RRW: Armory Magic Continues For Canada’s Kate Van Buskirk At Dr. Sander Invitational

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (27-Jan) — When Canada’s Kate Van Buskirk came to the Armory Track & Field Center last January here, the 2014 Commonwealth Games 1500m bronze medalist was desperately trying to restart her career.  After more than two years of injury and illness, she won the New Balance Games’ invitational mile in a respectable 4:30.14 off of a slow first half, and she could finally see a future for herself in athletics.

“When you made the move it had to be decisive,” an emotional Van Buskirk told Race Results Weekly a year ago after beating American Charlene Lipsey with a powerful surge with 300 meters to go.

Fast-forward a year to today’s Doctor Sander Invitational here, and Van Buskirk is a different athlete.  Running healthy and in good form in the Columbia Challenge Mile, she swept past former Michigan star Shannon Osika on the backstretch to come home in 4:26.92, an early world leader and a Canadian indoor record.  Her mark was also well under the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships qualifying standard of 4:28.50, the first step for her to earn Canadian team selection for those championships which take place in Birmingham, England, in March.

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“This track has been magic since I started here in college,” Van Buskirk told Race Results Weekly after removing her purple spikes and getting a sip of water.  “My first Armory experience was with my DMR team at Duke in 2010 or 2011.  You know what?  They say it’s magic and I can’t really put into words why.”

Van Buskirk suffered a torn hamstring tendon in 2014 which caused her to take four months off completely from running.  Things got worse for her in 2015 when unexplained pain in her pelvis and back caused her to miss more training and eliminated any chance of her competing in either the IAAF World Championships and the Pan Am Games that year.  She was eventually diagnosed with spondyloarthropathy, an inflammatory rheumatic disease, that caused so much pain that she sometimes had trouble getting out of bed.  Any hopes of being ready for the 2016 Rio Olympics were dashed.

With help, Van Buskirk learned to manage the spondyloarthropathy, and put together a decent season in 2017 where she ran a best time of 4:07.38 for 1500m, 4:29.32 for the mile, and 8:52.08 for 3000m.  She even won the 3000m at the NYRR Millrose Games last February, a race she will do again next Saturday.

“I just have to keep my foot on the pedal now,” said Van Buskirk, 30.  “I’m doing the 3000 at Millrose next week and my hopes of getting the standard (8:50.00) there.  And then, we’ll just see where things fall after that.”

Behind Van Buskirk, the University of Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer finished third with a powerful sprint, running an NCAA-leading 4:27.54 which was an 8-second personal best.  Like Van Buskirk, the 2017 NCAA cross country champion will be running the 3000m at the NYRR Millrose Games next Saturday.  Schweizer said she wasn’t focused on her time.

“I knew it was going to be a fast field, so I didn’t really worry about time,” Schweizer told Race Results Weekly.  “I knew if I raced it hard it would come.”

The men’s Columbia Challenge Mile was a more cautious affair.  Pacemaker Alfredo Santana ran the first 440 yards in 58.9 seconds, but the field didn’t come with him.  He slowed to allow the field to catch up and hit halfway in 2:02.4.  Santana retired a lap later, setting up a homestretch sprint between Craig Engels and Julian Oakley.  Engels prevailed by one-tenth of a second, 3:57.35 to 3:57.45.  Santana, the pacemaker, won the “B” section of the mile in a personal best 3:58.03.

“I wish I had kept going,” quipped a fresh-looking Santana after he finished his pacing assignment.

There were two quality 800-meter races here today.  In the men’s contest, Erik Sowinski ran away from an excellent field –which included Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy– in 1:46.98.  Sowinski was happy to win, but was dissatisfied that none of the rest of the field had tried for the IAAF World Indoor Championships qualifying time of 1:46.50 which he missed by less than half a second.

“I still don’t have the standard,” Sowinski lamented.  He continued: “My strength is there.  I’m excited, man.  Obviously, 1:46.5 is fast indoors; you don’t get a ton of guys who can do that.”

Murphy ran 1:50.47 and finished seventh.

The women’s 800m went to form with last summer’s IAAF World Championships bronze medalist Ajee’ Wilson getting the win from the front in 2:00.90 over a fast-closing Natoya Goule of Jamaica (2:01.07).  Wilson looked a little tired in the final 50 meters, and said that she didn’t run full-out to the finish line because the first half pace of 59.6 seconds was slower than she had hoped.

“I looked up and didn’t see anyone behind us,” Wilson said of the final 100 meters.  “Yeah, I just brought it in.”

Lauren Paquette won the women’s 3000m race going away in a personal best 8:53.09.  Her nearest challenger, Sarah Pagano, was five seconds behind in 8:58.42.  Paquette, who is targeting the IAAF World Indoor Championships, was hoping to run the 8:50.00 qualifying standard.

“I was trying to break 8:50,” Paquette told Race Results Weekly.  “I was a little shy of the goal but, actually, I really wanted to win.  I knew if I put myself in contention to win I would get the time.”  She added: “I felt a little bit stale today.”

Reid Buchanan, who won the NYRR Midnight Run 4-mile in frigid conditions on New Year’s Eve, won the men’s 3000m in 7:51.98, just slipping under the World Indoor Championships qualifying standard of 7:52.00.  He took control of the race with four laps to go from Canada’s Luc Bruchet, but had to muster a hard sprint coming out of the final bend to secure victory.  That’s because Travis Mahoney had come up on his heels and was sprinting furiously on the outside.

“I think he ran a pretty intelligent race,” said Mahoney who had to settle for second in 7:52.15, just off of his personal best.  “I think he intentionally saved a gear and slowed up a bit and I thought, I’m going to come up and I’m going to get him.  He shifted just before I did, and that was pretty much the separation through the finish.”

Today’s meet was named after Dr. Norbert Sander, the founder of the Armory Foundation, who died unexpectedly last March at 74.  Sander, who was a family doctor, spearheaded the fundraising effort in the late 1980’s to convert the Armory from a city-run homeless shelter back to an athletics facility.  The Armory is sometimes called “The House That Doc Built.”

“Norbert just wanted to see track and field come back to life,” said 1970 TCS New York City Marathon champion Gary Muhrcke in a video which was shown on the Armory’s large video display before the meet.

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