MONTREAL — Brandon McBride, his coach Kurt Downes, and sports psychologist Penny Werthner sat down before Saturday’s 800-metre final to map out a race plan.
"The original plan was to take (the lead) and control it," McBride said. "But (Werthner) said ‘Let’s map out a Plan B just in case. Plan B was Marco (Arop) runs aggressive and takes (the lead).
"And let’s just say it’s a good thing we mapped out Plan B, because that’s exactly what happened."
The 25-year-old from Windsor, Ont., overtook Arop with 250 metres to go en route to a victory in the 800 at the Canadian track and field championships, crossing in one minute 44.63 seconds.
Arop, a 20-year-old originally from Khartoum, Sudan, led wire-to-wire to upset McBridge in last year’s championships. He took the silver on Saturday.
This year’s upset happened in the women’s 800. Madeleine Kelly outkicked world silver medallist and new mom Melissa Bishop-Nriagu to win the gold in 2:02.37. Bishop-Nriagu finished in 2:02.40 in her third 800 race of the season.
Kelly said on a perfect day, she believed she might win bronze.
"I surprised even myself," Kelly said, with a laugh. "I’ve been super consistent around 2:02, 2:01, so I thought I could be in the mix. Very happy with how it went."
Kelly is from Pembroke, Ont., a 30-minute drive north of Eganville where Bishop-Niagru grew up.
"We’re both from the Ottawa Valley, so I’ve been very aware of her my entire life, from our crappy county meet, she had all the records," Kelly said. "So I’ve admired her for such a long time, she’s been such an inspiration for me, so pretty surreal to do that today.
"But I also give her a lot of credit for showing me that running that fast was possible."
Bishop-Nriagu, who took last season off to give birth to daughter Corinne, had been hoping to dip under the world championship standard of 2:00.60. Her Canadian record is 1:57.01 set in 2017.
"I think right now it’s about getting ready for October, and really prepare to be there," she said. "It’s just a matter of getting the standard right now."
Bishop-Nriagu hasn’t posted fast enough times in her comeback season to get into top international meets such as the Diamond League series. So the challenge now is to get into meets to get the world standard.
McBride ticked the world standard box two weeks ago when he finished fifth in the Diamond League in Monaco. His time of 1:43.83 there was just shy of his Canadian record of 1:43.68.
He said he likes the challenge the young Arop has posed the past two seasons.
"It keeps me honest, it gives me something to look forward to at Canadian nationals and trials," he said. "I like going into the race a little nervous, coach and my sports psych will tell you I get super nervous, it doesn’t matter if I’m racing alone (in a weaker field) or with eight world-class guys, I get nervous nonetheless."
Phylicia George won the women’s 100-metre hurdles in a photo finish. Just five thousandths of a second separated gold and bronze. The 31-year-old from Toronto clocked 13.304 seconds, Mariam Abdul-Rashid took the silver (13.306) while Michelle Harrison claimed the bronze (13.309).
"I maybe hit three hurdles and almost lost my balance, so I’m really happy I was able to stay composed," George said. "In the middle of the race I was like ‘Man, this is all messed up.’ But I think it’s just a testament to how strong and fit I am."
World decathlon silver medallist Damian Warner won the men’s 110 hurdles in 13.53. Warner is using the national championships as a warm-up for the Pan American Games where he’ll compete in the decathlon.
George is an Olympic bronze medallist — on the winter side. She pushed Kaillie Humphries to bobsled bronze last year in Pyeongchang.
While it was a struggle to bulk up for the bobsled — 10 pounds plus an inch of muscle to each thigh, five inches around her hips, and three inches on her biceps — it wasn’t so easy to shed it again for track.
"I’m probably only in the last month back to the weight I feel comfortable at, so it’s been definitely a long process. I didn’t run the hurdles at all last year, so this year is finding my rhythm again and that’s taken a little bit of time. The big picture is Tokyo (2020 Olympics), but things are coming together really well now."
George believes her bobsled experience can be a boost to her track career.
"I think it just showed me how tough I am mentally," she said. "I had to do something totally new in six months. I think it really showed me how much of an athlete I am and how capable I am of adjusting to things. I just gives me more confidence doing well in the hurdles now."
Kyra Constantine won the women’s 400 metres in 51.22, while Philip Osei captured the men’s gold in 45.64.
Alysha Newman won the women’s pole vault clearing 4.56 metres, while Michael Mason cleared 2.26 metres to win the men’s high jump.