The nicest day of 2017, to date, greeted the 2017 SDSSAA Track & Field Championships at Laurentian University on Wednesday, and the athletes, in turn, did their part, showcasing many a strong performance.
Those included four new record setting efforts, as Zach Mainville helped to keep the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes in contention, breaking a nine year old mark in the junior boys 200m race.
With four of the lads running under the 24.16 clocking, Mainville was pushed through at 23.28, comfortably ahead of the previous standard established by Adam Ritchie of St Benedict back in 2008 (23.28).
Mainville was just one of several youngsters on hand who were more than happy to demonstrate the progress they have made in recent years. "I always went to track, I always loved it," recalled the 15 year old grade 10 student.
"In elementary school, I always tried to do different events, which took me eventually to the 100m and 200m that I do best." Still, there was plenty of refinement needed as Mainville converted from a solid base of natural speed.
"My strides, at the end, near the finish, were always very strong," he said. "But I had a really weak start for my long legs. I have definitely been working on that with Track North for the past few months, and it seems to have improved."
Much earlier in the day, an interesting scenario played out as midget Nick Burke of Lasalle bested the high jump record of 1.79m set by fellow Lancer Noah LaPierre, with the latter at his side, coaching him on.
"I find for me, it's mental," said Burke. "I've always had pretty good technique, based on what I've seen on video and what people have told me. It's just getting my knee up, but it's more of a mental block for me, once the bar gets high."
With experience at several OFSAA competitions already under his belt, LaPierre was able to help the high school freshman re-focus, as he put himself in the record books with a jump of 1.80 metres, and then made it even tougher for those who follow, clearing the bar at 1.83 metres.
"I got a good start, I was bouncing, it was good," said Burke of his final successful jump. "In my mind, I was trying to break down each part of my leg, slowly. I just jumped really good with my technique."
In a similar mind game, Lo-Ellen junior sensation Auggy Marks de Chabris tried to put aside a mark of 9:42.91, held by none other than Team Canada member Ross Proudfoot, as he lapped the entire field in the 3000m event to start the day.
"I wasn't trying to go for a record," Marks de Chabris said. "I was just trying to go my time that I did at OFSAA last year. If I came close to that here this year, I would know that I have had a huge improvement."
Where the pace at provincials provides all the necessary motivation to maximize one's output, the "running alone" syndrome that is encountered by the truly elite local runners requires a slightly different frame of mind.
"I visualize someone in front of me, sometimes, and I play a little game with myself based on my lap times," said Marks de Chabris. "I might have to go a little faster, a little bit slower, with people calling out splits helping me enormously."
"I try and go a little bit faster in the first lap and then try and get into a rhythm," he continued. "One of my big weaknesses is the middle laps. I always get a bit too comfortable, so i try and factor that in with my first and last two laps."
The senior boys 3000m proved much closer, as Shawn Bélanger of Notre-Dame overtook race leader Ben Lagadin of Lively on the follow lap, recording a four second win, just as he had hoped.
"My strategy was to stick with the guy in first and pass him at the end," acknowledged Bélanger, whose looking to make his first appearance at OFSAA since competing in the 3000m as a junior boy two years ago.
"I found the pace a little bit slow, but I didn't want to push myself too hard, because I was saving myself for the end." The day also included several noteworthy accomplishments by the traditional multi-sport athletes who look to squeeze at least some amount of track & field training into a schedule that usually includes several other athletic pastimes at this time of year.
Ariane Saumure of Macdonald-Cartier is as diversified as they come. A high level competitor in both basketball and volleyball, Saumure has made a name in local track circles through both her sprinting and jumping prowess, though she took a slightly different tact this time around.
"This year, I wanted to switch from doing the 100m and 200m and maybe try middle distances, since I like cross country and I'm also fairly fast," she said. "Everyone should try something different - but it was hard."
In this particular case, "it" would have been the junior girls 800m race, as Saumure finished second to Nathalie Marks de Chabris from Lo-Ellen. Of course, that event was in the afternoon session, well after the pride of the Panthères had already outdistanced the long jump field with ease, winning gold with a leap of 5.01 metres, just seven centimetres off the record set by Tiana Deck in 2006.
"I was really surprised," she admitted. "I hadn't trained for jumping at all, that was my second jump of the year. Last year, I think my best was 4.62m, or something like that. I improved that much, and I'm not really sure how."
"I guess volleyball and basketball, you need to jump a lot, and that helps." In reality, Saumure not only provided proof positive of something sports researchers have been suggesting for a few years now, but she also backed a strong belief that hits close to home for the Valley East native.
"My parents and I and some of my coaches feel that you need to switch sports to develop or use more muscles," she suggested. "I think it's really good to take a break, a couple of months. When I do that, I get to really miss a sport. When I get back, it's just way more fun."
And as she moves closer to likely needing to narrow down her focus, at some point, in anticipation of her post-secondary pursuits, Saumure is only partially ready to tip her hand. "Right now, I think that I am heading more towards basketball, but I did just finish the basketball season, and I always change my mind after each season," she noted with a smile.
