Under scorching hot skies, the penultimate day of competition at the 2010 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Toronto saw the return to action of 400-metre runner Carline Muir.
Muir ran a very strong opening two hundred metres and coasted home to win her semifinal race in a time of 53.35 seconds. It was the fastest qualifying time of the day.
The 22-year-old Toronto native moved to Edmonton after finishing high school to train with former Legacy Athletics coach Kevin Tyler. After guiding her to a surprising Olympic 400m semifinal berth, however, Tyler announced he was accepting a position with U.K. Athletics. Muir was devastated.
While others in her training group, including 400m hurdler Adam Kunkel, chose to leave Edmonton, she has continued her studies at the University of Alberta and is now coached by Scott Saunders. He had been an apprentice under Tyler.
A year ago, Muir failed to qualify for the world championships in Berlin but contributed a leg on the 4x400m relay. This season, she has run 52.11 but has a best time of 51.55 from the Olympics.
"This year is definitely about tomorrow," she declared. "It's about coming into the final and running a really good time. I have to make the Commonwealth standard. Tomorrow is the last day to do that, so I have to have a great race. The standard is 51.97. I am ready to do that. The championship is one thing — setting the standard is more important."
Close behind in second place was 16-year-old Chanice Taylor-Chase, who recently competed for Canada at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, where she reached the semifinals.
"This is my first senior championships," said Taylor-Chase. "It definitely was nerve-racking, because I know how good Carline is. I think I ran pretty good for that round, and I have the final tomorrow. I will just run harder tomorrow."
The women's 400m final is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Saturday.
The middle distance runners suffered on the hot track Friday afternoon as the 1,500m semifinals were held. With the first four from two heats advancing along with the next four fastest times it was extremely tactical.
Two years ago, Taylor Milne of the Speed River Track Club surprised many by winning the Olympic trials in the 1,500m. He came to these championships with the year's fastest time (3:36.30) and the experience of having run in the Beijing Olympics.
As the pack approached the finish line with a lap remaining, he surged and opened up a five-metre lead. Though he was caught near the finish by Geoff Martinson, who won the heat in 3:49.02, Milne accomplished what he set out to do, qualifying easily in 3:49.23.
"I knew I wanted to put in a 200 metre push. I didn't know whether I would do it with 400 metres to go or at the end," Milne said afterward. "I kind of like 400 metres to go; it's like the last lap. Tomorrow, I will have to carry it through the entire lap. To be honest with you, I kind of wanted to simulate it a bit (today).
"I think I am going to head back over to Europe to chase times. Yes, I would like to win. I think I am the most experienced in the field. It's a young field, and I have the fastest time. Will I win? I don't know."
Malindi Elmore led all qualifiers in the women's 1,500m semifinals with a time of 4:18.78. Nicole Edwards, who has the fastest time of the year (4:06.34), and Carmen Douma-Hussar qualified easily at the front of their heats. The final is scheduled for 4:55 p.m. Saturday.
A year ago, Douma-Hussa gave birth to a daughter, Pippa, who was in the stands with the runner's husband and family. The 1,500m silver medallist at the 2004 World Indoor Championships has been training with the Commonwealth Games in mind.
"It felt good to get the heats done," she said, smiling. "They are always those icky things. I have the Commonwealth standard so I need to top that of with a top-two finish in the final. I would like to go to the Commonwealth Games."