The 2023 Vancouver Island Race Series came to a close with the Synergy Health Centre Bazan Bay 5K on Sunday. The highlight was the stunning win by 17-year-old Yemane Mulugeta with Ocean Athletics Track and Field Club of Surrey. He finished in the time of 14:36. This is the exact same time Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield ran in 2010, for the win. The course record is 14:12 by Geoff Martinson in 2012, one year after his appearance in the 2011 Daegu World Athletics Championships. Mulugeta is in good company.
Jaxon Kuchar, who ran a 14:41 personal best performance took down the Canadian junior record for the distance (pending ratification).
Kuchar runs for the University of Victoria Vikes and was representing the Victoria Endurance Track Club with teammate and third-place finisher Gabe Van Hezewijk (14:48 pb).
Jennifer Erickson with Speedfarm of Victoria won in the time of 16:40, it was her best Island Series performance to date. Mackenna Fitzgerald (Speedfarm) took the second female position with her 16:51 run. Taking third was Jen Millar (Island Striders) in 17:30. She was also the first master.
In the series competition, the two season series open champions are also both masters (40-plus) age — so, they won both categories. They are Catrin Jones and Keith Mills. Both represent the Prairie Inn Harriers Running Club. However, temporarily missing rules information meant that one particular runner missed out on an opportunity for the open win.
Speedfarm’s Martin Odendall intended to race the requisite five times to contend for the series championship. The one rule, for all age groups except for under-16 and 16-19, requires all runners to not only complete five races, but one must be longer than 10K. Odendall missed both the Cedar 12K and the Comox Valley RV Half Marathon. Any other year, he would not qualify, however, the “longer than 10K race” requirement was temporarily missing from the rules page. It has since been added. A Way Back Machine search proved that the information was indeed missing for a window of time. The Speedfarm team made their racing plans based on the rules that appeared to be available at the time.
When finding out about the issue Mills offered to share the open win with Odendaal. It is a demonstration of great sportsmanship.
The 2023 series was Odendaal’s first full Island Series season. He competed once in 2022. In all six races that he has competed in, he has finished first in his 35-39 age group.
Odendaal’s highest placement overall was second during the 2023 Hatley Castle 8K. While his best performance according to the scoring numbers was the finale, Bazan Bay 5K with a 15:48 finish time. It is an 85 per cent age-graded performance and scores him with 823 World Athletics points rating. Odendaal helped Speedfarm to the Island Series Cup championship by scoring just 1 point in each race (reverse scoring system) and helping Speedfarm with the VIRA Cup competition netting 20 points in each race. If anything he may be the Speedfarm team’s most valuable runner.
Speedfarm finished sixth in the VIRA Cup championship, which favours bigger teams, while the Island Series Cup favours faster, smaller clubs.
Keith Mills is the definition of overcoming adversity. After a decade off from running, he got himself into shape and after 12 years out of the series was back in with a vengeance. Mills a member of the Prairie Inn Harriers and sponsored by series sponsor Athletics Illustrated (Panthers), had one of his best seasons.
The 41-year-old won his age group twice and podiumed two more times with a silver and bronze medal performance. The Comox Valley RV Half Marathon result was sacrificed as he ran it as a training run and finished ninth.
Previous to 2023, Mills hadn’t raced in the series since 2011.
His return was to culminate into a marathon, however, due to an injury the plans are on hold.
“I understand the error and can see why Martin thought that he did not have to run once over 10K. I won the masters division and the open on a softer year and am happy to share it,” said Mills. “I ran faster years ago, and was much farther back in the standings.”
[The agreement was reached between the two runners — on their own accord. No other potential tie or sharing will occur from the 2023 series.]
Catrin Jones has raced series events at least 50 times. She has missed the podium just thrice. During the 2023 season, she won four times and podiumed in all six races. Jones has podiumed even while pregnant in past years.
She is known as much for her Island Series prowess as she is for her short ultra-running work as a 50K specialist.
Twice during the 2023 season, she finished top-20 overall and top-30 once. Like Odendaal, her best performance of the season happened during the Bazan Bay 5K. She clocked an 18:02 run which gives her an 86 per cent age-grade result.