Seven athletes will represent Canada at the Diamond League track and field finals later this month, but not national-record holder and recently crowned 800-metre NACAC champion Brandon McBride.
The 24-year-old from Windsor, Ont., faded down the stretch Saturday at the Müller Grand Prix in Birmingham, England, finishing ninth in the final qualifying event in one minute 45.78 seconds.
Jake Wightman placed seventh in 1:45.00 at Alexander Stadium to secure the eighth and final spot for the final with 12 Diamond League points over three events, three more than McBride, who was 11th in the standings.
McBride, who ran 1:43.20 on July 20 in Monaco to shatter Gary Reed's 10-year-old Canadian mark, was coming off a victory (1:46.14) over fellow Canadian Marco Arop at the NACAC event in Toronto that featured athletes from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Entering Saturday's race, McBride had reached the podium at four of six competitions in 2018, despite battling right hip and groin injuries before the Canadian championships in early July.
"I just didn't have it in the legs today," said McBride, who also had his three-year Canadian title reign halted by Arop earlier this summer. "It's been a rough week of travel, from Toronto to Windsor and over to here. I didn't put myself in the best position [to challenge for a win]. I was running outside of Lane 1 all race."
McBride's doctor had also told him recently that a slightly damaged adductor, a muscle of the hip located in the thigh, would be managed by regular maintenance visits, but there was no indication on Saturday of an injury affecting the runner's performance.
Watson's struggles continue
It probably wasn't the confidence-boosting effort hurdler Sage Watson was seeking leading up to the Diamond League final.
The 24-year-old completed the women's 400 event in 57.11 seconds to secure a spot at the Aug. 30 Diamond League final at Weltklasse Zürich. Switzerland's Lea Sprunger won in 54.86.
Watson finished fourth in the overall standings with 22 points over five events.
Joining the native of Medicine Hat, Alta., in Zurich will be middle-distance runner Matt Hughes and reigning Canadian sprint double champion Aaron Brown, who previously qualified in the 200.
The other Diamond League final is Aug. 31 in Brussels and will include Canadians Christabel Nettey (long jump), Mike Mason (high jump), Mo Ahmed (5,000) and Shawn Barber (pole vault). Pole vaulter Alysha Newman and Brittany Crew, the Canadian-record holder in women's shot put, had their Diamond League final aspirations dashed recently by season-ending injuries.
Watson, 24, missed the Canadian championships in early July with a sprained right foot and skipped last week's NACAC championships in Toronto.
After turning in her first sub-55-second performance of the outdoor season at the Diamond League's Prefontaine Classic in late May, she ran a 54.55 season-best on June 7 at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway. That was followed by a 56.21 clocking at the Muller Anniversary Games in London on July 21.
Perhaps the right foot is still bothering the first-year professional who has a history of foot trouble dating back to her sophomore year at the University of Arizona in 2014.
Hughes headed to Zurich
Hughes, 28, placed seventh among 15 runners (17 starters) in a time of eight minutes 23.67 seconds to earn two points and give him six over three events for a ninth-place standing. The top 12 advanced to the final in Zurich.
Hughes, who finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in April, settled in the middle of the pack from the outset and remained eighth for much of the race before moving into seventh for good at the bell lap.
Two-time defending Diamond League champion Conseslus Kipruto won in 8:14.33. Chala Beyo of Ethiopia (8:14.61) and Kenya's Nicholas Bett (8:16.44) rounded out the podium.
Mason, of Nanoose Bay, B.C., placed second in a eight-man high jump field after a slow start. His seven points on the day gave him nine over two events for a 10th-place standing as the top 12 advance.
The three-time Olympian's day ended with a third straight miss at 2.33 metres, which would have matched Mason's personal best, set in 2015 in Edmonton. Early on, the 31-year-old needed two attempts to clear 2.16, 2.20 and 2.27 before succeeding at 2.30 on his first try. Australia's Brandon Starc won the event with a 2.33 PB.
Nettey returned from a battle with exhaustion to reach a best of 6.54 metres from her six long jumps, tying her result from the Müller Anniversary Games in London on July 21.
The 27-year-old from Surrey, B.C., extended herself during a midseason trip to Europe for four competitions in two weeks and returned home wondering if she would need to halt her season due to burnout.
But the Canadian-record holder (6.99) regained her confidence and desire to compete with a strong two weeks of practice. Germany's Malaika Mihambo topped Saturday's field with a meet record jump of 6.96.
Trio maintain fitness
Canada's Johnathan Cabral, Gavin Smellie and Gabriela Stafford also competed in Birmingham but weren't in contention for a Diamond League final berth entering the weekend.
Smellie ran 10.33 seconds in one of two men's 100 heats but didn't advance. Stafford, who won bronze at the NACAC championships (4:07.36) clocked 4:07.51 in the women's 1,500 to finish 11th of 13 runners.
Cabral of Peribonka, Que., placed seventh (13.46) in the men's 110 hurdles. Last week, he appeared headed for the podium at NACAC championships but finished sixth (14.07) after qualifying first for the final.
Coleman posts narrow win in 100
American Christian Coleman held off fast-finishing local favourite Reece Prescod to take the men's 100 title by 1-1,000th of a second.
In a stacked field, Coleman blasted out of the blocks and looked away and clear after 60 metres but Prescod unwound his long limbs to close the gap. TV replays appeared to show that the Brit had done enough but he needed one more metre.
Coleman, feeling his way back after an injury-restricted year, won in 9.94. Prescod was given the same time — a lifetime best — but missed out by the smallest possible margin as the photo finish gave Coleman .938 to Prescod's .939. American Noah Lyles, the dominant figure this season, stumbled early on and was third in 9.98, just edging former world champion Yohan Blake (9.99).