GUELPH – Taylor Milne got his redemption on the Alumni Stadium track Saturday night.
“It felt a lot better than last year and I still think there’s a lot left in the tank,” he said after winner the New Balance men’s 3,000-metre steeplechase, the featured and final event of the Speed River Inferno Track and Field Meet Presented by New Balance.
A year after falling hard at the water jump on the final lap of the steeplechase, Milne withstood a couple of stumbles for this year’s victory.
“It wasn’t that much better,” Milne said of his jumps at the water jump. “I didn’t do a great one on the last one, but I was like I didn’t care if I stopped completely, if I landed on my feet I was going to have a good time. I kind of two-footed it, stopped my momentum, gave a little Hallelujah and then finished pretty well.”
Milne led a sweep of the top three positions by The River, the meet hosts, as he finished in eight minutes, 27.81 seconds while Chris Winter was second at 8:31.25 and Olympian Alex Genest third at 8:34.71.
If not for the stumbles, Milne might have achieved the Commonwealth Games A standard qualifying mark. He had already bettered the B mark and improved on that time by about three and a half seconds, but missed the A standard by 1.81 seconds.
Runner-up Winter threw put his name in contention for a spot on Canada’s Commonwealth Games team with his time which was three-quarters of a second faster than the B standard.
“That was harder than I expected,” he said minutes after the race. “That’s sometimes the case. Coming through with three laps to go, I could feel the line between me and Taylor and the guys breaking a little bit, but I just said ‘Keep going, keep going. You’ve got to run this thing to the end to find out.’ Even with three laps to go, I was hurting pretty bad and I knew I had a good pain face on.”
The Canadian track and field team for the Commonwealth Games is expected to be named this week.
“I’m in the pool now for Commonwealth Games which is an amazing goal for me this year,” he said. “I went through a lot in the winter and just being healthy and fit and being able to toe the line here today and give my best was amazing. To be able to get that time is awesome.”
Winter had a health scare in the winter which resulted in him being hospitalized in Vancouver. It turned out that his heart would skip a beat every now and then and he’s been learning how to deal with that and still compete at a high level.
For third-place finisher Genest, just making it to the end of the race was a bit of victory in a trying season.
“I finished, which is better than any other race this season,” he said. “Not enough, but what can I do. I’m going to have to refocus for the summer.”
Genest had been plagued with injury problems earlier in the year, forcing him to pull out of every other race he started. Finishing the Inferno was also a bit of redemption for him as he retired from last year’s steeplechase after the second lap and only one trip through the water jump.
“I have mixed feeling right now,” he said after the race. “I thought if I came away with an 8:35, I’d be happy, but now I’m not happy because it was so close.”
Genest fell too far behind during the middle stages of the race to recover. He was as low as sixth in the field of 15.
Jessica Furlan of Victoria set a national record in the women’s 3,000-metre steeplechase run immediately before the men’s steeplechase.
“To be honest, I was going more for the standard time and the national record would come with it,” Furlan said.
She lowered the Canadian record to 9:48.89, chopping 2.21 seconds off the previous mark set by Carol Henry in a meet at Baton Rouge, La., almost exactly 12 years ago. However, Furlan failed to meet the Commonwealth Games B standard by less than a second. That standard was 9:48.00.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It’s exciting to get the national record, but I kind of knew somebody was going to hit it this year. I’m glad to be the first one to get it, but I think it’s going to be knocked down quite a bit by myself and a couple of other girls this season.”
One of those ‘other girls’ might be Genevieve Lalonde of The River, the national record holder in the women’s 2,000-metre steeplechase. She finished second at the Inferno in 9:53.96.
While Milne drew inspiration from that race, he was also motivated by the performance of his girlfriend Rachel Aubry who was less than a second off setting a personal best in winning a close women’s 800 metres.
The top three in that race were separated by just over a third of a second. Aubry won in 2:02.60 while fellow Canadian Kate Van Buskirk was second in 2:02.62 and Lauren Hagans of the U.S. was third in 2:02.97.
Other winners in the main meet were Patricia Sylvester of Grenada in women’s long jump, Winston George of Guyana in men’s 200m, Jordin Andrade of the U.S. in men’s 400-metre hurdles, Riley Northrup of the U.S. in men’s high jump, Ryan Martin of the U.S. in men’s 800m, Brendan Gregg of the U.S. in men’s 5,000 metres and Canadians Noelle Montcalm in women’s 400m hurdles, Cha Philibert-Thiboutot in men’s 1,500m, Ian Reid in masters men’s 1,500m, Nicole Sassine in women’s 200m and Rachel Hannah in women’s 5,000m.
Winners in the pre-meet were Marissa Kurtimah of Guelph in women’s 200m, Leonae Nichol in men’s 200m, Madeleine Kelly in women’s 800m, Ethan Davenport in men’s 800m, Rebecca Pieterson in women’s 1,500m and Connor Darlington in men’s 1,500m.