Canadian 1,500m champion Paulson joins OTC Elite
EUGENE, Ore. - With a French-Canadian mom and a British dad, Oregon Track Club Elite newcomer Will Paulson is granted dual citizenship.
So, when he emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the 1,500 meters last summer - he set his personal best of 3:36.86 at a meet in Seattle in June - he was faced with a choice.
Should he prepare for the national championships in Canada or the United Kingdom?
Paulson, who turned 25 in November, chose Team Canada.
"I was born in Oxford and grew up in southwestern England," Paulson said. "But my mom is from Quebec and I have very close ties to Canada. I spent a lot of time there visiting family when I was young. I knew I would probably end up on this side of the ocean anyway ... so it was a logical choice for me to make."
It turned out to be a wise decision.
Paulson, who competed at both Princeton and Arizona State as a collegian, went on to win the 1,500m at the Canadian National Championships last summer. Although his PR didn’t meet the qualifying standard for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, he was able to represent Team Canada at the 2019 Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru.
Paulson won a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games. He surged into the lead with 300m to go, but ultimately placed third behind Mexico’s Carlos Villarreal, a former rival at Arizona, and ex-Duck Johnny Gregorek.
“That was tough,” Paulson said. “I made a bold move with 300m to go, but I didn’t quite have the legs for it. I think it was the right choice even though it had been a long season at that point.”
Now, in his first season as a professional athlete, Paulson is happily familiarizing himself with his new OTC Elite teammates. He loves exploring the numerous running trails in town, interacting with the local running community, and soaking up Eugene’s “laid-back vibe.”
“I get the feeling that this really is TrackTown USA,” he said. “Running matters to people. I drive past the new stadium every day, and seeing it go up and up is a really nice boost.”
Paulson’s path to OTC Elite began in the fall of 2013 when he decided to move from England to the U.S. and pursue his track and field dreams at Princeton University.
“I was very keen on going to the U.S.,” he said. “The collegiate system appealed to me a lot, not just the level of competition, but the academic side of things as well.”
Paulson overcame a slew of injuries at Princeton to twice qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 1,500m, but each time he failed to reach the final. A torn calf muscle a half-lap from the finish line derailed his first effort at Hayward Field in 2017, and in 2018, he missed a spot in the final by an agonizing eight-hundredths of a second.
Although Paulson graduated from Princeton with a degree in biology that spring, he still had one more year of athletic eligibility remaining, and he eventually landed at Arizona State as a redshirt senior.
Judging by his results, it was the right move.
In his lone season as a Sun Devil, Paulson set the indoor mile school record (3:58.07) and placed fifth in the mile at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships. Outdoors, he won a Pac-12 title in the 1,500m, and went on to place fifth in that event at the NCAA Championships.
One week later, he sliced nearly two seconds off his personal best at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle, which served as a springboard to his current role on the OTC Elite roster.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Paulson said. “When you move into a new program there’s a lot to get used to, and some of the stuff we do in the gym I find really hard. I’ve never done much of that before … but I think it will give me an edge this year.”
Paulson’s target, of course, is defending his 1,500m title at the Canadian National Championships, June 25-28, in Montreal. He’s also on a mission to lower his PR to the Olympic qualifying standard of 3:35.00.
“The Olympics is the ultimate goal,” Paulson said.