Varsity Blues track athletes put in strong performances at the 2012 Canadian Track and Field Trials at Foothills Athletic Park in Calgary, Alberta last week.
Hurdler Sarah Wells finished the 400 m hurdles just 0.21 of a second outside the Olympic “A” standard required for automatic qualification, despite winning the race with a personal-best time of 55.71. But Athletics Canada selected Wells for the Canadian Olympic team on a Rising Star qualification based on her victory at the Trials and two “B” standards earlier this summer.
Teammate and middle-distance runner Tamara Jewett placed eighth in the 1500 m finals with a time of 4:27.19.
Wells entered the race as the top seed, giving her an advantage over the other athletes.
“I only had to repeat what I had already done [in achieving two Olympic standards], whereas the other competitors had to go above and beyond to beat me,” she explained.
Wells’ performance was all the more remarkable since it came at the end of an injury-plagued season. “When I was dealing with all these injuries, the drive to get back on the track was always there, screaming at my soul,” she said.
Wells attended a number of high-performance training camps through the season to compensate for her injuries.
The key to the Blues hurdler’s success this season has been her drive to be an Olympian said sprints and hurdles coach Dave Hunt. “She embraced a lifestyle that allowed her to be healthy, strong, and fast [while] also surrounding herself with a tremendous village to support her.”
“The best part [about being in the trials] was sharing the moment that I realized I would be an Olympian with 30 of my family members,” Wells said. “The moment I stepped off the track, my siblings, boyfriend, coach, and parents all came sprinting down off the stands to give me the biggest and most emotional group hug I’ve ever experienced.
“It was really something I’ll never forget.”
Wells recalls feeling “a calm sense of urgency” as she came around the final corner of the race.
“I knew I needed to run fast, but I was so confident coming down the home stretch that I just focused on hurdling clean and getting to that line first.
“The 400 m hurdle race was mine,” said Wells. “It was my event to flourish in and it was my event to shine.”
Jewett earned CIS gold in the 1500 m this year and smashed her personal record by over seven seconds last month, after four injury-plagued years.
“My ultimate goal is to run my best in the 5000 m,” noted Jewett. “But to get to the 5000 m times I want to run, my coach and I decided that I need to improve my 1500 m time and 800 m times.”
The women’s 1500 m has been one of Canada’s strongest events since the early 1970s middle-distance coach Ross Ristuccia explained, with “multiple Olympic finalists over the years.”
“Being in the top eight in Canada was a terrific performance for Jewett, and gaining experience against these ladies is a great opportunity for her as she learns to race against the highest possible level of competition on the planet,” Ristuccia said.
Wells has now turned her focus to preparing for the Olympics themselves, which begin later this month.
“London 2012 is going to be about taking in the experience and trying to get into that final,” says Wells. “Although a medal would be great, maybe I’ll save that for 2016 Rio.”