Fiona Benson is set to represent Canada in the women's 800m at the IAAF world track and field championships in Beijing. The championships run Aug. 22 to 30.

Fiona Benson is set to represent Canada in the women's 800m at the IAAF world track and field championships in Beijing. The championships run Aug. 22 to 30.

Benson aiming big in Beijing

Trinity Western alum has spent the summer training with Langley Mustangs, set to represent Canada at world championships

A late starter in her sport hasn’t held Fiona Benson back.

While most college and university athletes have a couple of years experience under their belts as they embark on their post-secondary sporting careers, Benson was a rare exception.

Growing up in Dawson Creek, a small town in northeastern B.C., Benson loved to run, but her competition and exposure to the sport was limited.

She ran a year of cross-country with Grande Prairie Community College before landing in Langley at Trinity Western University.

Current Spartans track and field coach Mark Bomba was TWU’s assistant coach back then, but he remembers a conversation he had with Laurier Primeau, who had recruited Benson.

“I realized within the first three of working with her (that she had potential),” Bomba recalled.

“She started out as a completely raw talent (but) you could see she had the tools.

“I sat down with Laurier one day and he asked ‘how good do you think this girl could be?’

“And my words were I think she has Olympic potential.”

This was four years ago and Benson is proving her coach true.

The 23-year-old left for South Korea on Sunday (Aug. 9) to take part in a training camp with the Canadian national team ahead of the IAAF world track and field championships, which run Aug. 22 to 30 in Beijing.

Benson is running in the 800m.

This is her second time representing Canada, having also done so at the 2015 world cross-country championships in late March.

“When the Team Canada gear comes and you open the package, that is always a really gripping moment,” Benson said earlier this month, before she left.

And she is hoping this is just the first of many times she will wear the Maple Leaf.

“I think people saw some potential for me right from the start, but I didn’t think Olympics until this year,” she said.

“I want to see how fast I can run.”

And this summer has been all about running fast.

Benson didn’t run track last summer, but after finishing her schooling at TWU in April — she earned her degree in political studies — she decided to give track one more season, training locally with the Bomba and the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club.

Her focus paid dividends almost immediately as Benson had a stretch in June where she set personal bests in the 800m in four consecutive races, three times in the span of a week. She capped it off by becoming just the fifth Canadian women to post a sub-2:00 time as she crossed the finish line in 1:59.94 at the Portland Track Festival.

She also won the Canadian national title in the event in early July in Edmonton and had qualified to represent Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, but was late in submitting her declaration forms.

And prior to leaving for training camp, Benson ran in the FlotrackThrowdown in Portland on Aug. 8, posting the fastest time in the world this year in the one-mile race, finishing in 4:25.79. That was just a few seconds slower than former Olympian — and Langley Mustang — Leah Pells’ Canadian record of 4:23.30, which she set back in 1996.

Bomba sees no reason Benson can’t continue with the national team and run at next summer’s Olympic Games.

“She has the combination of endurance and speed. Even her mental make-up, she handles pressure like no one I have ever seen,” he said.