Francois on fast track to podium
CIS female rookie of the year wins bronze for Canada at U23 NACAC
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 04, 2012 06:00 am
Rachel Francois is on track to surpass last season’s winning performance with the Victoria Vikes.
The CIS female rookie of the year and first team all-star finished her outdoor meet schedule with a bronze medal in the 800 metres with Team Canada at the U23 North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships (NACAC) after placing sixth at the Olympic trials in Calgary.
The three-time 800m provincial high school champion and four-time gold medallist with the Paul Kane Blues also set a personal best time of 2.03.97 in the 800m at the National Track League's Victoria International Track Classic.
“It gives me confidence to go into the next season and do what I can to get better,” said Francois, the undefeated 600m CIS national indoor champion in 2012. “It would be nice to win CIS again and continue to PB and maybe actually go after the CIS record.”
The Canada West rookie of the year and first team all-star led the lady Vikes to fourth place in Canada West and 11th place at the CIS championships in the team standings.
Francois crossed the finish line first in the 600m at the Golden Bear Open in Edmonton (1:32.05), the Bison Invitational in Winnipeg (1:30.15 PB broke the school record), the Canada West finals (1:31.38) and CIS nationals (1:30.19).
The humanities student also ran the 4x800m relay for the Vikes, winners at Canada West and runners-up at CIS nationals.
“I want to see if I can do just as well as I did last year,” said Francois, who will compete in her first indoor meet of the season in January. “I’m really not going to change anything and I’m not going to think any differently. I’m just going to see what happens and keep training the way I am and do what I can to make improvements. I have confidence in the program and my coaches and I know it works for me.”
The 2011 Alberta Athletics junior female athlete of the year qualified for NACAC at the Victoria Classic in June by clocking a below 2:06 standard as one of the top-two ranking 800m athletes in Canada born in 1990-92.
Her third-place time at NACAC last month in Irapuato, Mexico was 2:06.77. Chanelle Price of the United States was the winner at 2:04.48 and Annie LeBlanc of Repentigny, Quebec placed second at 2:05.61.
“It was a learning experience and I’m happy I walked away with a medal,” Francois said. “I wouldn’t say it was an amazing time, but considering last year I couldn’t have ran that, I’ll take it.”
The high altitude sapped her strength after the opening 400 portion of the race.
“I ran it kind of stupid, actually. I should have taken that more into account,” Francois said. “I did take the lead at one point and then at the end I had a tough time coming in because I definitely felt that altitude.”
Adversity surrounded her NACAC debut.
“It was good for me to learn how to deal with things that didn’t go my way as exactly as I wanted,” she said. “There was just a bunch of things that people had to learn to deal with. There were issues with food, so a lot of people got sick. It was pretty bad. There was also the altitude, plus lots of language barriers.”
Leading up to NACAC was the Olympic trials in Calgary, where Francois exceeded expectations by making the 800m final after posting a 2:06.42 qualifying time in the heats.
“My biggest goal was to make the final so the fact that I made it there was half the battle,” she said. “I didn’t have the pressure coming in to make the Olympics but other girls did so I was able to feed off their energy but not have the pressure.”
Her time of 2:09 in the final was sixth best out of eight competitors in a relatively slow final. The winner was Lemlem Ber Ogbasilassie of Saint-Laurent, Quebec at 2:07.37.
“I was happy, especially since I was one of the youngest in the race,” said Francois, 19, who represented the Edmonton Columbians Track and Field Club at the trials. “It was a good experience and I was excited to be there.”