HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Track and field athletes and cross-country runners are familiar with competing in the great outdoors, whether it’s training sessions or competitions, sunshine or rainy weather.
But the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, which is consistently ranked as one of the top performers annually in Ontario and Canada, added a new twist Saturday to experiencing the outdoors.
Since Ottawa Public Health has attendance restrictions limiting large gatherings indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the club felt stymied, when it came to playing host to its annual awards banquet this fall.
But there was a solution and it was right under the collective noses of the Lions’ members. Why not stage the banquet, outdoors, at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility, which has been the club’s training and competition base for more than four decades?
The Lions’ chief decision makers put their heads together and decided to erect six, side-by-side tents (20 feet by 20 feet each) on the large apron area normally used for high jump. Despite rainy weather, the club honoured its members from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons in a unique way on the Mondo surface. About 160 attended.
The highlight of the night was the presentation of the Gilbert awards, which are named after Glenroy Gilbert, one of Canada’s greatest sprinters who has experienced the Summer and Winter Olympics as an athlete and coach. He ran a powerful second leg at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta to help Canada win the men’s 4×100-metre relay gold medal.
The four Gilbert Award recipients as the senior female and male athletes of the year were: Melissa Bishop-Nriagu (track), Olivia Merritt (field), Stephen Evans (track) and Tim Nedow (field).
Bishop-Nriagu, who captured the club’s women’s athlete-of-the-year award for a seventh time, ran a seasonal-best, 800-metre time of 1:58.36 to qualify for the recent 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was her third career Summer Games.
During one of the Lions’ weekly summer Twilight meets, Merritt threw the javelin a best-ever 45.08 metres to move into 10th place on the club’s all-time women’s ranking table.
Evans earned his first Gilbert Award on the strength of his personal-best time in the men’s 800 metres. He ran a 1:48.28 time during an American Track League meet. His time put him second on the Lions’ all-time 800-metre list.
Nedow was the men’s field winner of the Gilbert Award for a sixth straight year and equalled that club mark of former decathlete Patrick Arbour. After exceeding the national Olympic qualifying standard in men’s shot put with a toss of 21.11 metres, Nedow was bothered by an injury at the Tokyo Olympics and placed 31st with a top throw of 19.42 metres.
Bishop-Nriagu, Nedow, Olympic 400-metre runner Lauren Gale and Gilbert, head coach of Canada’s Olympic athletics team, were named President’s Award winners as national team members. Kevin Robertson, who ran for Canada at the 2020 Pan Am cross-country championships, also was a President’s Award recipient.
Rick Watkins was presented the Sean Cole Memorial Award for dedication to club service. He was recognized for his years of leadership in building a strong team of competition officials.
The most outstanding U20 athletes were sprint hurdler David Adeleye and Bianca Borgella, a T13 sprinter with a visual impairment who became the second Para athlete to capture the women’s junior award. Borgella also was the club’s most outstanding Para athlete of the year and won the Sam Estwick Memorial Award.
Adeleye placed third at the Ontario championships with a time of 14.14 seconds, which was under the global standard for the world U20 championships. Borgella broke multiple national records in all three of her T13 sprint races and was a 200-metre finalist at the Ontario championships for able-bodied runners.
The Lions’ other most outstanding award winners were:
U18 – Amelia Van Brabant and Luca Nicoletti;
U16 – Koree Yach and Jocelyn Giannotti (both female);
University of Ottawa (Denis Landry Award) – Madison Clarke (2020) and Maeliss Trapeau (2021), female; and Kyle Sprague (2020) and Quinn Lyness (2021), male;
Carleton University – Pippa Norman (2020) and Michael Pinnock (2020);
Cross-country running – Ivy Bialowas (2021), female; Kevin Robertson (2020), and Sebastian Cino (2021);
Masters – Wendy Alexis (2020) and Kimberley Howitt (2021), female; Serge Faucher (2021).
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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