HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
There’s a new Canadian athletics indoor record holder in the women’s open and U23-class 200 metres, but the sprinter’s club affiliation remains the same.
At the Sherbrooke indoor track and field meet on Jan. 15, 1984, sprinter Angela Bailey broke those two age-group records in the 200 metres, blazing an impressive 23.32 seconds. Primarily based out of Mississauga, she was representing the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club at the time, according to the Athletics Canada website.
Thirty-eight years later and slightly more than six months after Bailey’s passing at age 59 because of cancer, Lauren Gale has emerged to secure that enviable, double-sprint stat in the national record book. While Gale accomplished the feat last weekend running as a senior for the Colorado State University Rams, she also is a member of the Ottawa Lions.
Phil Marsh, an Ottawa running advocate and coach, was ecstatic about Gale’s indoor performance and praised her on Twitter.
“Incredible!!!! Ottawa Track and Field Club this girl is fierce. She’s just getting started,” he wrote.
Gale lowered the national women’s open and U23 200-metre record to 23.08, when she placed third in the opening heat for seeded runners Friday at the Don Kirby Invitational track and field meet in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She also placed third in the overall race standings.
Her time also was a personal best, a Colorado State University record, and an Ottawa Lions’ club record. Teammate Jessica Ozoude broke the Rams’ indoor 200-metre record going 23.22 seconds earlier in the day before Gale’s improving speed elevated her to that elite position.
The Don Kirby competition was her final meet before the Mountain West Conference championships, where she’s a strong medal candidate in the 200 and 400 metres as well as the 4×400-metre relay Feb. 24-26 in Albuquerque. The former South Carleton High School student will be striving for a third straight 400-metre title.
Coming off her first Summer Olympic Games experience last summer in Tokyo, where she was an alternate on the fourth-place Canadian women’s 4×400-metre relay team, Gale has had a record-breaking season, which started in an equally big way Jan. 29 during the Colorado Invitational meet in Colorado Springs.
Her 400-metre time of 51.53 not only gave her the race win, but also reset her own Rams’ record, broke the 18-year-old Mountain West Conference mark, lowered the venue standard at the Colorado University’s Indoor Practice Facility, rewrote the Ottawa Lions’ best time and broke two more Canadian indoor records. Her personal-best effort dropped 1.23 seconds off the Colorado State record and 0.26 from the conference mark.
Esther Akinsulie set the Lions’ club record in 2009 at 51.53 and Gale’s improvement by 0.17 seconds gave her every 400-metre club mark from U16 and up.
Gale’s unprecedented time also was a double takeout nationally, bumping renowned sprinter Jillian Richardson as the Canadian women’s open record holder with a former mark of 51.69, and 2020 Olympic 4×400-metre relay runner Kyra Constantine as the fastest U23 woman at 52.14.
Her four national indoor records are pending, based on approval by Athletics Canada.
At the end of the Colorado University meet, Gale anchored teammates Yolonda Johnson, Ozoude and Grace Goldsworthy to a women’s 4×400-metre victory in a Colorado State and venue record 3:36.28. Her multi-record and double-win performance earned Gale her first-ever Mountain West Conference Track Athlete of the Week award.
Gale expressed her joy about her record smashing feat to the Lions’ Miles Rowat, who posted them on the club’s website.
“It feels SO AWESOME,” Gale wrote, after her 400-metre run. “The Lions have been one of my biggest supporters throughout, literally, my entire track career and being able to have my name attached to the club in this way is awesome.”
Being an Olympian and hearing track announcers introduce her with that fresh title, Gale added that honour has “made me want to run faster.”
Gale, who ran a 23.52-second 200 metres in her season debut at the Potts Invitational in Boulder, Colorado, and her Rams’ coach J.J. Riese have made few changes to her training this season.
“I think just improving on what we’ve been doing; we’ve been working on starts and adjusting more each time or working on lactic and going faster paced each time or lifting the same type of lifts, but heavier,” she added. “It has been the same style, just working harder.”
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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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