Former Vikes take marks for International Track Classic

2015 CIS 800m champion Rachel Francois returns to UVic's Centennial Stadium Sunday

Former UVic Vikes all-Canadian Rachel Francois returns to Centennial Stadium on Sunday for the Victoria International Track Classic.

Former UVic Vikes all-Canadian Rachel Francois returns to Centennial Stadium on Sunday for the Victoria International Track Classic.

Returning UVic Vike Rachel Francois and former Vike Thomas Riva will add a local favour to the Victoria International Track Classic on Sunday at UVic’s Centennial Stadium.

Saanich-based Francois is seeking the Olympic 800-metre qualification time of 2:01 for women in the field. Francois, who was the 2015 CIS 800m champion, is set to return to the Vikes this fall after taking a year off to focus on an Olympic berth. She ran a season best at the recent Portland Track Festival and is the sixth ranked Canadian. Riva, of Gordon Head, will run the 800m Sunday but is focused on the 1,500m, seeking an Olympic qualifier of 3:36 at the Harry Jerome Classic in Vancouver today.

Race director Keith Butler believes Francois and Riva still have time to hit their respective standards and prove themselves for the Canadian Olympic team.

“Athletes reach plateaus before they have their next significant improvement, you have to believe someone who’s worked as hard as [Francois] has, has that [qualifying] race in her,” Butler said.

Vikes Tyler Smith and Brendon Restall, who finished first and second, respectively, at the Portland Twilight in May, will join Riva in the 800-metre along with Thomas Oxland. Cole Peterson, Isaac Penner and Peter Oxland will run the 1,500-metre.

Perhaps the biggest name this year is Canadian high jumper Derek Drouin, the reigning world champion.

It’s the first time in Victoria for Drouin, who is the Canadian record holder and one of only a few people in history to clear two metres, 40 centimetres.

Sunday will also feature 1,500m Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff, a 2012 Olympian and an assistant coach with the Vikes. Stellingwerff hit the 1,500m Olympic standard on June 4 and is looking for her place in Canada’s Olympic squad.

Other headliners this year include four-time Olympic medalist Jeremy Warriner, a 400m specialist, two-time Olympian Sultana Frizell, who trained in Saanich this winter, and fellow hammer thrower and Olympian Heather Steacy.

The winner of each elite event earns $500 in prize money.

Reynolds secondary’s Brendan Hoff will compete in the 800m development race in search of a sub-3:48 time so he can qualify for this summer’s World Junior Track and Field Championships. Hoff recently ran a 3:51 in Portland.

The NTL continues in Halifax and Guelph before the Canadian nationals take place in Edmonton, July 7 to 10.

Fathers are admitted free for Sunday’s annual Track Classic, the second stop on the National Track League. Events start at 1:15 p.m. Other adults are $10, students are $5 and children under 12 are free.