The London-based New Balance 1,500m Night is becoming the 'favourite meet of the year' by athletes and coaches across Ontario. With another year of outstanding results, the 2011 edition showed once again that London is THE place for fast times and an incredible atmosphere. University of Toronto Track Club coach Mike Housley claims "the atmosphere was electric," while other coaches compared it with some of the top meets they've attend over the past few decades.
With Runners' Choice London Distance Series 1500m record holder Tarah Korir (McKay) leading the way, an impressive 35 women broke the 4:50 barrier. Top youngsters Jamie Phelan (Laurel Creek) and Kelly Hennessey (UTTC) ran the fastest times in Canada by girls 17 & Under, locking up top-spots for those vying to represent at the World Youth Championships later this summer. Thomas Fitzgerald, the coach for Jaimie Phelan and her Laurel Creek teammates, describes the 1500m Night as a "highlight in the schedule" where the vast majority of his athletes run their fastest times of the year. Phelan, who improved on her 2010 performance of 4:31 with a 4:29 this past weekend, is one of many top Canadians who consistently runs her strongest seasonal performances here in London. Post-race, the 2011 1500m Night champ Tarah Korir commented on how she "liked the concept of having a night for just 1500m. I enjoyed watching the other races and hope to compete in the final RCLDS meets as well."
The top local runner was Leslie Sexton of the London Runner Distance Club, who ran a huge personal best time of 4:28 to place 2nd overall. Asked for comment, Sexton stated "The competitive field and the incredible atmosphere at the stadium helped me to run a personal best by over four seconds. My breakthrough race on Saturday was an excellent confidence booster heading into the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Calgary, where I will race the top 5000m runners in the country."
The huge men’s field did not disappoint, with a stellar 36 athletes running under 4:00 for the 1500m distance, led by an outstanding performance from Rob Denault of the Newmarket Huskies. Denault set the Canadian Youth 1500m record at this meet last year with a 3:45.87 clocking, and followed that up with another Personal Best performance Saturday night of 3:45.63. The top local runners were Jeremy Walsh of the London Runner Distance Club, who ran a PB of 3:54, along with teammate Aaron Hendrikx, whose 3:53 ranks him as one of the top Juniors (19 & Under) in the country. Leading the strong Youth athletes, Alexander Freemantle (Newmarket) and Ben Flanagan (Tri-City) posted Personal Best times that rank them #1 and #2 in the country. Based on the Canadian rankings, it looks like all 4 World Youth 1,500m competitors will have punched their tickets by racing the New Balance 1,500m Night in London.
One of the top runners heading into the 2011 Canadian Junior Championships, Rob Denault, described the race as "another success for me and the Newmarket Huskies Track Club. A large majority of our club ran PB's and had a great time at the meet!" Thanking the London crew for hosting the event, Denault added: "I was very happy with my effort tonight and was glad to get an overall PB and cut 9 seconds off my seasonal best."
Videos and results of the top sections are available in the LondonRunner.ca video gallery: http://www.londonrunner.ca/videos.php
The next meet in the Runners' Choice London Distance Series takes place Thursday June 30th at TD Waterhouse Stadium. Open 800m and 5,000m events are scheduled, as well as Invitational 1,500m and 3,000m Steeplechase events which are expected to attract strong fields.