U SPORTS athletes take medals on Day 1 of Canadian Track and Field Championships

LANGLEY, BC – The opening day of the Canadian Track and Field Championships came to a close as the sun set upon the picturesque location of Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park. While the weekend’s major events are to come, some took the spotlight on Thursday.

While select athletes had already clinched their World Championship spots for the World Athletics Championships in Budapest next month, several others were striving for medals to elevate their chances of heading to Hungary with Team Canada.

Flanagan leads men’s 5000m ahead of U SPORTS medalists

Leading the way was the men’s 5,000m, and while Canada’s top runner in the distance, Mo Ahmed, did not compete, Kitchener, Ont. native Ben Flanagan took the race in stride. After shifting his focus to the distance this season, his bet has paid off, and he’s put himself within the world’s top 30.

On Thursday night, he raced to a time of 13:39.36. While he was well off the 13:20 mark, which he has broken three times this season, he took the Canadian Championship gold medal and put himself in a position to be selected for Athletics Canada’s World Championship roster.

Following Flanagan, however, were two U SPORTS alumni who took the silver and bronze spots on the podium. Mitchell Ubene, a former Guelph Gryphon and native of Tecumseh, ON, finished second in a time of 13.43.41, well of his time at last year’s nationals of 13:36.71. Meanwhile, University Laval’s Thomas Fafard took bronze, crossing the finish line in 13.45.49.

Mitchell Ubene (Guelph Gryphons)

Former McGill women’s volleyball player takes women’s 5000m in all U SPORTS podium

Briana Scott did not take track racing seriously until after university when she retired from volleyball after playing with the McGill Martlets. Yet, after transitioning to the organization Mile2Marathon, she continued to strive for excellence in athletics and found herself a Canadian Championship title in the 5,000m on Thursday.

After running a season’s best time in the distance at the Harry Jerome Classic at the same venue, Scott couldn’t beat her time of 15.19.51 in the National Championship race, yet won gold in 15.46.72 in much hotter conditions.

Taking silver was five-time U SPORTS All-Canadian and former Queen’s Gaels standout Julie-Anne Staehli, crossing the finish line in 15:47.62. While the 12-time OUA and U SPORTS medalist made the Canadian Olympics for Tokyo 2020, she continues striving towards a potential opportunity at Paris 2024, as she continues a career that once saw her awarded the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year.

Staehli with the Queen’s Gaels (Queen’s Gaels)

Rounding off the podium in the women’s 5000m was another Gael in 35-year-old Leslie Sextion, who continued to collect late-career accolades just over 12 months since making her debut with the Canadian national team at the Oregon 2022 World Championships in the marathon. She finished with a time of 15.50.08, well behind her season best of 15:27.70.

Home gold for former U SPORTS runner Regan Yee in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase

Regan Yeee during her U SPORTS years with the Trinity Western Spartans (TWU Spartans)

Regan Yee’s former U SPORTS stomping grounds of Trinity Western University are just a few minutes away from McLeod Athletic Park, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympian did not disappoint in familiar surroundings on Thursday.

The 28-year-old of South Hazelton, BC, captured the gold medal in 9:24.82, just edging out rival Ceili McCabe, who had beaten her just a few weeks earlier on the same course at the Harry Jerome Classic.

McCabe, of Western Virginia Universtiy, took the silver medal in 9:25.98. At the same time, the podium’s final step hosted Grace Fetherstonhaugh, who has had a breakout season at Oregon State University in the NCAA — she finished in 9:31.27.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, former UBC Thunderbird John Gay could not defend his National Championship from 2022, with Laval’s Jean-Simon Desgagnes taking the gold medal in 8:24.47.

Jordan Macintosh took second place in 8:31.32, while Kevin Roberston took bronze, running the distance in 8:37.94. Both previously raced in the NCAA.

Lepage takes discus bronze as decathletes heat up ahead of Budapest

Former York Lion Pierce LePage is just a year removed from winning a World Championship silver medal at Oregon 2022 in the decathlon. Still, he continued his preparations for Budapest on Thursday with a bronze medal in the men’s discus competition, throwing 52.31m. Meanwhile, defending Olympic champion in the decathlon, Damien Warner, threw 48.65, good for sixth place.

Neither Lepage nor Warner are scheduled to compete in the National Championship decathlon. However, Warner will race hurdles and the 400m in Langley while LePage takes on the long jump.

Quick hits:

In the U20 men’s 3,000m steeplechase, Laval’s Francois Bouchard took the bronze medal in 9:28.40, while UBC freshman Matthew Uliana won gold in the U20 men’s discus throw.

In the women’s heptathlon, University of Regina student-athlete Sheliane Pritchard leads after four events with the long jump, javelin and 800m remaining in the competition.

The 2023 Canadian Track and Field Championships at Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park continue through Sunday, July 30, featuring many of Canada’s best athletics athletes, including current and former U SPORTS standouts.


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