By Darren Lum
A two-year layoff amped up the enthusiasm and put the Red Hawks track and field team in a position for success at the COSSA (Central Ontario Secondary School Association) Track and Field Championship.
Held on Thursday, May 19 in Peterborough, COSSA gave many members an opportunity to earn a berth to the OFSAA (Ontario Federation of Sports Athletics Associations) East Regionals and take a step to achieving the greatest athletic success of making it to the OFSAA championship and for others it was an opportunity to grow.
Leading the way with her first place in the 100 metre dash and second place in the 200 metre dash, Liah Gallant beamed with pride about her achievement.
Part of the Grade 11 student’s success, she said, came from off-season training, which included hill repeaters in her backyard. Another aspect to her overall athleticism is tied to growing up and participating in a diverse range of sports such as figure skating, ice hockey, swimming, and gymnastics.
Coming through in the finals of her races is derived from her competitive fire, she said.
“I don’t really relax and, [what I do is] picture myself winning right before I take off [from the start] and then I get really angry and it makes me move faster. I want to win. Like there is no way you’re going to beat me, and I just put this angry face on, right?” she said.
When she started the season it was her hope to just keep advancing as far as she could, but [as of Wednesday] she has earned a berth to the East Regionals, and now she’s striving for OFSAA.
Gallant said her favourite event is the 100 metre dash because it suits her strengths as a sprinter and her top-end speed, which comes close to the 100 metre mark.
She welcomes the opportunity to travel with her teammates, who will provide audible support with supportive and encouraging cheering.
Teammate Erika Hoare earned a pair of second place finishes in the 1,500 metre run and the 3,000 metre, and a third in the 300 metre hurdles. Hoare, who is in Grade 9, said her track success comes from the four-week training sessions before the season, including running and Nordic skiing in the winter. The novice aged runner said her strength has grown since competing for the Hawks in cross country running during the autumn when she earned an OFSAA berth. The Grade 9 runner said with the East Regionals organized over two days, which means one race this past Thursday and two on Friday, she will be fresher than COSSA when she ran three individual races (and one team race) in a span of a few hours. Although she earned an East Regionals berth in the 300 metre hurdles, she has decided against it to enable a better performance in her 1,500 metre run. Hoare also set a school record in the 1,500 metre run.
Grade 12 student Jackson Wilson, whose best achievement at COSSA was a second place in long jump, was surprised and happy about the performance.
“Every single time I have a good jump it’s been after a 200 metre or like a 100 metre run. So, I don’t know. I guess it’s just better when my heart rates up,” he said.
In between his second and third attempt at the long jump, Wilson said he had to run the 200 metre event and when he came back it was his best jump of the day to earn him the second.
Wilson also finished fourth in the 200 metre dash and the 400 metre dash.
Coach Karen Gervais said she believes nearly everyone on the team earned a personal best, noting, “That’s a win.”
The two-year layoff seemed to be a major contributor to the effort and execution, she added.
“Everybody was keen to get out and get involved again and, saying, it felt great to be on a school bus full of athletes again. I never thought I would say that,” she said. “It’s really been good for everyone’s heart and soul to be out there competing again. So, we’re pretty motivated.”
Grade 12 student Corin Gervais stepped out from training expressing how much he has enjoyed competing in the hurdling events where he finished second in the 400 metre hurdles and fourth in the 110 metre hurdles. His enjoyment comes from the jumping during sports he also liked such as basketball.
Part of his success has been in the development of his strength and his attention to pacing himself in races, particularly in the 400 metre hurdles, and executing proper hurdling technique, ensuring his trail leg comes closer to the top of the hurdle than if he was to leap over. It was back in Grade 9 when he learned to hurdle from his high school coaches, who taught and trained him, and then he refined his skills from studying hurdlers in the Tokyo Olympics.
This being his last year of high school he has welcomed the opportunity to compete at the East Regionals. He knows the competition will be strong, so he is striving to set a personal best in his events.
Gervais also finished fourth with the 4 x 400 metre relay, which included Ben Robinson, Darian Willis and Jackson Wilson. He appreciated how the team’s berth enabled graduating senior Nick Phippen an opportunity to get an all-provincial berth by running in place of Willis.
“It’s nice that our team managed to qualify and he can run since his season was cut short. It means a lot to him, but either way, it’s nice to make it to these regionals, whether it’s with a team or on my own,” he said.
Other notable Hawks finishers at COSSA who finished in the top-five and were eligible to advance to the East Regionals were Cole Hamilton (400 metre dash in fifth), Lily Manning (300 metre dash in fifth) and Willis (2,000 steeplechase in fifth). Also, earning berths to the East Regionals was the 4×100 metre women’s team made up of seniors Brooke Stover and Liah Gallant with juniors Lily Manning and Ceinwyn Mathura, who ran up in the age category. The 4×400 metre team of Stover, Gallant, Sophie Longo and Erika Hoare finished fourth.
The Red Hawks competed at the OFSAA East Regional meet Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27 in Ottawa. A steady rainfall on Friday didn’t slow the Hawks, who earned many top eight finishes and personal bests. Senior Liah Gallant placed seventh in the 100 metre dash and ninth in senior girls’ long jump and in the 200 metre dash; senior Brooke Stover finished seventh in the 400 metres; novice Erika Hoare finished eighth in the 3,000 metres; senior Corin Gervais finished ninth in the 400 metre hurdles, and the senior girls 4 x 100 metre relay team of Gallant, Stover, Lily Manning and Ceinwyn Mathura finished eighth. Personal bests were earned by Darian Willis in the 2,000 metre steeplechase, who took 25 seconds off his time, and Haiden Bird with personal best by three seconds in the 800 metre.
“This group of athletes has been really fantastic to work with and they brought hard work, determination and team support to every meet and practice. The senior students showed some excellent leadership and we wish we would have had more years to work with this all-around great group of people. Wishing all the grads best of luck and looking forward to working again with our returning athletes,” coach Karen Gervais said. The coaching staff included Ginny Marsden and Josh Kimble.