Kate Van Buskirk places 4th in 5th Avenue Mile women's race to lead Canadian trio

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Canada's Kate Van Buskirk finished fourth in the pro women's race of the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday, clocking four minutes 23.9 seconds in New York City. (Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters/File - image credit)
Canada's Kate Van Buskirk finished fourth in the pro women's race of the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday, clocking four minutes 23.9 seconds in New York City. (Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters/File - image credit)

Kate Van Buskirk can add another memorable performance to her "long, strange, difficult and wonderful" running season.

The Toronto resident checked the Fifth Avenue Mile off her bucket list Sunday, placing fourth in the pro women's race in four minutes 23.9 seconds in New York City.

Van Buskirk is the indoor mile Canadian record holder for women with a 4:26.92 clocking.

The 34-year-old hadn't raced since her Olympic debut in Tokyo, where she placed 14th in her 5,000-metre heat. Since the Games, Van Buskirk paced women's races at the distance on the Diamond League circuit in Eugene, Ore., Brussels and Zurich.

Travel went smoothly until her Olympic suitcase was stolen during a Aug. 30 train ride from France to Belgium. Van Buskirk arrived in Leuven with only one pair of running shoes and running shorts, a sports bra and no toiletries.

Thanks to Van Buskirk's agent, Ray Flynn, who connected with Nike — the runner signed a sponsorship deal in 2018 with the shoe manufacturer – Van Buskirk was quickly provided clothing and a pair of Dragonfly spikes to finish her season.

"This has been a long, strange, difficult and wonderful year," Van Buskirk said. "It was an incredible experience to attend my first Olympics, but I think what I will remember far more is all the travel, figuring things out on the fly and pushing myself to entirely new heights in training."

Teaching degree

Fellow Canadian Julie-Anne Staehli stopped the clock in 4:29.1 Sunday to place 11th. The 27-year-old has an indoor best of 4:32.36 from Feb. 14, 2020.

Staehli, who hails from Lucknow — a small farm town 125 kilometres north of London, Ont., — made huge gains this season in the outdoor 5,000. After clocking 15:32.46 on Feb. 27, she went 14:57.50 on May 29 in Portland, Ore., dipping under 15 minutes for the first time to hit the Olympic standard.

Staehli placed 32nd in her Summer Games debut in 15:33.39 a few weeks after graduating from Western University with a teaching degree.

Britain's Jemma Reekie, who was fourth in the women's Olympic 800-metre final last month, used a late kick to hold off American Nikki Hiltz and reach Sunday's finish line first in 4:21.6 in her Fifth Avenue Mile debut. She entered the event with the fastest indoor marks in the mile (4:17.88) and 1,500 (4:00.52).

The 23-year-old, who received $5,000 US for the win, is the first women's champion of the Fifth Avenue Mile not named Jenny Simpson since 2021. The 35-year-old Simpson, who holds nine event titles, didn't compete in Sunday's race, instead running in the USATF 10-Mile Championships in Washington, where she was second behind Nell Rojas (52:13).

In the pro men's race of the Fifth Avenue Mile, Quebec City's Charles Philibert-Thiboutot was ninth in 3:54 nearly a month after winning the men's Falmouth Elite Mile in the coastal town on Cape Cod, Mass., where the 30-year-old clocked a personal-best 3:52.97 on the road to set an event record.

Philibert-Thiboutot narrowly missed the 3:35 Olympic standard in the 1,500 by a June 29 deadline, only to hit it July 25 with a 3:34.43 effort in California. A week earlier in Montreal, the four-time Canadian champion at the distance went 2:18.38 to break the Quebec record in the 1,000.

Jake Wightman of Great Britain followed up his 2018 Fifth Avenue Mile with another victory, crossing in 3:49.5 and several metres ahead of Australia's Oliver Hoare (3:50.4.). Wightman, 27, was coming off a 10th-place finish in the Olympic 1,500 final.

American Matthew Centrowitz, the 2016 Olympic 1,500 champion running on Fifth Avenue for the sixth time, faded to 14th place in 3:57. He posted a winning time of 3:52.4 in 2012.

Also Sunday, runners from the New York City police and fire departments competed in one of 20 heats to mark the 20th anniversary of their response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

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