Every year, I watch Colin Fewer do his final pre-Tely 10 workout a few days before the race. Tuesday morning, I joined him again and watched him run three repeat miles in the morning sun on a measured stretch of Topsail Pond Road. He looked strong, quick and confident as he sped through each one in under five-minute mile pace.
The young teacher from Harbour Main will need all these qualities Sunday as he faces his toughest challenge to date in his quest for a fifth straight Tely victory.
Ryan McKenzie of Victoria B.C., one of Canada's best middle distance runners and a sub four-minute miler, is entered in Sunday's race, along with Newfoundland-born Trevor O'Brien, a three time Tely Champ who also lives and trains in Victoria.
Fewer's preparation has included 80 miles per week of running since January, a three-week stint of high altitude training in Flagstaff, Ariz., with some of Canada's best distance runners, including Bejing Olympian Eric Gillis, and two good mainland performances at the Montreal half-marathon and an Ottawa 10K race.
Locally, he continues to be in a class by himself with a winning streak that goes back several years.
Ryan McKenzie's running resume is spectacular. A three-time Canadian university athlete of the year at the University of Windsor, he has run under four minutes for the mile, under 3:40 for 1,500 metres on the track and has a 13:35 five-kilometer track best.
In April, he ran 24:38 at the Victoria 8K road race, indicating sub-50 minute potential over 10 miles.
Paradise native Trevor O'Brien's running career dates back to the 1990s, when he was a cross-country running star at Memorial University. He dominated the local scene for a time, winning three Telys before moving to Victoria. There, he concentrated on becoming a good 1,500-metre runner, with the goal of making the Canadian team for the 2008 Olympics.
A series of foot injuries ended that dream, but recently he has regained his previous form and is primed for a fast Tely.
O'Brien and Fewer are former Memorial teammates and close friends (O'Brien will be Fewer's best man at his wedding in August). Whatever the outcome, there is bound to be some post-race banter at the wedding banquet.
We could see an historic Tely this weekend as three runners have the potential to break 50 minutes in the same race.
I am picking Fewer to lead the way, but if he is to win his fifth title, he'll have to run shrewdly and cautiously to avoid the devastating finishing speed of two successful 1,500-metre men.
McKenzie for runner-up, with O'Brien close behind.
While the attention may be on my top three picks, these speedsters will be chased by one of the best fields in years. Graydon Snider of Ontario is my choice for fourth. A 2008 third-place finisher, he continues to run well in mainland races and looks to be well prepared for this year's race.
American Sean Hulburt will make his Tely debut this year. The Memorial University student has raced sparingly this season on the local scene, but a strong performance at the recent Mews 8K race made him runner-up to Colin Fewer. I think he will be the fifth man at the end.
Marystown native Grant Handrigan is another former Memorial cross-country star who finished in the top five last year. He is taking a break from his studies at Laval University and seems fit enough for a sixth-place spot. Mark Furlong from Alberta placed sixth last year in his Tely debut and I am moving him back a notch to seventh, but watch for a first-rate performance in this strong field.
Paul McCloy, a Canadian running legend, former Olympian and the course record holder, is in his late 40s, but a recent 34:24 result over 10K shows he could break my 45-49 age-group record of 55:17 set in 1989. I'll choose him for eighth, but with a nagging suspicion he may bump aside some of my higher picks.
My last two top ten predictions are the two Peters - Power and Bazeley. Power is another guy in his mid-40s who shows little sign of slowing down. He has a string of top five finishes to his credit this year, including a Run for Freedom win. He is good for ninth. Bazeley, a former Memorial cross-country captain, had a win at the Harbourfront 10K and good results in other races, but he has been slowed by an injury lately. It's not bad enough to keep him out of the top ten.
As in previous years, there are always runners who have the ability to upset my predictions applecart. Late entries by Dean Alyward, Will Fitzgerald or Mike King could change the complexion of the race. But also watch as the tremendously-improved John Angelopoulos, rookie Mark Hayward, the tough Joe Durnford, triathlete Tyler Cole and the quick Ed Durnford all race for a coveted top ten slot.
