B.C. steeplechase runner Regan Yee looks to be more assertive in Diamond League opener

When Regan Yee opened her steeplechase season on the Diamond League circuit last June 2, she was out of contention shortly after the start gun sounded in the women’s 3,000-metre race in Florence, Italy.

Her coach, Stephen Haas, suggested she run conservatively not knowing what would develop. He also told Yee not to join the front pack that was running at a nine-minute pace.

“Pretty much everybody except me and a Ukrainian athlete [Nataliya Strebkova] went at that pace so I wasn’t in the race at all,” Yee recalled in a phone interview with CBC Sports.

The South Hazelton, B.C., athlete finished 13th in a field of 14 in nine minutes 40.04 seconds, well off her 9:24.82 personal best and nearly 40 seconds behind Ethiopian Sembo Almayew’s winning time of 9:00.71.

Haas, a Big 10 Conference champion over 5,000 metres at the NCAA level before he turned professional, said Yee “was a little over her head” in Florence and told CBC Sports they have changed how the 28-year-old will approach Diamond League races.

Expect the reigning Canadian champion to be more assertive in her first steeplechase of the year at the Diamond League season opener on Saturday at 8:05 a.m. ET in Xiamen, China. Watch live stream coverage of the first of 15 Diamond League meets beginning at 7 a.m. on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.

“[Haas] has said to go for [the win] and make sure I’m in the race,” said Yee, who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz., where she has trained with the Under Armour-sponsored Dark Sky Mission Project running group since October 2022. “I don’t have to be timid or worried about anything, just race hard.”

Yee feels much more prepared entering Saturday’s race, having worked on her hurdling technique in recent weeks, something she didn’t do before the Florence race. The second-year pro is also coming off an indoor season in which she ran four PBs across flat distances in the 1,500, mile, 3,000 and 5,000.

“I’m probably in the best place fitness-wise that I’ve [ever] been at this time of year,” said Yee, who lists another Canadian title, regaining the national record from Gen Lalonde and making the Paris Olympic final as her goals this season. “Usually I can gauge how my outdoor season is going to go based on indoors, so I was excited to get on the track [early this year] to do a steeplechase.”

Yee, a 2021 Olympian who competed at the World Athletics Championships the past two years, pointed out the indoor success “gave me a lot of confidence” as she continues working to understand she belongs in world-class races.

I’m always telling her what I think she can do, and she’s always surprised. At some point, she’s gotta realize she’s at a higher level.— Coach Stephen Haas on Canadian steeplechase runner Regan Yee

Haas believes Yee has benefited from being in a training environment where her teammates are at the higher end of the sport and think big.

“I think it has opened her mind a bit more. I think she’s confident in herself to a certain extent,” said the coach, who has also been an athlete representative for nearly 15 years. “I still think as coaches we’re probably more confident in her than she is.

“I’m always telling her what I think she can do, and she’s always surprised. At some point, she’s gotta realize she’s at a higher level. She’s in good shape and we’re probably at as many jumps [in training] as her third race last year in Nice [France on June 17]. She’s going to put herself in the mix [in China] and I think she’s going to smash the times she’s run.”

Yee ranks 22nd among the top 36 women’s steeplechase runners in the world rankings quota for Olympic selection. Haas feels she’ll also run under the 9:23 qualifying standard, based on her current fitness and an increase in weekly mileage (low 90s at altitude) and training volume.

“I’ve been good for a number of years,” Yee said, “but in order to be great and get into a final at the world championships or Olympics, I need to be in race situations where I’m with women who are faster than me, push myself and take more risks.”

Saturday’s field includes last year’s world silver and bronze medallists, Beatrice Chepkoech and Faith Cherotich of Kenya, with the former boasting a season world-leading 9:15.61.

Reigning world champions Sarah Mitton (shot put) and Marco Arop (800m) are the other Canadians competing in Xiamen at 6:21 a.m. and 7:55 a.m. ET, respectively.

Arop, 25, ran to a pair of national marks in the span of a week to open his indoor season in the 800 and 1,000, finishing 54-100ths of a second shy of the world record in the latter event on Feb. 4 in Boston.

The Edmonton middle-distance runner called it a season and began the transition to hill work and increasing his mileage for the outdoor campaign.

“The main goal remains the Olympic Games and winning a medal there,” he told CBC Sports in February.

WATCH | Arop breaks Canadian 800m mark in Diamond League Final:

Edmonton’s Marco Arop breaks 800m Canadian record to finish 2nd in Diamond League Final

7 months ago

Duration 4:02

Reigning world champion Marco Arop broke Brandon McBride’s Canadian record, running the men’s 800-metre race in a time of 1:42.85, to finish second behind Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi in the Diamond League Final in Eugene, Ore.

Arop, who didn’t advance to the final in his 2021 Olympic debut, was part of the 4×400 relay team that raced at the Florida Relays last month, earning the 32nd and final qualifying spot for the World Relays in May.

In the Diamond League Final last September, he lowered his 800 PB to one minute 42.85 seconds, breaking Brandon McBride’s 1:43:20 national mark from 2018 in a second-place finish.

Mitton, 27, returns to shot put competition Saturday for the first time since breaking a Canadian record twice on her way to women’s gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on March 1 in Glasgow.

The native of Brooklyn, N.S., also captured world silver outdoors during a 2023 season that also featured Canadian and Pan Am Games titles.

American Chase Jackson (formerly Ealey) ruined Mitton’s bid for a Diamond League Trophy in September. It was the Canadian’s 14th top-two finish in 17 events last year.

WATCH | Mitton throws 19.94m for 2nd at 2023 Diamond League Final:

Nova Scotia shot putter Sarah Mitton finishes 2nd at Diamond League Final

7 months ago

Duration 0:50

Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S. threw for 19.94-metres, finishing behind only American Chase Ealey at the Diamond League Final in Eugene, Ore.


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