BURNABY — Simon Fraser Clan women’s track and field enjoyed a shining moment this past weekend at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships in Oregon.
Four individual championships from a most youthful line-up, coupled with a program-high second-place finish behind Alaska-Anchorage is proof enough that the Clan is ready to start dominating in the GNAC.
Simon Fraser’s women have never been so dominant at the GNACs when you consider that they fashioned two of the top three finishes in the 100, 200, 400, and 800 metre finals, won the 1,600-metre relay, placed second in the 400-metre relay and placed second in the 100-metre hurdles with a roster of runners which returns almost in tact next season.
Yet as head coach Brit Townsend and her team returned by bus from the meet site in Monmouth, Ore., on Sunday afternoon, the shining moment was being somewhat soured by the fact that rain and wind have seemingly plagued the team all season, keeping their fast times down and likely limiting the number of athletes the team will be sending to the national championships beginning in just under two weeks.
“This weekend the weather was brutal, with all of the wind and rain,” said Townsend. “It killed us for the times we may need to get to nationals.”
Still, the focus can’t help but be positive for the Clan women’s team.
Here’s a look at the weekend’s top takeaways.
ADDY’S ON TRACK
Yes, the weather was a huge factor at the championship site at Western Oregon, but when you are having the kind of season that sophomore Addy Townsend is having, the elements don’t even matter.
Or so it seems.
Townsend, ranked No. 6 in D2 at the distance, ran a personal-best 2:07.96 to win the 800-metres, kicking past No. 4-ranked Danielle McCormick of UAA over the final 100-metres as part of a huge negative split.
SFU had three finishes in the top 10 with junior Alana Mussatto third (2:09.76) and junior Paige Nock ninth (2:21.99).
“Addy ran a smart race,” said her mom Brit. “She is learning how to race and how to win and that is not something that is easy to do. It was a bad day out there and that is not where you run your best times. So I think there is still way more there.”
And of course Addy Townsend is running at the school’s most hallowed and storied distance.
Her mom set an NAIA record at in the 800 metres (2:03.89) in 1986 for the Clan.
Twenty-five years later, while Brit Townsend was coaching Helen Crofts, the then-junior broke her mentor’s record in a time of 2:02.12.
Crofts then took a red-shirt season, and finished her collegiate career in SFU’s first NCAA season by setting the current GNAC standard of 2:02.10 in 2013.
Recent Clan graduate Lindsay Butterworth, who also competed as a red-shirt senior, ran a 2:02 during her Clan career as well.
And of course, the most famous 800 in Clan history came in 2012 when graduate Jessica Smith became just the fourth woman in Canadian history to run a sub two-minute race, qualifying for the London Olympics with a 1:59.86 at the Harry Jerome.
“When I look at Lindsay,” begins Brit Townsend, “she ran 2:09 her first year, 2:08 her second, then 2:06, then 2:04 and finally 2:02. And that has been similar to some of the other girls.”
With Addy Townsend running just under 2:08 as a sophomore, it looks like she’s right on track to become one of the program’s greats.
Over the weekend, Townsend and Mussatto joined Chantal Desch and Sophie Dodd on the 4×400-metre relay team which finished first in a time of 3:46.48.
KATHERINE THE GREAT
St. Thomas More’s Zion Corrales-Nelson was especially dominant over her high school sprinting career, so much so that you could say that West Point Grey’s Katherine Lucas was performing in her shadows.
Yet Lucas has shown over an incredible freshman season with the Clan that she is richly deserving of the spotlight that has illuminated her as the fastest female in the GNAC.
In mid-April, Lucas clocked the second-fastest 100-metre time in GNAC history with an 11.82 at the Long Beach State Invitational.
Over the weekend at Western Oregon, despite hellacious conditions, she won both the 100- (12.13) and 200-metres (24.68), heady stuff for a pure freshman running in her first-ever collegiate conference championships.
“For Katherine, it’s been all about her consistent hard work her attitude and her high expectations,” said Townsend. “This is probably the first time she has ever really trained year-round. She has a way of coming on so strong over the second half of a race.”
In the 200-metres, those traits manifested themselves against her own teammate.
Sophomore Valda Kabia had the lead but wound up finishing second (24.71) after Lucas’ late surge to the tape. Kabia also finished third in the 100 (12.22).
Kabia would run the first leg and Lucas the anchor on SFU’s sliver-medal winning 4×100-metre relay team. Kira Pederson and Chantal Desch completed the foursome which clocked 47.02, just behind first-place Alaska-Anchorage (46.76).
DEEP AND DANGEROUS
When the Clan women’s program marches out the same level of depth in the field as it has on the track, conference titles could become commonplace.
And nowhere is SFU deeper than in the 1,500 metres.
The GNAC final was tactical, and even though the times were slower, SFU nonetheless produced three of the top five finishers in the conference, and as juniors, all three are back next season.
Miryam Bassett (4:35.85) was masterful over the late stages to top teammate Julia Howley (4:36.41) in SFU’s 1-2 finish, while Reta Dobie took fifth (4:38.14).
“It was a very slow and tactical race that opened up for Miryam to take over the last 100 (metres),” said Townsend. “Reta was able to stay as part of the pack and even though it wasn’t her fastest time, the way she raced out there, I thought it was her best race of the season.”
Keep in mind that Addy Townsend loves this distance as well. She has, however, been focusing on 800’s exclusively in the run-up to nationals.
The Clan also finished second and third in the 400 metres. Desch finished at 55.31 and Sophie Dodd at 55.61.
SFU’s Diana Voloshin was second in the 100-metre hurdles (14.19) as a freshman.
The NCAA Div. 2 nationals run May 25-27 in Bradenton, Fla.
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