Sport

Toronto attracts best in track and field for NACAC championships

Unlike his most recent race, Brandon McBride would prefer to keep his last run on a Toronto track buried in the past.

On July 22, 2015, McBride returned from a right ankle injury to finish fifth in his 800-metre heat at the Pan Am Games to fall one spot and 29-100ths of a second short of qualifying for the men’s final at York University.

“I think I was in third position with about 100 metres to go and two guys came from the back and outkicked me. I just try to forget that ever happened,” McBride recalled on the phone ahead of this week’s NACAC track and field championships, a.k.a. Toronto 2018: Track and Field in the 6ix.

“Hopefully, it won’t be the same result [this week] and I really don’t think it will. It is a chance at redemption a little bit.”

The three-day event, featuring athletes from 28 countries in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, will be lived streamed on CBCSports.ca, starting Friday at 10:05 a.m. ET. CBC-TV will also provide coverage on Saturday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) on Road to the Olympic Games.

McBride will enter Friday night’s men’s 800 semifinals at Varsity Stadium healthy and brimming with confidence after shattering Gary Reed’s 10-year-old Canadian record at the Diamond League’s Herculis Meeting in Monaco on July 20.

McBride finishes with a time of 1:43.20, places 2nd at Diamond League event in Monaco. 3:41

“It’s a dream come true,” said McBride, who didn’t hear from Reed following the race and spent a week responding to congratulatory messages on social media. “Growing up, I watched a lot of the older middle-distance runners like Gary Reed and dreamed of one day being in that [record-setting] position. To be there now is an amazing feeling.”

I’m more patient and definitely more mature now.— Canadian middle-distance runner Brandon McBride on his ability to rebound from defeat compared to two years ago

McBride ran to a second-place finish in Monaco in one minute 43.20 seconds, or 48-100ths of a second faster than Reed’s national mark of 1:43.68. Twelve days earlier, the 24-year-old clocked 1:46.42 in a slow, tactical race at the Canadian championships in Ottawa, where Marco Arop ended McBride’s three-year title reign.

Nagging injuries

Two years ago, McBride noted, he would have needed a long time to recover mentally from such a defeat and have the confidence to return to the track.

“I’m more patient and definitely more mature now,” said the Windsor, Ont., native, who has learned he can’t be in top racing form every day. “Breaking the Canadian record was truly special and I had to be at my best to do something of that [significance]. It shows how much I’ve matured, to be able to bounce back from a situation like nationals, to have the patience with my body and take care of the little things.”

One of the “million and one little things” McBride and new coach Kurt Downes did correctly leading up to Monaco was visiting the former’s doctor in Indiana to examine McBride’s right hip and groin area that was troubling him before nationals. A slightly damaged adductor, a muscle of the hip located in the thigh, will be managed by regular maintenance visits, the doctor told McBride.

“I just need a little more maintenance than I’ve had in the past,” said McBride, who was a two-time NCAA champion in the 800 when he attended Mississippi State University. “Everything’s going really well and I’m looking forward to racing in Toronto again.”

Sifuentes refining sprints

So, too, is Winnipeg’s Nicole Sifuentes, who finished second to Colombia’s Muriel Coneo in the 1,500 at the 2015 Pan Am Games, also the last time the 32-year-old raced in Toronto. Coneo outkicked Sifuentes down the homestretch for the victory.

“I don’t necessarily feel I need redemption from Pan Am Games. I placed second and it was a very close race,” recalled Sifuentes, who gained confidence two weeks ago with a personal-best time in the road mile (4:22) at the Ryan Shay Mile event in Charlevoix, Mich. “I was proud of how I battled.”

