Already two times on the U Sports top 12 fastest the Malahide resident is
also on the Western Mustangs women's 4x4 and 4x8 relay teams
February 21, 2022
By Rob. J. Ross
WINDSOR, Ont. - It may be just two races in to Hallee Knelsen's collegiate career, but the 18-year old from Malahide has already shown she can run with the best in Canadian university.
For both of Knelsen's races, the 600-metres and the 1000 metres, the freshman with the Western University Mustangs' track and field team, has produced a time that has her among the U Sports top 12.
Knelsen placed second in the women's 600-metre run, at the Lancer Can Am Classic indoor track and field meet, at Windsor University, Feb 20.
In a photo finish, Sonia Gaskin edged Knelsen by one-hundredth of the second, winning in one minute and 33.74 seconds (1:33.74) to Knelsen's 1:33.75. The 27-year old Gaskin is not an university athlete.
Converted to 1:32.62, based on track size, Knelsen's time is the ninth fastest in the country.
"It was definitely not the strategy most 600 runners use. My splits were pretty even from what I heard. I pretty much went 31, 31, 31, or something," Knelsen said. "Typically, the first two (laps) go a little faster. It wasn't the typical strategy, but it worked for me. I find mentally it's a lot easier when you're passing people instead of being passed."
As Knelsen approached the bell lap of the three lap race, she was in third position, 20 metres behind Gaskin and Mustangs' teammate Favour Okpali. Knelsen passed Okpali with 50 metres remaining before rubbing shoulders with Gaskin.
"I knew in the 600, the last lap is usually the slowest," Knelsen said. "I was feeling lactic at that point so I thought that might be the case, but at the same time I felt I definitely could do another lap."
Entering the meet, Knelsen had only ran one 600 metre race in her career, two years ago with the St. Thomas Legion.
"I wasn't sure how it would go because I haven't done as much speed as I did with Harry (Stantsos)," said Knelsen, referring to summer workouts with the Legion head coach. "I will do a lot more speed before OUAs, but knowing that I can run that off of less speed training than usual, means I still have a lot more to give."
A week earlier at a meet in Windsor, Knelsen was third in the women's 1000-metre, producing the fourth fastest time in the nation, after conversion, at 2:49.63.
It is still early in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) meet schedule, therefore all runners will become stronger and faster as the season progresses. That includes Knelsen. The U Sports top 12 rankings will likely change each week, as runners aim to gain a spot at Nationals.
"I had a really strong base from December from doing hills and longer track workouts when I was with long distance," Knelsen said "The workouts have been a lot faster since the beginning of the year. I'll keep that going and introduce more speed every week."
Knelsen had a standout outdoor season last summer, winning gold in both the women's 800 and 1500 metres, at Athletics Ontario U20 championships. Competing in different distances for indoors isn't that challenging for the graduate of East Elgin secondary school.
"It's between my events and pretty much the same strategy. It's different knowing where I'm at and what pace and how I feel at every point. It's an adjustment, but I know I have everything I need to do them," Knelsen explained. "If you have the strength and speed to run an eight and 15, you're going to have the strength and speed to run a K. If you have the strength and speed for an eight and four, you're going to have it for the six."
Two adjustments running inside is the smaller approximate 200-metre oval and simply being in an enclosed building during the winter season.
"The air. The air is really dry in here," Knelsen said. "I like indoor track because it's more controllable. You're not like looking at the weather, like oh my gosh, there's going to be a wind storm today. I like outdoor track for the less tight turns and more spaced out (track)."
For Knelsen to qualify for the USports National championships, her times must remain in the top 12 until OUAs, or attain the auto standard for each race.
The standard for the 600m is 1:29.91 and for the 1000m, it's 2:45.37. Knelsen has best times of 1:32.62 and 2:49.63, so within range of reaching both standards.
At the OUA provincial meet, March 18-19, at York University, in Toronto, the gold and silver medalist in each event, also advance to U Sports Nationals.
The National meet is March 31 to April 2, in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Following her 600, Knelsen anchored the Mustangs' women's 4x400-metre relay team to first place, in a time of 3:54.36. The time converted is 3:51.29, third best in U Sports. Knelsen completed her leg in 57.426 seconds, fastest on the Mustangs and fourth best among all teams.
"Relays are really fun even when you're dead tired at the end of the meet," said Knelsen. "Having a team to go for helps you. You get through on adrenaline. They're really fun and there's a different energy you get from running with a team."
Knelsen and the Mustangs own the sixth fastest time in U Sports for the women's 4x800-metre relay, at 9:15.82, from the Windsor meet on Feb. 13.
Upcoming for Knelsen is her first race outside of Canada, running the 800 metres, at an indoor meet at Boston University, Sunday, Feb. 27. Thirteen runners from Western will be competing, including the women's 4x400-metre relay team, featuring the rising star from Malahide.
Stanat throws two PBs
A.J. Stanat, of St. Thomas, competing with Windsor U, was third, in men's weight throw, with a personal best throw of 13.8 metres, at the Lancer Can Am meet. Stanat placed seventh in shot put, with a PB of 13.36m.
Brady Fodor, from Shedden, with the Western Mustangs, placed sixth in men's shot put (13.38m).