Like Saumure, Lasalle senior Karly Hellstrom is no stranger to athletic excellence. In September, she will be following in the footsteps of her older sister (Jenna), having accepted a soccer scholarship to attend Kent state University in Ohio.
And while she has won more than her fair share of races over the years at city championships, her 18th of a second victory over Carli Parker of Marymount in the 200m dash clearly carried special significance.
"It's my first competition back since my ACL surgery in September, so to get a win off the start means so much," she said. "I haven't even played a soccer game yet. I wasn't confident in my knee before, even at practice, I was scared."
In fact, she entered the final seeded third, her heat time of 27.51 ranking behind both Parker (27.17) and Kyndra Young. Posting a time of 26.90 in the final, Hellstrom made it a clear she has returned.
"My knee is strong, it's there, it's where it needs to be," she said. "It's more of a mental thing right now. I knew how strong the field was this year. I was happy that they could push me and I could push them."
With years of hockey background on his resume, both at the "AAA" and "AA" level, Max Villano of St Benedict was ready to expand the scope of his athleticism in his first year at the home of the Bears.
He would take first place in the midget boys 200m dash (24.98) on Wednesday, and will go in as a favourite in the 100m sprint 24 hours later. "In grades seven and eight, I started to realize that I'm pretty good at it," he said.
"I like the 100m, because there's less distance, but I think I'm pretty good at the 200m. My technique definitely has to get better - I run like a hockey player." The remaining record that fell was in the junior girls shot put, as the standard was reset a year ago when the weight on the put was altered.
Both Adriana Duncan (11.00m) of Confederation and Angelina Lam (10.62m) of Marymount bested the winning toss of 2016. In terms of the race for the team title, Lo-Ellen has raced to a comfortable lead with 986 points, though the battle for second between Lockerby (585) and Notre-Dame (555.50) should prove interesting on Thursday.
And on that note, the time is right to transition over to a complete list of day one event winners from the SDSSAA Track and Field Championships:
- 200m - Madisyn Papineau (CND) - 27.67
- 800m - Dylann Mazzuchin (LOE) - 2:33.26
- 3000m - Meredith Kusnierczyk (LOE) - 12:02.04
- 80m hurdles - Hanna Smith (LOE) - 14.49
- High Jump - Amy Connelly (CFD) - 1.44m
- Pole Vault - Mireille Kingsley (CND) - 1.95m
- Discus - Kaylie Bellefeuille (CND) - 22.00m
- Javelin - Mireille Kingsley (CND) - 24.98m
- 200m - Max Villano (STB) - 24.98
- 800m - Kendyn Mashinter (LOE) - 2:15.56
- 3000m - André Larocque (CND) - 10:14.38
- 100m hurdles - Dario Beljo (LCS) - 16.78
- High Jump - Nick Burke (LAS) - 1.83m
- Pole Vault - Logan Drane (LCS) - 2.30m
- Long Jump - Kurtis Wennerstrom (LOE) - 5.88m
- Javelin - Hayden Lahaie (ESMC) - 37.45m
- 200m - Christina Robert (LOE) - 27.48
- 800m - Nathalie Marks de Chabris (LOE) - 2:33.78
- 3000m - Jayde Hurley (LOE) - 12:08.13
- 80m hurdles - Jayme Anderson (LOE) - 13.18
- Pole Vault - Hannah Nykilchyk (LCS) - 2.10m
- Long Jump - Ariane Saumure (ESMC) - 5.01m
- Shot Put - Adriana Duncan (CFD) - 11.00m
- Javelin - Kaitlyn Falvo (CND) - 28.54m
- 200m - Zach Mainville (CND) - 23.28
- 800m - Lucas Mrozewski (LOE) - 2:09.70
- 3000m - Auggy Marks de Chabris (LOE) - 9:39.45
- 100m hurdles - Andrew Langley (LOE) - 15.23
- Pole Vault - Nathan Drolet (CND) - 2.70m
- Long Jump - Colin Therrien (LOE) - 6.03m
- Shot Put - John Neelands (CFD) - 13.83m
- 200m - Karly Hellstrom (LAS) - 26.90
- 800m - Sydney Tarini (LOE) - 2:29.15
- 3000m - Nina Kucheran (CND) - 12:30.46
- 100m hurdles - Jaclyn Groom (LCS) - 17.07
- Pole Vault - Mélanie Cloutier (CND) - 2.01m
- Triple Jump - Harmony Martel (LCS) - 10.59m
- Shot Put - Erika Holmberg (MMT) - 8.48m
- Discus - Kaylee Trépanier (CND) - 25.81m
- 4 x 400m relay - Lo-Ellen Park - 4:26.92
- 200m - Carter Struk (STC) - 24.16
- 800m - Josh Tillson (LOE) - 2:09.86
- 3000m - Shawn Bélanger (CND) - 10:04.26
- 110m hurdles - Oliver Ecclestone-Sterling (LCS) - 16.84
- High Jump - Noah LaPierre (LAS) - 1.93m
- Pole Vault - Julian Simeoni (LCS) - 2.60m
- Triple Jump - Nick Rideout (LIV) - 11.52m
- Discus - Andrew Rocha (STB) -31.74m
- 4 X 400m relay - Lo-Ellen Park - 3:48.88