Trinity Western University track and field alum Fiona Benson clocked a personal best time of 1:59.59 to finish fifth in her 800m semifinal and 17th overall Thursday at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Beijing.
With only the top two finishers in each of the three semifinals and the next two fastest advancing to the final, Benson did not move on.
With 300 metres to go, the Dawson Creek native made a move on the outside and pushed all the way up into second place as she rounded the final bend.
However, down the stretch, she was tracked down by a hard-charging trio that pushed the former Spartan back into fifth.
This was the second time Benson has run under two minutes this year.
Her previous personal best was 1:59.94, which she set earlier this year at the Portland Track Festival. Competing in her first track and field world championships, Benson qualified for the 800m semifinals after finishing second in her heat with a time of 2:00.53.
“It was a PB. I keep getting better this season, so I have to be happy with that,” Benson told the CBC’s Perdita Felicien after the race. “I’ve just been running for years and never really showed that drop and all of the sudden, it happened. I can’t tell you one point that changed everything, but something clicked this summer.”
Benson entered the world championships as the reigning Canadian champion in the 800m, after taking top spot in Edmonton earlier this summer.
Since graduating from TWU earlier this year, which saw her cap her university career with a gold medal in the 1500m and a silver medal in 3000m at the CIS championships, Benson has taken her racing to the next level.
Her performance at the Portland Track Festival put her into an elite club, as she became just the fifth woman in Canadian history to break the two minute barrier.
Since then, she continued her barnstorming effort and recently moved to No. 1 in the world in the mile with a time of 4:25.79 at the 2015 FloTrack Throwdown in Portland.
Prior to this year, had personal best times of 2:08.54 in the 800m and 4:43 in the mile.
“To the average outsider, what Fiona’s done this year might come as a bit of a shock,” said TWU endurance coach Mark Bomba. “But for those of us in the training group, it’s not a big surprise. She’s long been a star in the making, but now the world is seeing what she can do.”
This was Benson’s second trip to China this year to compete in an IAAF championship, having represented Canada at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in late March, where she finished 68th overall.
Benson qualified for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, but was not able to race because she failed to declare her intentions to compete in the event prior to the deadline.