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HIGH ACHIEVERS WEEKEND WRAP: Track is back at Harvard University, Sharelle Samuel is hurdling fast

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

By Martin Cleary

WEEKEND WRAP: As Sharelle Samuel of Ottawa was about to enter the final stretch of her four-year term as an economics student and 400-metre hurdler at Harvard University, she posted a thoughtful and meaningful message on her Twitter account in December.

“There is an immense level of bonding and general caring for one another, especially when we are able to travel as a team. As a senior, I am extremely grateful to be able to spend my final year in some sense of ‘normalcy’ before graduating.”

While the Ashbury College graduate has been a full-time academic student from August, 2018, to the present, she has been denied half of her Crimson track and field experience because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her first academic year (2018-19), Samuel enjoyed being a full-time student, which included putting more than 20 hours a week into training and competing in her various 400-metre events. But her second season was something she had never confronted. There was an indoor track season in early 2020, but the pandemic wiped out the outdoor schedule.

Nothing changed for her junior academic year (2020-21) as the Ivy League and Harvard cancelled all sports programs. The 2022 indoor track season also was caught in the pandemic web.

But that slice of ‘normalcy’ Samuel is grateful for has arrived just in time for Samuel the athlete as she is about to earn her bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in psychology.

Since mid-March, Samuel has had three outdoor meets for Harvard and won all three 400-metre-hurdle events, running faster each time out.


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At this past weekend’s War Eagle Invitational meet at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, Samuel ran a milestone time of 58.23 seconds to win the women’s 400-metre hurdles. Besides posting a career-best time, it was the fifth fastest in Harvard program history, she was the seventh Crimson woman to break the one-minute barrier and it was the third-best time as a member of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club. Her time also ranked her No. 23 among NCAA 400-metre hurdlers.

Earlier, Samuel won at the Duke Invitational in a time of 1:00.34, which also helped the women’s team to victory in the dual meet. She also captured first place at the Spring Break Invitational in Houston in 1:01.64. The meet in Houston was the first outdoor meet for a Harvard team since June, 2019.

Despite a lack of track competition, Samuel maintained her training schedule as best she could. But she also had many other fulfilling interests on campus.

Samuel is co-president of the Harvard Athletics Black Varsity Association executive board, a member of the Harvard Student-Athletes Advisory Committee and a board member for the Harvard International Undergraduate Student Advisory Group.

Previously, she worked with the Centre for Women and Enterprise as a strategic planning and research intern. Throughout her time at Harvard and Ashbury, she has had an interest in business, investment, marketing and entrepreneurship.

As a graduating senior, Samuel again returned to Twitter to leave a message for the next wave of Black varsity athletes entering Harvard: “Make sure that you know who you are, your worth, and what you want to do in the world. Advice I would give to the younger Black student-athlete population is to always believe in yourself and always strive for excellence.”

TEAM HOMAN DROPS SEMIFINAL AT PLAYERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP IN EXTRA END

The Rachel Homan curling rink were in view of its 12th career Grand Slam title at the Princess Auto Players’ Championship in Toronto, but they were eliminated in the semi-final round.

At least the loss wasn’t in the quarterfinals, which was their exiting placement in four events in the first-half of their season.

The Players’ Championship followed a triple-knockout format and Homan needed to go to the C draw to qualify for the playoffs. After losing her opening match 6-2 to 2022 Olympian Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., Homan dropped to the B draw and defeated eventual winner Anna Hasselborg of Sweden 6-3 and Chelsea Carey of Regina 7-3 before losing to Eve Muirhead of Great Britain 9-2 and slipping to the C draw.

Needing a victory, Homan turned back Mackenzie Zacharias of Altona, Man., 8-6 to reach the quarterfinals as a C draw qualifier.

The opening round of the playoffs brought Homan against the formidable Swiss rink skipped by Silvana Tirinzoni, the three-time defending world champion and the world’s No. 1-ranked team. But the Homan rink rallied from 3-1 down after five ends to score four in the sixth end and two in the eighth for a 7-6 victory.

In the semifinals against Hasselborg, Homan was in control for the first half, leading 2-0 after two ends and 3-2 after four. But trailing 4-3 after five ends, Homan counted another four-point end to move ahead 7-4 after six and owned the hammer in the eighth.

But Hasselborg scored one in the seventh end and stole two in the eighth to force an extra end at 7-7. Hasselborg also stole the extra end with one for an 8-7 win.

The Homan rink will conclude its 2021-22 season, as well as its eighth and final season with teammate Joanne Courtney, at the Champions Cup in Olds, AB., May 3-8. The Homan rink is the defending champion.

GABRIELA DABROWSKI HELPS CANADA REACH BILLIE JEAN KING CUP FINALS

Canada has advanced to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, the 59th international women’s tennis team tournament Nov. 8-13. The site has yet to be determined.

At one of nine world qualifiers in Vancouver, Canada defeated Latvia 4-0, which included a 6-1, 6-3 doubles victory by Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Carol Zhao over Daniela Vismane and Darja Semenistaja.

“We have so much fun together,” Dabrowski said in a Tennis Canada press release. “We’re good friends off the court and I think that helps us play well together on the court, too. We want to make each other proud, we want to make the team proud and we want the crowd to see great doubles.”

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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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