GUELPH -- A handful of Guelph's Speed River Track and Field Club members enter this week's Canadian track and field with mathematical chances of being nominated for the Canadian Olympic team.
But the club prefers to deal with reality and not equations and possibilities.
While five members of the club are listed on Athletics Canada's Olympic athlete tracking charts, the best it can hope for is doubling its current number of athletes nominated to the Canadian squad for August's London Olympics.
Steeplechaser Alex Genest and 1,500-metre runner Hilary Stellingwerff have the best shots at joining Speed River marathoners Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis in Britain.
For the other three on the list - 1,500-metre runners Taylor Milne and Malindi Elmore and steeplechaser Chris Winter, their chances have already passed them by.
Genest and Stellingwerff have recorded their Athletics Canada Olympic A qualifying standard and that means they'll be nominated to the Canadian team if they place in the top three at the trials. The other three can only be named to the team if they finish in the top three at the trials with times that meet that A qualifying standard.
And that's where reality checks in.
The possibility of any of the middle- and long-distance athletes at the trials cracking that A standard is extremely minute, possibly less than one per cent if you deal in percentages.
And it's all location, location, location. The trials are at Calgary and that city is 1,048 metres above sea level. Due to the lack of air pressure at that height, Scott-Thomas reckons it adds a couple of seconds to the times a middle- or long-distance runners would record at a lower elevation.
"I believe the site throws a huge other variable in there and it actually changes the drama of the trials. It diminishes it, in my opinion," Speed River head coach Dave Scott-Thomas said. "It's almost impossible to go there and get a final qualifying time. If it were in Windsor, say, or Vancouver or Victoria, right now I'd be saying, you know, Taylor has one last shot and we're going to go for A standard. But the reality is, whatever differential you think it is for 1,500 m, and it's probably two or three seconds at that altitude, it renders achieving an A standard there virtually impossible."
Of the five Speed River athletes, Genest is the closest thing to a lock to make the Olympic team. He recorded his A qualifying standard last year and has had no pressure this year. However, he's coming off an injury that forced him to take time away from training, but he did a trial run Friday and everything was OK.
"He knows he's in the best shape of his life, but he rolled his ankle a week and a half ago down in Indiana," Scott-Thomas said.
"That's why he didn't race in Indianapolis. We had his last tune-up race planned and then in his warm-up, he went over a curb and rolled his ankle - not bad, but not just a little thing.
"We actually had him take nine days off and we did a little workout on Friday and everything was OK."
If Genest struggles, Speed River's all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality will kick in and teammates Winter, Matt Brunsting and Chris Dulhanty will do everything they can short of blocking and tackling opponents to get him into the top three. Speed River has four of the 11 athletes entered in the race, although Matt Hughes of Oshawa is Genest's closest rival. But he, too, needs to win with an A standard time to be named to the Olympic squad. The medallists are expected to be three of the foursome of Genest, Hughes, Winter and Brunsting.
"You can't take it for granted," Scott-Thomas said. "It's conceivable that Alex doesn't finish in the top three and that would be terrible. Tactically, we're in a good situation as it seems like there's four guys and then there's a pretty big drop back and three of those four are our own guys.
"We will have Chris and Matt help tactically with the situation to create the best outcome for Alex and themselves."
Genest has finished in the top two of the national championships each of the last four years, winning the last two years and placing second to former Speed River runner Rob Watson the previous two years.
"Talent wise and performance wise, he's got the top marks going in," Scott-Thomas said. "He's the only person with the A standard in the men's steeplechase and he's the only person that can go to the Olympics. You don't want to take it for granted, though. He needs to finish top three and if he doesn't, he doesn't go unless there's some crazy appealable situation."
The men's 3,000 m steeplechase final is set for Saturday at 3 p.m.
While the requirements for Stellingwerff to be nominated to the Olympic team are the same as Genest, her quest might be a little tougher due to the depth of the field in the women's 1,500m. Four athletes are listed on the tracking chart for the event - Stellingwerff, Elmore, Nicole Sifuentes of Winnipeg and Sheila Reid of Toronto. Sifuentes recorded an A qualifying time last week and also needs a top-three finish while Elmore and Reid need to finish in the top three with times that meet the A qualifying standard to be nominated to the Olympic team.
"The women's 1,500 is deep and tough and disparate," Scott-Thomas said. "There are two women with A standard and if they both finish in the top three, they both go. It's as simple as that."
Also entered in the women's 1,500 m is Guelph Track and Field Club member Carmen Douma-Hussar. The former Olympian has the fifth-fastest qualifying time in a field of 31. Like all athletes who have not already met the A Olympic qualifying standard, she'll need to meet that time and finish in the top three to be nominated to the Canadian Olympic squad.
"The big danger for Hilary is that if a tactical race happens and off the back end, somebody who's got a time that's not as strong as hers, just has a great finishing kick or just pulls something out of there. We can't take anything for granted with Hilary at all. She has to run full bore there. If she finishes top three, she goes, and she should finish top three."
To get ready for the national trials, Stellingwerff has been preparing for the altitude by training at Canmore, Alta.
The women's 1,500 m final is slated for Friday at 4:25 p.m.
Milne's heartbreaking quest for the A standard came to an end last Friday night at the New Balance 1,500 m Night at London, Ont. He won the event and had five clubmates help him, but was a couple of seconds short. With Anthony Romaniw, Tommy Lecours, Rob Jackson, Kyle Boorsma and Benoit Boulay each doing their parts, Milne just couldn't beat the odds of meeting the A qualifying standard at a small meet despite an inspirational effort.
"We went Friday night down to London and that was last, last, last chance at the saloon," Scott-Thomas said. "The atmosphere was great but the odds of pulling it off at a little twilight meet like that are very difficult, but you've got to give it a shot. I think that run by him is one of the best athletic efforts I've ever seen. It's fantastic for him to be able to run 3:37 under those circumstances. He did the last 450 metres on his own, and it's so tough to do. I know if we got him in a good World Challenge meet at Hengelo (in the Netherlands) right now, he'd run 3:34."
The A standard is 3:35.50 and Milne ran 3:37.51 at London, cutting more than a second off his own series record at the meet.
As Milne competed at the 2008 Olympics at Beijing, he's not eligible to be named to the Canadian team as a rising star. Cambridge's Nathan Brannen also prevents that from happening as he's recorded the A standard in the event. Countries are not allowed to send athletes who have meet the B standard - Milne has done this a few times, including Friday at London - when they have athletes who have met the A standard in the same event.
This will also prevent Winter and Elmore from becoming rising star nominations thanks to the A standard times already recorded by clubmates Genest and Stellingwerff.
The men's 1,500 m final is scheduled for Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Josh Cassidy, who trains two or three days a week in Guelph, has already qualified for the Paralympics in the men's wheelchair marathon. He'll be looking to add to his workload in Britain by qualifying in the men's wheelchair 800 m, 1,500 m and 5,000m.
-- Torstar News Services