Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Women's field in Festival of Miles features Canadian Olympians

Missouri native Shannon Leinert will face
a challenge from northern invaders in the
Festival of Miles elite women's race.
Seems as if we just can't get enough news of our Neighbors to the North. After a couple days of updates regarding Canadian cyclists and adopted St. Louisan Ryder Hesjedal, we turn our attention to a pair of Canada's Olympians, Melissa Bishop and Jessica Smith, who are scheduled to compete in the elite women's race at the Festival of Miles, May 30 at St. Louis University High School. 

The duo should put in jeopardy the meet record of 2 minutes, 3.09 seconds for the 800-meter race, since each has a personal best of less than 2:00. They will be pushed by fellow Canadian Heather Kampf, a Division II All-American who has run 2:00.71 and hometowner Shannon Leinert, who has run 2:01. Leinert was a semefinalist at the 2012 Olympic Trials, as was meet recordholder Lea Wallace, who has signed on to run. Also schedule to compete are Lindsay Harper and Ashley Miller, who have run 2:03.

The winning woman could earn as much as $4,000: $2,000 for the victory, a $1,000 bonus for winning in less than 2:00, and an additional $1,000 if her time is better, according to IAAF scoring charts, than the winner of the men's mile.

Like its founder, Ben Rosario, the Festival of Miles is a proficient multi-tasker. The races mark the sixth stop of the 14-city Bring Back the Mile tour, designed to raise awareness of the distance. Through its website, the groups hopes to share stories of the runners who competed -- and compete -- and to return the distance to prominence as the standard at the high school and college levels. 

In addition to offering prize money to the nation's-- nay,continent's -- top middle-distance runners, the festival's series of races showcases high school and junior runners as well, allowing them to share the spotlight with the elites. The 11 races also features the GO! St. Louis Healthy Kids Mile, open to all elementary and middle school runners.

And perhaps most important, proceeds from the festival benefit a runner in need, This year, it's Brad Eastman, a lifelong runner and coach for the Girls on the Run, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this spring. Doctors removed 95 percent of the tumor, and Eastman faces a long road to recovery. 

Admission is just $5. For more information, check the Festival of Miles website.

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