(Victoria, BC – Thursday, January 8, 2009, 10:30pm) The Prairie Inn Harriers Running Club staged the first Pioneer 8K and the first Royal Victoria Marathon in 1980. This Sunday, January 11, the Pioneer 8K celebrates its 30th Anniversary and on October 11, the RVM also celebrates 30 successful years. As an added attraction in 2009, the Prairie Inn Pioneer 8K has been designated as the Provincial 8K Road Race Championships, and is sanctioned by BC Athletics.
The high performance component of the Pioneer 8K is second to none and may bring together the highest calibre of elite road runners ever to compete in the same championship event. The Pioneer 8K features a “who’s who” of Canadian runners. Elite Athlete Director, Bob Reid, sent over 150 personal invitations offering complimentary entries and travel grants to high performance athletes from around the province in all age categories. More than 80 responded and they will be on the starting line at the 30th annual Pioneer celebration.
The men’s race boasts Canada’s most brilliant marathoner, Victorian Jon Brown, who last month ran 2:12:26 in Fukuoka, Japan to qualify for Team Canada to participate at the World Marathon Championships this August in Berlin. Brown is a former Pioneer 8K winner and a former Royal Victoria Marathon winner. He also won the BC Cross Country Championships in October 2008. At the Berlin Marathon he will be attempting to break the all-time Canadian Marathon Record currently held by Jerome Drayton established 34 years ago. Drayton ran 2:10:08 in 1975 at Fukuoka. Brown’s personal best of 2:09:31 was set at the London Marathon in 2005 and puts him in good standing to win the Pioneer 8K in Victoria and lower the Canadian marathon record in Berlin.
Richard Mosley, from Coquitlam, and Victoria’s Ryan McKenzie are the second and third ranked runners in the Senior Men’s Division. Strong performances are also expected from former Pioneer Champions Trevor O’Brien and Todd Howard. A young threesome of Matt Clout, 27, Kris Swanson, 27, and Scott Simpson, 29, will post strong efforts. The top junior male, under-20, is Jeff Phillips, BC Athletics Junior Road Runner of the Year.
The Master Men’s Division is loaded with world-class athletes led by Mark Bomba, from Coquitlam, running his first race as a master since turning 40 on January 3. Bomba has represented Team Canada at several cross country and road running world championships and has notched top-5 finishes at both the TC10K and the Vancouver Sun Run, and has a second place finish at the Royal Victoria Half Marathon in 2007. Paul McCloy, of Calgary, will provide stiff competition in the M45 division along with Norm Tinkham, from Maple Ridge. McCloy, a former 1988 Pioneer winner in 23:19, finished 9th overall at the 1986 World Cross Country Championships in Belfast. It is the highest finish ever by a Canadian at this IAAF international championship event. Tinkham, 45, was the top BC finisher at the Canadian Cross Country Championships in Guelph in November, third overall, and has recently been named as the BC Athletics Master Cross Country Runner of the Year. Paul O'Callaghan, Kevin O'Connor, Kevin Searle, Paddy McCluskey, Gord Christie and three-time RVM winner, Phil Nicholls, round out the strong master men's division.
On the open women's side, 2008 TC10K champion Lisa Harvey, from Calgary, is the race favourite, but only by a whisker. Last year’s Pioneer Champion, Cheryl Murphy, will be running her first race as a master at Pioneer and last year she finished only one half of a second behind Harvey in the closest women’s finish in the 20-year history of the TC10K. She has been selected as the BC Athletics Senior Road Runner of the Year for 2008. Former Pioneer winner and Beijing Olympian, Carolyn Murray, is a threat as is Australian new-comer Sarah Bouchard. Rachel Ruus and Kristina Rody, from Vancouver and Whistler, are ranked third and fourth. Professional triathletes, Bree Wee, from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Lisa Mensink, from The Netherlands, and Katya Meyers, of Florida, bring a top-level international aspect to the Pioneer field. Wee holds the all-time amateur course record for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships and Mensink was a member of the Dutch Olympic Team at Beijing in 2008.
The master women's race promises strong accomplishments from outstanding local and lower mainland runners Lucy Smith, Cheryl Murphy, Nancy Tinari, Catherine Irons, Juliette Christie, Joanne Rosen and RVM champion Joan McGrath.
In the Pioneer "Legends" Team of Champions division, comprised of all 60 past winners, Race Director Randy Jones is thrilled to welcome back to Victoria, Randy Cox, Dave Campbell, Gary Barber, Paul McCloy, Carey Nelson, Richard Lee, Steve Bachop, Debbie Scott (Bowker), Ulla Hansen (Marquette), Angela Chalmers and Liz Jones.
The Prairie Inn Pioneer 8K will host the most competitive and rewarding field ever assembled in the 30-year history of the event. There is $7,000 in prize money available, with $1,000 going to the top male and female and another $1,000 offered to any runner capable of breaking the 24-year old course records of 22:58 and 26:08 held by Carey Nelson and Debbie Scott. Prize money goes 4-deep for men and women in both the senior and master divisions.
At the Pioneer awards ceremony, a cheque for $10,000 will be presented from donations by PIH members to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC and Yukon in memory of Harrier Dave Reed who died unexpectedly of a stroke two months ago. Reed was an outstanding master’s runner who won the M50 division of the 2008 Prairie Inn Pioneer 8K race. He set many age class records while racing on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver.