Distance duo leads national charge

Staehli, Coates could replicate cross-country medal haul at CIS track meet this weekend in Edmonton

They won national gold and bronze on an outdoor trail last fall. Now, Julie-Anne Staehli and Victoria Coates could reach similar heights indoors.

The two cornerstones of the Gaels’ long-distance track program are Edmonton bound, having qualified for the CIS national track and field meet, which kicked off yesterday and runs through tomorrow.

Staehli and Coates are vying for top spots in the women’s long-distance events, while Queen’s Dave Cashin and rookie Alex Wilkie will compete alongside each other in the 3000m men’s race.

Staehli, the defending CIS cross-country champion, will run in the 3000m and 1500m events, where she earned first- and third-place finishes during the OUA championships. Coates will join Staehli in this evening’s 3000m race, after finishing with OUA bronze.

The women’s track team earned a sixth-place provincial finish off of these two strong performances.

Both Staehli and Coates raced for Queen’s varsity cross-country team in the fall, before turning indoors for the winter track season.

“The intensity goes up and the mileage goes down a little bit,” Staehli said of her preparation for track events. “Workouts are shorter, but harder and at a tougher pace.”

She said her motivation is to go for gold this weekend in Edmonton, but added that the national field will pose challenges, particularly in the 3000m race.

“Everyone is around the same times, so it’s basically whoever is feeling good that day,” she said.

Coates, who’s competing in her final CIS season after transferring from McMaster last year, said she’s shaved 11 seconds off of her personal best time in the 3000m competition.

“It is really exciting to see how much this sport has grown in the CIS and I’m glad I can be a part of it,” she told the Journal via email. “I’m expecting it to be a really tough race but I’m prepared to give it my all in my last race at the CIS Championships.”

Head track coach Steve Boyd said the two women are hoping to secure strong results following “what looks like the deepest year ever for long-distance events.

“I would call Julie-Anne to win the thing,” Boyd said. “[She’s] a complete athlete, runner and can finish strong and handle herself well over the short distances.”

Boyd added that Coates tends to fare better in cross-country than track, but said she should still be near the top of the 3000m field.

“If there is one athlete in the race capable of beating Julie-Anne, it could be Victoria,” he said.

Two weeks after nationals, Staehli and Coates will head to Uganda to represent Canada in the World University Cross-Country Championships, marking yet another transition from track to cross-country.

From the outdoor to indoor seasons, the Gaels see a shift in training practices. The differences between cross-country and track training lie in the particulars, said Boyd, who is also Queen’s head cross-country coach.

“We’re on the track two to three times a week training specifically for those paces and those conditions with the indoor air quality and the indoor track surface,” he said.

In lieu of an on-campus facility here at Queen’s, the team has been practicing all season at the Kingston Military Community Sports Centre, located at RMC.

“We’re able to rent [the centre], luckily, four days a week … for which we are eternally grateful,” Boyd said.

He added that an on-campus facility would allow for easier scheduling and permit Queen’s to compete in jump and throw events.

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