By Martin Cleary
As a multi-sport athlete, Elizabeth Vroom certainly lives up to her surname.
The speed and endurance generated from her five-foot, six-inch and 120-pound engine has allowed her to have a roaring success first in soccer, then in cross-country running and now in track and field.
The Grade 12 Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School student/athlete showed her overall athleticism in a new event on a cold, rainy and overcast Thursday, which was the opening day of the two-day National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association track and field championships.
Vroom opened the city high school finals at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility by winning the open girls’ 2,000-metre steeplechase in a record seven minutes, 13.57 seconds, which was 20.15 seconds better than the record set by Olivia Macaskill of Earl of March in 2019.
Gillian Porter of Franco-Cité also broke the record by more than five seconds with a second-place run of 7:28.48.
In only the third steeplechase race of her short track career, Vroom showed her strength, fitness and agility, clearing the high, heavy hurdles, the intimidating water jump and the five laps of the track.
At last week’s NCSSAA East Conference championships, she broke the record of 8:10.18 with a strong winning effort of 7:22.12.
The high school girls’ steeplechase race was introduced in 2004, but it was held over 1,500 metres. In 2019, the distance was increased to 2,000 metres to match the distance run by the boys.
In the only year the high school girls’ steeplechase has been held over 2,000 metres – the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 and 2021 track and field seasons – Molly Strain of Adam Scott in Peterborough dominated the event and owns the East Regional record of 7:12.00 and the OFSAA record of 6:57.89.
Vroom’s steeplechase performance has qualified her for the East Regionals next Thursday and Friday, May 27 at the Terry Fox track. She also made the grade in the girls’ senior 3,000 metres. The top six athletes in each event at the NCSSAA championships advance to regionals.
At the city championships, Vroom was second in the 3,000 metres in 10:29.68, while Amelia Van Brabant of Earl of March secured the victory with a time of 9:59.01.
Running two championship distance events in a single day under difficult weather conditions is difficult. But Vroom said she was ready for a challenge.
“It’s hard, but I play soccer as well, so I’m kind of used to doing a lot in one day, like with tournaments, when we have several games in one day,” said Vroom, who joined the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club in February.
Vroom plays for the Ottawa TFC’s women’s premier soccer team, after previously playing for Ottawa South United in the Ontario Player Development League and experiencing many successful tournaments.
“Because of soccer I was doing cross-country (running) and I had success,” added Vroom, who was eighth in the girls’ senior race at the NCSSAA cross-country running championships last fall.
“Now, I love it (track and field) so much. I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do.”
She tried track in Grade 9 by running the 300-metre hurdles, but that only lasted one high school season because of the pandemic.
“It (steeplechase) looked like a lot of fun, and I wanted to try it. I’d done distance hurdles in Grade 9. It’s kind of the same thing – just a really big one.
“The water jump was a little scary, especially because we only practise (it) in the sandpit. The race two weeks ago was my first time ever actually going into the water and I fell.”
The girls’ senior division saw Audrey Goddard of Merivale and Callia Bickmore of Osgoode Township produce two wins each.
Goddard won the 400-metre hurdles in 1:08.18 and the high jump at 1.40 metres. Bickmore showed her strength in the field events, placing first in the shot put at 8.95 metres and the discus at 24.12 metres. Bickmore tied with Kara Brulotte of Canterbury for first in the shot put, but her next best throw broke the deadlock and gave her the win.
Porter, the steeplechase runner-up and record breaker, was the 800-metre winner in 2:21.58. Sara Wallace of St. Laurent Academy scored a one-millimetre victory in the girls’ senior long jump at 5.05 metres, while Jessica Ernest of St. Peter was second at 5.04 metres.
Luca Nicoletti of Paul-Desmarais had two impressive wins in the boys’ senior class, finishing first in the 200 metres in 22.74 and the 400-metre hurdles in 55.64, a new personal-best by a half-second.
“It’s been going down like that pretty steadily, so hopefully (the personal-best time) will keep dropping,” smiled Nicoletti, who won OFSAA 100-metre hurdles gold and 300-metre hurdles silver in his Grade 9 year. “Last summer, I had more success in my 200, but right now, my 400 hurdles seems to be getting stronger. So it’s definitely something to focus on a little more as I keep going, and just keep getting better.”
Immaculata’s Connor Fraser had contrasting wins in two boys’ senior field events. He won the shot put by three centimetres with a top throw of 13.67 metres, but was unmatched in the discus at 46.86 metres.
Glebe’s Jay Yetman was first in the boys’ senior long jump at 6.15 metres and second to Nicoletti over 200 metres in 22.74. Sir Robert Borden’s Kyle Porter also had a 1-2 results day, winning the boys’ senior 3,000 metres in 9:24.26 and placing second in the 800 metres in 2:03.98. Nolan Legare of John McCrae was the 800-metre winner in 2:00.30.
The boys’ novice 200-metre final was a must see, after Will Batley of West Carleton and Preston Schwarz of Ashbury won their respective heats in identical times of 24.13. The photo-finish camera gave a tiny edge to Batley with a time of 24.137 to Schwarz’s 24.138.
In the final, Batley came within 78/100ths of a second of breaking the 44-year-old record, when he won in 23.78, while Schwarz was second in 24.06.
Gisèle-Lalonde’s Timeo Atonfo was a double boys’ novice champion with wins in the 300-metre hurdles in 44.51 and the long jump at 6.05 metres.
The top boys’ junior athlete was Colonel By’s Dustin Coldrey, who was first in the shot put at 12.13 metres and javelin at 35.51 metres.
Alexa Chase of Sacred Heart sped to victory in the girls’ novice 200 metres in 27.81 and the 300-metre hurdles in 52.57.
— with files from Dan Plouffe
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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