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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Athletes in top form for return of Ontario U20 athletics championships

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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Every runner, jumper and thrower felt like a winner even before the start of last week’s Athletics Ontario U20 championships in Toronto. And why not. They’ve been starving for a meaningful meet.

The tight embrace of the COVID-19 pandemic is relenting and the Ottawa and area athletes dedicated to track and field were allowed to break out of their two-year Twilight meet bubble and test their skills against the rest of the province.

“We were thrilled to get to a championship event,” said Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club head coach Richard Johnston. “We’ve gone through two Twilight years because of COVID. It’s nice to get out of the region to step up our game.”

Did the Lions ever step up their game. And so did the athletes from the region as they combined to win 17 medals, including four gold from athletes representing three different clubs.

For the first time since 2014, the Lions won the team point title at the Ontario U20 athletics championships. The Lions were paced by Amelia Van Brabant, 16, the surprise women’s 3,000-metre winner and sixth over 1,500 metres.

Van Brabant, who enters Grade 11 in September, captured the 3,000 metres in a strong 9:57.73, which ranks her fourth in Canada for U18 women and puts her seventh on the Lions’ overall female chart for the distance.

“Amelia’s time is spectacular for her age. She stepped up and raced up one age group ahead of hers,” Johnston added. “She is doing extremely well with her training program. The talent is there and now we must guide it.”

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Alexander Collins of C.A.N.I. Athletics was fastest over the men’s 110-metre hurdles in the heats, 14.16 seconds, as well as the final, 13.95. Lions’ David Adeleye was third both times in a respective 14.14 and 14.34.

“He had improved significantly in key areas in training,” C.A.N.I. head coach Lyndon George, who wasn’t surprised by the win, wrote in an email. “We knew once he got the required amount of races, he would produce such a performance.

“Alex’s raw speed and his height (6-4) gave him that victory. His skill level needs lots of work, so it’s exciting to see him grow into it. He’s a student of the event and understands the work required to achieve his objectives.”

Collins, who has “world-class physical tools with a work ethic to match,” according to George, also placed fourth in the 200 metres in 21.72 seconds.

Spencer Lewis of Beckwith Athletics Club was the only National Capital athlete to win a pair of individual-event medals. He threw the six-kilogram shot 16.05 metres for his win and was third in discus at 44.90 metres.

Humble and quiet, but explosive in the throwing circle, Lewis won the boys’ junior shot put title at the 2019 OFSAA championships. But the pandemic denied the Carleton Place High School grad return trips to the provincial high school championships in 2020 and 2021 as a senior.

Thomas Becker of C.A.N.I. was second in the men’s high jump at 1.90 metres, but was awarded first-place points for his team as out-of-province entry and first-place finisher Aiden Grout, who jumped 2.10 metres, was from Langley, B.C.

C.A.N.I. teammate Bebelo-Noah Masena tied for second in distance, but lost a tiebreaker and finished third in the men’s long jump at 6.58 metres.

Bronze medals also went to three Lions hurdlers: Vanessa Lu Langley, women’s 100-metre hurdles, 15.49; Emily Brennan, women’s 400-metre hurdles, 1:07.13; and Keito Newman, men’s 400-metre hurdles, 56.98.

The Lions scored plenty of team points in the relay as the men were second in the 4×100 at 42.70, the 4×400 at 3:24.71 and the 4×800 at 8:24.37.

The Lions entered two teams in each of their relay races, placing second and third both times – 4×100 in 50.03 and 50.13 as well as the 4×400 in 4:03.26 and 4:27.62.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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