Top-tier on track

Alex Wilkie claims bronze at CIS event

Alex Wilkie captured a bronze medal in the 1500m at the CIS track championships. He finished 10th at the CIS level in cross country.
Alex Wilkie captured a bronze medal in the 1500m at the CIS track championships. He finished 10th at the CIS level in cross country.

The only Gael competing at last weekend’s national track and field championships brought a medal back to Kingston.

Second-year distance runner Alex Wilkie earned a bronze medal in the men’s 1500m race, posting a time of 3:49.03 — just over a second behind gold medalist Ross Proudfoot of the Guelph Gryphons.

Held in Windsor this year, the trip to nationals was the second season in a row Wilkie competed at the CIS level. He finished ninth in last year’s 3000m event in Edmonton.

The top two performers at the OUA championships and runners who meet the CIS qualification standard are eligible to compete at nationals.

Wilkie didn’t compete in the 1500m at the provincial championships on Feb. 27-28, having already reached the CIS standard of 3:46.96 earlier in the track season.

The national 1500m race was marked by a slow pace, with the runners going through the first 800m in 2:05. Wilkie said the slow start gave him a chance to take the lead at the race’s midway point.

“A quick pace would be [800m in] two minutes flat,” he said. “So I was kind of looking over at my coach in the middle of the race and he said ‘just go, go, go’. So I just took off.”

Wilkie said he was surprised to hold the lead late in the race. He entered the 1500m event seeded sixth, and established a concurrent goal: finishing among the top six runners.

“I was freaking out,” he said. “Because I was leading the race, shouldn’t the guys be blowing by me?”

Both Proudfoot and Victoria Vikes runner Thomas Riva passed Wilkie with a lap to go, but he held off the OUA bronze medalist — Guelph’s Kyle Grieve — to claim the final spot on the podium.

Wilkie failed to qualify for this year’s 3000m national finals, finishing eighth with a time of 8:27.90 at the OUA championships. A group of runners from Guelph formed a blockade during that race, preventing him from hitting the CIS standard of 8:11.36.

Still, he said running at last year’s national meet helped him better understand the intricacies of championship races — like the slower start to the 1500m.

“Typically, guys are tired or it’s been a long season or they’re nervous, so they don’t want to take the lead. That’s why they’re usually always slower to start like that,” he said. “My coaches told me that [last year], but you don’t really expect it.”

Wilkie also competes on Queen’s cross country squad — he finished 10th at the CIS championships this fall — and will be focusing on that team come the fall. Track will resume next winter, and he already has his goals set in his mind.

“I’d certainly like to improve on my 1500m,” he said. “And try to qualify for the 3000m as well. I’d like to win a medal in both of them, actually.”

While Wilkie competed alone in Windsor, a few other Gaels found success at the OUA championships.

Claire Sumner finished sixth in the women’s 3000m, while the women’s 4x200m relay team snagged eighth place. The men’s 4x200 unit also finished eighth at the OUAs.

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