By Lincoln Shryack

The Victoria International Track Classic has come and gone, and now we take the ferry to Vancouver for Thursday’s Harry Jerome Invitational. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the views here in Victoria, the distant mountains and beautiful ocean views provided the perfect backdrop for what was an excellent evening in the NTL series. While Edmonton may have been “Tracktown Canada”, Victoria should at least be a close second considering their hospitality and top-notch facilities. Let’s get into what went down last night in Victoria. 
 
Women’s 400
 
The women’s 400 was the Briana Nelson show. The recent University of Texas grad won the event in 51.74, dominating the field by more than 1.5 seconds. Nelson was coming off of a 6th place finish at USAs of which she was “very satisfied”, and the newly-minted pro will compete in the NACAC championships in August which will take place in Kamloops, British Columbia. Like many other athletes last night, Nelson will head to Vancouver on Thursday for the final leg of the NTL series.
 
Men’s 800
 
Eric Avila wasn’t even selected to run in the fast heat of the men’s 800, but that didn’t stop him from running a new PR of 1:48.82 and dipping under 1:50 for the first time. Avila, the former NAIA standout from Southern Oregon, broke 4 minutes in thrilling fashion last month in San Diego by running 3:56, and continued that success by making the final at USAs. Up next for Avila is the Dream Mile at Harry Jerome where he will compete against Jordan McNamara and Will Leer among others on Thursday. 
 
The elite section of the 800 was not without drama as Thomas Riva of Victoria took the win in 1:47.02. Riva had to kick hard to get past fellow Canadian Anthony Romaniw over the final 10 meters, and the runners made contact as they crossed the line which gave Riva the win and caused Romaniw to get DQ’d. While a protest was filed, Romaniw was not reinstated after officials ruled he obstructed Riva. 
 
While Geoff Harris wasn’t able to finish the race, he was kind enough to stop by and give us an interview afterwards. Harris was forced to step off at 600 due to a lingering back issue, but talk post-race quickly shifted to his beard and who he believed had the best one in track, him or Will Leer. Harris’s beard is quite impressive after 7 months of growth, but the Olympian said he had work to do to catch up with Leer’s impressive lumberjack-style look.

Women’s 1500

As Shelby Houlihan keeps racing, she continues to rack up PRs. The NCAA champ placed 2nd in Victoria behind Kerri Gallagher, and ran 4:10.89 for her 4th straight PR across multiple distances. The Arizona State senior previously ran 3 straight 800 PRs at USAs en route to placing 7th, and after another successful outing Houlihan spoke about her expectations for the upcoming XC season, and ultimately nationals in Terre Haute. “I want to win," she said with a smile.

Houlihan has shown a new level of confidence with her recent success, and after finishing 8th at XC nationals last year, Houlihan should return as one of the favorites in November.

Women’s 800

The final event of the evening featured a battle between the ageless wonder and Victoria resident Diane Cummins and her heir apparent, Olympian Melissa Bishop. Cummins, her of 40 years, was racing for the final time in Victoria after first appearing there 20 years ago for the Commonwealth Games. It’s nearly unfathomable to believe that Cummins can still run 2:01.38, and the crowd gave her a standing ovation after she placed 2nd behind Bishop.

Melissa Bishop has now run two meet records in consecutive years in Victoria, and her 1:59.70 was good for a new personal best. After racing Harry Jerome on Thursday, Bishop will head to Glasgow, Scotland for the Commonwealth Games where she hopes to make the final and potentially find a place on the podium.



Watch LIVE as Flotrack’s tour of the NTL series concludes on Thursday in Vancouver for the Harry Jerome Invitational.