Missoula athletes took the top two spots in the 5,000-meter run at the Canadian track and field championship held in Edmonton, Alberta last weekend.
Former University of Michigan runner and eight-time all-American, Courtney Babcock won the race in 16:37. Fellow teammate of the Missoula-based Mountain West Track Club, Andrea Grove, placed second, with a time of 16:43.
In April, Babcock was the world leader at the 5,000 meter distance after she ran the race in 15:10 at the Mount SAC Relays in Los Angeles. Babcock’s record time has since been eclipsed, though she remains tenth in the world. Babcock’s time last weekend was slower than her breakthrough performance. In California, Babcock averaged 72 seconds per lap. In Edmonton, in 85-degree temperatures and against 20-mph gusts, Babcock opened with a 90-second lap. “It was really super tactical because it was hot and windy,” Babcock says. “For most of the race, Andrea [Grove] and I took turns leading. With three laps to go I stayed in front and we picked up the pace. That was the perfect race for us. We knew if it came down to a sprint, it would be us.”
The 29-year-old soloed away for the win, her third national victory in two years. Babcock won the Canadian championship in cross-country in 2000. A month ago, Babcock won her second title by running the 10,000 meters in Vancouver, B.C. in 32:14.
With a lap to go last Saturday, Grove, formerly a 1,500-meter specialist, trailed in third behind Aster Demissie, an Ethiopian eligible to compete as a resident of Canada. But Grove was able to finesse the final lap and post her best performance ever at a national championship.
The 28-year-old former University of Minnesota runner had never placed better than fifth. This year Grove has switched her focus to the 5,000 meters with obvious success. Prior to last weekend, Grove had only raced the distance once.
Babcock said she hopes to break the Canadian national record in the 5,000 meter (15:01) and medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England this summer. Another goal is the national record for 10,000 meters (31:50), which Babcock considers a slightly easier mark to achieve.
Babcock also has her sights set on qualifying for the Olympics to be held in Athens, Greece in 2004. Considering her improvement over the past couple of years—she has run fast enough to meet minimum qualifying times and placed well enough to earn a slot representing Canada—Babcock appears to be on pace.