The women could also make Tely history on Sunday.
I don't think Nicola Will's 1986 women's record of 55:47 will go, but there is a possibility of three women dipping under the hour mark in a single Tely and that's never been done.
Lisa Harvey, the 39-year-old defending champ from Calgary, will lead the way. She too is looking for her fifth Tely championship. Two fast results - an early-season 35:59 10K and an impressive 78:05 second-place at the recent Vancouver Scotiabank half-marathon, make her the favorite.
Local runner Kate Vaughan, second in 2008, will repeat that performance this year, but will run her first sub-60 minute Tely. She's been unbeatable locally this season and her fast 27:43 at the Mews 8K race shows she has the speed and strength to overtake Harvey if the latter turns in a sub-par performance.
Anne Johnston (formerly Barrington) has returned to the city and is racing Sunday. Twice a Tely champ, a Canadian university cross-country all-star as well as an Atlantic university cross-country champ, she has been on the mainland in recent years, but has moved with her husband to live and work here. She has run only one race this season, a solid 28:01 win at the Run for Freedom 8K. She has run under 60 minutes before and I think she will do it again on Sunday to finish third.
Ontario resident Sarah Healey caught everyone by surprise last year with a 62:40 clocking that gave her third place. I predict she will remain in the top five with a fourth, just ahead of Caroline Mcllroy.
Mcllroy is also a former Tely champ and, for a time, the dominant female road racer in the province. Recently, she has turned her attention to the triathlon, but she can still run fast times as shown at the Mews 8K where she finished second to Vaughan. McIlroy will round out the first five.
I have always been a Tracy Hussey fan. She is a veteran road racer and cross-country runner/coach with enormous courage and spirit. She has a number of top three finishes this year, including runner-up to Vaughan at the hilly and tough Mercury 15K in June. Hussey should be sixth on Sunday.
My next group of picks are all former Memorial University cross-country running team members who still love to race.
I think Janelle Miller, who looks stronger with every race, will finish seventh followed by the diminutive and quick striding Susan Stacey in eighth. Alison Walsh started the season with a bang by winning the Mundy Pond 5K, but experienced some downtime after that with injuries. I believe she has regained enough fitness lately to finish in the top 10 as the ninth woman. Tenth place is up for grabs between Karen Stacey, Susan's older sister, and Jessica Coffey. Stacey ran a sub-20 minute Mundy Pond 5K, where she was second and had thirds at the Garnish 10K and Molson 10K. Coffey showed impressive speed and endurance with a fourth at the Mercury 15K. I am giving Stacey the nod for 10th, provided she paces herself smartly.
As with my male picks, there is always the potential for surprises and upsets. If Alberta resident Krissy Dooling is a late entry, she could have a major impact on the results. In the meantime, watch for strong performances from 51-year-old Lise Petrie, Alison Jones, Jenny Hulburt, Nicole Graham and Christiane Martin.
I'll close on a personal note. This year is the 30th anniversary of my 1979 Tely win. I am 65 now, my days as a top ten Tely contender long gone. But I would like to celebrate that victory by surpassing Fred Wight's 65-69 age group record of 68:36. I am even wearing race No. 65 for good luck!
If you are not participating on Sunday, come out and watch one of Canada's great summer running spectacles. I'll bet you will be inspired.
Art Meaney is the1979 Tely 10 champ and the varsity cross-country running coach at Memorial University.
1. Colin Fewer
2. Ryan McKenzie
3. Trevor O'Brien
4. Graydon Snider
5. Sean Hulburt
6. Grant Handrigan
7. Mark Furlong
8. Paul McCloy
9. Peter Power
10. Peter Bazeley
1. Lisa Harvey
2. Kate Vaughan
3. Anne Johnston
4. Sarah Healey
5. Caroline McIlroy
6. Tracy Hussey
7. Janelle Miller
8. Susan Stacey
9. Alison Walsh
10. Karen Stacey