Nicole Sifuentes last ran in Toronto at the 2015 Pan Am Games when Muriel Coneo of Colombia outkicked her to the finish line for the victory. The 32-year-old Canadian has been working on sprints to the finish in recent training. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images/File)

Sifuentes, who lives in Plymouth, Mich., has felt better prepared for running the 1,500 following a recent shift in training from earlier this season when she was gearing workouts toward the 5,000. Sprints to the finish have been the focus while handling more volume and intensity training with the True Blue Elite group at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

At the Canadian championships in early July, Sifuentes covered the final 200 metres of the 1,500 in 29 seconds to finish in 4:17.71 and runner-up to Gabriela Stafford (4:17.08). Stafford and Sifuentes finished 2-3 a month earlier at the Music City Distance Carnival in Nashville, where Stafford crossed the line 1.5 seconds ahead of her Canadian teammate.

The London, Ont, native won the women’s 1,500m race with a time of 4:17.08 at the national championships in Ottawa. 8:09

“I was pleased at that progress [at nationals in Ottawa],” said Sifuentes, who has five second-place finishes and three thirds in 14 races in the 1,500 since her last victory on April 15, 2016 at the Mt. SAC Relays in California. “I’ve learned that if I only measure my results purely based on how they stack up against others, it’s a pretty narrow definition of success, and it’s going to be very discouraging.”

Other Canadians to watch:

Aaron Brown, men’s 200m/4×100 (Friday 200 semifinals, 9:10 p.m. ET; Sunday final, 2:30 p.m./4×100 final – Sunday, 4:30 p.m.): Brown will be vying for a fourth victory this season on Canadian soil in his hometown after winning 100 and 200 gold at nationals and the 100 at the Harry Jerome Classic. He ran 20.17 seconds in Monaco on July 20 and boasts a personal- and season-best time of 19.98.

Brown paced the field with a time of 20.17 seconds, matching his 1st place finish in the 100m at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Ottawa. 1:41

Lindsey Butterworth, women’s 800 (Friday semifinals, 7:20 p.m.; Saturday final, 4:35 p.m.): Like Brown, the 25-year-old was victorious at the Canadian championships and Harry Jerome Classic before racing in Italy, Ireland and Belgium in July. With a season-best time of 2:00.87, Butterworth continues her pursuit of the two-time mark reached by only five Canadian women.

The North Vancouver, B.C., native ran a personal best time of 2:00.87 to win the women’s 800m race at the national championships in Ottawa. 5:18

Jonathan Cabral, men’s 110 hurdles (Friday semifinals, 8:30 p.m., Saturday final, 5:10 p.m.): The 25-year-old arrives in Toronto having run a personal-best 13.34 seconds in Switzerland on July 18. At the Canadian championships and Harry Jerome meet, Cabral beat Damian Warner, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist in the decathlon, and has four victories this season.

Cabral held off a late push by Warner to capture gold in the men’s 110m hurdles at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Ottawa. 1:23

Rachel Cliff, women’s 10,000 (Saturday, 6:25 p.m.): The Vancouver runner will race her fourth 10,000 of the season and first since winning at the Speed River Inferno event in Guelph, Ont., on June 14. Cliff, 30, finished ninth at the Commonwealth Games in April and ran a season-best 31.56.86 in California in May.

International athletes to watch:

Kendra Harrison, women’s 100 hurdles (Friday semifinals, 8:10 p.m; Saturday final, 4:55 p.m.): The 25-year-old from Tennessee is performing stronger as the season progresses after clocking a world-leading 12.36 seconds at the recent Muller Anniversary Games in London, England. The world-record holder (12.20) and reigning world indoor champion (60 metres) hasn’t finished below third in the 100 hurdles this season.

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Sandi Morris, women’s pole vault (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.): Two weeks before NACAC championships, the 26-year-old Morris cleared 4.95 metres before her hometown crowd in Greenville, S.C., to set a world-leading mark. The 2016 Olympic silver medallist and reigning world champion’s personal best is 5.00, set in September 2016.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, women’s 100 (Saturday’s semifinals/final, 3:40 p.m., 5:40 p.m.): On July 21, the Jamaican sprinter dipped below  11 seconds for the first time this season, clocking 10.98 at the London Diamond League. Nicknamed ‘Pocket Rocket,’ Fraser-Pryce, 31, is a double Olympic and triple world champion over the distance.

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