GLORIOUS sunshine greeted Greater Victoria racers for the 40th Annual Harriers Pioneer 8K in North Saanich this past weekend with Rio Olympian and Canadian women's 10,000 metre record holder Natasha Wodak starring with another dazzling display.
Wodak, also a member of Canada's IAAF World Cross Country team which competes in Denmark next month, warmed up for her tilt at the Canadian women's half-marathon record in Houston on January 20 with a majestic performance today.
The Vancouver athlete, who represents race host Prairie Inn Harriers (PIH), stamped her authority on the race early and got the edge on fellow Vancouverite, Rachel Cliff, with a blistering time of 26:04.
That was also good enough to give her fifth place overall of 547 finishers. Cliff clocked 26:15, while Jen Moroz completed a podium clean sweep for Vancouver by placing third in 28:24.
The overall winner in perfect race conditions was Mile2Marathon racer Anthony Tomsich, who sped away from the field on the out-and-back course to win in a time of 24:44.
Tomsich was 21 seconds clear of fellow Vancouverite Christopher Taylor (25:05), with Victoria's Andrew Russell grabbing third place for PIH in 25:23 (chip-time).
Pioneer, which has retained remarkable popularity during its 40-year tenure, had 633 runners sign up to race on the second Sunday of 2019, the first competitive Canadian race of the New Year, with 547 making it to the finish line.
The top Master male (40+) was Duncan's James Richardson (26:18), ahead of Victoria's Craig Odermatt (26:55/chip), with Odermatt's PIH teammate Shane Ruljancich (27:34) third Master male.
In the women's Masters category, Marilyn Arsenault banged the equivalent gong to Richardson, speeding across the line with a time of 28:58 (chip) and edging out Catrin Jones (29:07), last year's Island Series female champion, by nine seconds. Remarkably, the 4th to 7th and 9th overall women were also Masters.
F50 racer Marilyn Arsenault also had the best overall athlete age-gender-performance of all athletes at 94.45%, ahead of F70 Roslyn Smith at 93.94%, then F35 Wodak (93.50%) and F30 Cliff (91.57%). Arsenault, Smith and Wodak all set Pioneer age category records today and Canadian 8K age group records were also set by Natasha Wodak (F35), 26:04, Marilyn Arsenault (F50), 29:00, and Roslyn Smith (F70), 37:44. Numerous provincial and national age class records have been set on the Harriers Pioneer 8K race course over the past 40 years.
Top age-graded men were M55 athlete Mark Pinckard (88.08%) and M45 talent Craig Odermatt (87.98%).
In the team event, host club PIH reigned supreme, with Aaron Holmgren (26:12 for sixth overall) and Jack Boden (12th overall in 26:33/chip) also prominent.
Winner Wodak tied in a trip to Bear Mountain to jog/preview the golf course cross country 2K loop, the proposed venue for the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup, before jumping back on the Lower Mainland-bound ferry with friend and fellow Pioneer racer Katherine Moore (29:32/chip). A decision whether Victoria or Vancouver wins the bid to host the Pan Am XC Cup will be made in mid-February.
Full race results can be seen here... https://racedaytiming.ca/results/2019Pioneer8K?page=1
Chris Kelsall's Athletics Illustrated race video is available here... http://athleticsillustrated.com/video/race-video-2019-harriers-pioneer-8k-in-victoria-bc/