Mariah Kelly only has to maintain her top 45 world ranking in the 1500 metres to secure a spot in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. (Photo by Justin Britton)

Mariah Kelly only has to maintain her top 45 world ranking in the 1500 metres to secure a spot in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. (Photo by Justin Britton)

Greater Victoria runners close in on Olympic, Paralympic spots

Victoria Track Classic on June 9 at UVic can help solidify qualifying times

A number of Victoria runners are just weeks away from knowing if they will be headed to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

For the athletes to qualify and compete for Canada, they either need to hit a certain time or collect enough points through competing in track meets to snag one of the top spots on the world ranking board. The Victoria Track Classic, set for June 9 at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium, is one of their final chances to meet those qualifications.

Mariah Kelly only has to maintain her position in the top 45 1500-metre runners in the world until June 29 to secure her spot in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. (Credit: Justin Britton)

Mariah Kelly sat 39th in the rankings for the 1500 metres as of May 28 and needs to be in the top 45 by the June 29 qualifying cutoff to secure her place in Tokyo. The 29-year-old Victoria-born athlete is in the prime of her running years, noting that most female middle-distance runners peak between 28 and 34.

READ ALSO: Olympic hopefuls bring inspiration and prizes to WSÁNEĆ tribal school

Kelly has been working toward her Olympic dream since she was 15.

“Running seems like it’s a part of me now,” she said. “I just love the challenge that comes with it and I find comfort in the pain.”

For Kelly, running has allowed her to uncover deep, difficult parts of herself and turn them into fuel for her sport. “I just have to do the best that I can do and run the fastest I can and hope that’s enough.”

Two other Victoria runners are vying for spots in the Paralympic Games.

Michael Barber, 20, has dreamt of making it to the Paralympics since he was 12 years old. (Courtesy of Michael Barber)

Michael Barber, a 20-year-old Oak Bay High School grad, runs both the 800 and 1500 metres.

“I’m really confident I’ve got the full potential,” he said.

He remembers returning from a community race when he was 12 and having his dad ask him where he wanted to be in the coming years. When I’m 20, Barber responded, I want to compete at the Olympics.

“I just love the atmosphere, I love training and running around different parts of the community. It gives me joy in my life and it makes me super competitive as well.”

READ ALSO: 11 exceptional Oak Bay youth honoured at 2019 YES Awards

Liam Stanley, 23, is also aiming for a 1500-metre spot. He’s already met the qualifying time and will almost certainly make it onto team Canada, but won’t know for sure until the end of July.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. If he makes it, it will be Stanley’s second time at the Paralympics, having competed in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

The Victoria Track Classic won’t play into his spot in the Paralympics, since he’s already scored the qualifying time, but it’s still a good chance for Stanley to practice and see how he compares to the other athletes.

“I love competing. I love measuring myself against guys who are the best.”

READ ALSO: Para Athletics world medallist Liam Stanley up for Sport BC award

Seven University of Victoria athletes are also competing at the June 9 meet, including Elise Coates, Delaney Chan, Georgia Ginther, Vaughn Taylor, Jack Boden, Brandon Vail and Gabe Van Hezewijk. It will be livestreamed on runnerspace.com beginning at 7 p.m.


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Michael Barber, 20, has dreamed of making it to the Paralympic Games since he was 12. (Courtesy of Michael Barber)

Michael Barber, 20, has dreamed of making it to the Paralympic Games since he was 12. (Courtesy of Michael Barber)

Paralympics medal-winning runner and national para-soccer team player Liam Stanley of Greater Victoria hopes to head to Tokyo for the Games this summer. (Photo courtesy athletics.ca)

Paralympics medal-winning runner and national para-soccer team player Liam Stanley of Greater Victoria hopes to head to Tokyo for the Games this summer. (Photo courtesy athletics.ca)

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