Campbell River's Brendan Hoff competes in the New Balance Games in New York last fall. Hoff

Local runner races into world championships

Brendan Hoff goes from British Columbia to Cali, Columbia as Team Canada's top 1,500-metre qualifier

Brendan Hoff made the leap from good runner to elite runner when he discovered the quickest way from point A to point B.

Take a nap.

Hoff, 17, was announced Monday as a member of the Canadian team that will compete beginning July 15 in the World Youth Track and Field Championships in Cali, Columbia.

The Campbell River-raised distance runner won five provincial high school championships while attending Carihi before moving to Victoria to train with Team Canada coach Heather Hennigar.

“I really had to change the way I am,” said Hoff. “Being a hockey guy growing up, I used to get myself pumped up before every race. Now, I actually relax. If I’m warmed up early, I’ll go lay down on the infield and rest.”

A national youth champion in both indoor and outdoor track, Hoff raced to the top time in Canada in the 1,500-metre run in mid-June, a mark of 3 minutes, 52.72 seconds. A week later, on the night of the Team Canada selection for the world games team, he lowered that to 3:51.17 in a race in Toronto.

Equally successful at both 1,500 and 3,000 metres, he is focussing on the shorter race for the world games, after which he will return to compete in the Canadian Nationals in Quebec.

“Surprisingly, I’ve won most of my national championships at longer races,” he said. “In the World Championships, I feel I have a better chance at 1,500 metres. With the altitude and the humidity, it was an easy decision.”

Hoff will run in the men’s 1,500 heats on July 15, the opening day of the four-day championships. If he qualifies for the final, he will run again July 19.

“Right now a top-seven time in the world is 3:49,” he said. “My goal is to get into the finals and have a top-10 finish at worlds, which hasn’t been done by a Canadian.”

A solid hockey player — he was selected to the BC Cup camp in his final year of play as a bantam — Hoff doubled in the two sports until placing his focus on running two years ago.

“That was probably the turning point,” said Dale Trenholm, Hoff’s coach with the River City Elites Track Club. “He recognized he needed to choose between the two. We talked numerous times about world-class runners and what it takes to get to that level.”

One of those things was getting the proper training and competition, which led to Hoff’s move to Victoria after winning one provincial cross country championship and sweeping the provincial junior titles at 1,500 and 3,000 metres in both Grade 9 and Grade 10 at Carihi. He also won the Canadian National indoor championship at 2,000 metres in 2013 before the move.

Hoff recently completed his Grade 11 year at Reynolds Secondary, where he attends half-time while also working with Hennigar at the Canadian Sports School.

“I coached him up until this season, but there wasn’t much more I could do for him,” said Trenholm. “He was running by himself a lot; he needed that team atmosphere.”

Hoff now trains and competes not only with fellow youth competitors, but with the best in the nation, including Olympians like Jeff Harris.

He has competed internationally both indoors and outdoors, and hopes to run for a Division I university program following his graduation next year.

“I’ve had tremendous training in Victoria,” Hoff said. “It’s such a great group to be around.

His dream of a high school sweep at provincials went down when he suffered a fall in the provincial finals this season. But despite his qualifying to compete with the best in the nation and the world, he is still motivated to finish strong at Reynolds beginning this fall.

“My goal next year is to win the B.C. provincials in cross country and the 1,500 and 3,000 (next spring),” he said. “I think I can go after the (provincial) record in the 1,500, which is 3:51.”

It’s a far cry from the 10-year-old kid who first took to the track and found himself getting beat by older, bigger kids. But Trenholm, who has seen Hoff’s development across those years, is not surprised.

“He didn’t do well at first,” Trenholm said. “He was so small then and everyone else was bigger. But he had the work ethic and the desire to push his limits. I gave him the nickname Braveheart because of the attitude he had.”

He may also have planted the seeds for the new, more relaxed Brendan Hoff.

“We used to talk about how he seemed to have his best training sessions when he had a little nap on the drive to the track,” Trenholm said. “I told him, ‘What does that tell you?’”