes in the mix
With over 1,000 athletes competing at the Canadian Track and Fild Championships, U SPORTS athletes will be in the mix for medals in both the senior and U20 categories. Former Saskatchewan Huskie and Napoli 2019 FISU Games medalist Courtney Hufsmith is set to run the 1500m and will be the lone FISU medalist to do so – yet, she’s running for the U of Calgary Athletics Club now.
The aforementioned Mitton also reached the podium at the 2019 FISU Games, winning Canada’s first medal of the event in shotput.
Among the university affiliated track and field clubs at the national championships are Universite Laval, Green and Gold Track and Field (Alberta), York, Waterloo, Toronto, the Regina, Calgary, Windsor, Trinity Western, and Western.
49 Sports will provide on location coverage of the Canadian Track and Field Championships on Saturday and Sunday.