By Martin Cleary
Life keeps getting better and better for Jacqueline Madogo, a former talented soccer player who questioned if she could make the transition to become a track speedster.
After going through all the pains of learning to be a sprinter over the past three years – COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and competition cancellations, struggling to gain the confidence of her University of Guelph coach and dealing with her own doubts – the Ottawa athlete experienced a milestone moment on Thursday.
Madogo was one of three Ottawa women named by Athletics Canada to its 54-athlete team for the world athletics championships July 15-24 in Eugene, Oregon.
The national team roster also includes 400-metre runner Lauren Gale of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club and 800-metre runner Maddy Kelly of Pembroke. Both Madogo and Kelly are members of the Guelph-based Royal City Athletics Club.
“I am super grateful and honoured to represent Canada at the world championships,” Madogo said in a telephone interview about being named to her first-ever major international team.
“It’s something I thought would never happen. I have a mix of emotions. It’s definitely a good feeling. I am incredibly honoured to have been a part of the conversation. There are so many talented sprinters in Canada.”
Madogo, who participated in high school track at Franco-Ouest but not at a serious level, was recruited to play soccer by the University of Guelph in 2018-19. After her second season, she told coach Shayne Campbell about her track past and he directed her to Gryphons’ head track and field coach Jason Kerr.
In 2020, she approached Kerr about trying out for the Guelph track team, which has a reputation as one of the top university programs in Canada. She had little experience and needed to learn proper sprinting techniques.
Kerr and his coaching staff started to work with Madogo, and he wasn’t sure she should take on a new sport. But he provided all the necessary coaching tools and she dedicated herself to becoming a sprinter. In the end, it all worked out.
At her first Ontario and Canadian university indoor championships in 2020, she was a silver medallist at both levels in the women’s 60 metres with only three months of training.
After the 2021 university season was cancelled, she used her training during that time to ignite her 2022 indoor season, where she won the OUA 60 metres, took part in two winning relays and helped the Gryphons capture the women’s team title.
At the 2022 U Sports national championships, she won the 60 metres in a personal-best 7.30 seconds and helped the Gryphons to a national-record time of 1:36.20 in the 4×200-metre relay.
“And I also get to go (to worlds) with one of my best friends, Zoe Sherar, who will run the 4×400-metre relay,” Madogo added. “She’s someone I train with and has put in hours of hard work and dedication.”
Madogo has performed well during the 2022 outdoor season and placed fourth in the women’s 100-metre final (11.49 seconds) at last week’s Canadian track and field championships in Langley, B.C. By placing fourth, Madogo qualified to be considered for the women’s 4×100-metre team for the worlds. Athletics Canada selected six women for that relay team.
“I have been running consistent,” she explained. “My goal is to be healthy after each race. I’m super grateful for that. I’ve surrounded myself with good people and being happy.
“I’m super grateful. Jason (Kerr) has given me a chance and I owe a lot to him. He has come up with a plan. Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but we collaborate. Jason and assistant coaches Angela Whyte and Dontae Richards-Kwok have played a huge part in my development as an athlete, a student and a human being.”
Madogo has attended several national sprint team camps under head coach Glenroy Gilbert of Ottawa, who also was named to the world championship team, and worked on developing her relay skills.
At the recent IAAF Diamond League track and field meet in Birmingham, England, she ran the third leg of the women’s 4×100-metre relay and helped Canada place second to Great Britain in 43.03 seconds and qualify as one of 16 countries for the worlds.
“I will continue to do what I’ll do and not stress about who’s running and who’s not running,” Madogo said about which athletes may run the semi final and possibly the final at the worlds.
“I perform better when I’m not in my own head. It (relay) is a team sport. If I am not on the track, I hope the best for them. We’re there to support each other.
“I am excited to be a part of the team and experience the world championships. It’s my first international meet. I will take it in. I am not stressed about who is in the relay. It’s out of my control. All I can do is be prepared and prepare to run faster.”
Lauren Gale has been one of five Canadian team athletes assigned to three events at the worlds. She will run in the 200 and 400 metres as well as the 4×400-metre relay.
After a record-breaking, senior season at Colorado State University, Gale stumbled out of the starting blocks in the women’s 400-metre final at the Canadian championships, but recovered to finish second in an impressive 51.61 seconds. She was fourth in the 200-metre final in 23.08.
Gale also anchored the Ottawa Lions’ 4×400-metre relay team of Doyon Ogunremi, Sydney Smith and Alexandra Telford to a Canadian club record of 3:35.46 during nationals.
Kelly has been running her fastest times this season in the 800 metres. She broke the two-minute barrier for the first time on June 11, when she placed third during a meet in Portland, Oregon, in 1:59.71.
She came close to dipping below two minutes again at the Canadian championships, when she won the final in 2:00.82. At the Harry Jerome International Classic, Kelly was first in 2:02.22.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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