HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ottawa will be the athletics capital of Canada for the next five years.
More specifically, the Terry Fox Athletic Facility will be the epicentre for four major track and field and cross-country running championships between this fall and the summer of 2026.
Almost a year after staging the Canadian cross-country running championships on new course layouts at Wesley Clover Parks, Athletics Canada announced earlier this month it has moved the national overland championships to the grounds around the Terry Fox site at Mooney’s Bay.
There’s also speculation the OFSAA cross-country running championships could return to Ottawa within the next three years.
The Terry Fox track and field venue will be the site for three significant championships from 2023-26.
The OFSAA provincial high school championships will return for the first time since 2007 and will be staged June 1-3, 2023. The championships are considered one of the largest interscholastic meets in North America.
In 2025 and 2026, Athletics Canada and the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club will play host to the Canadian track and field championships. The 2025 nationals will serve as the trials for the world championships in Tokyo.
“This will make Ottawa the unofficial hub of all athletics in Canada and that will be good,” said Richard Johnston, the Ottawa Lions’ executive director and head coach, in a phone interview on Wednesday.
The Lions are familiar with presenting the Canadian championships, having served as hosts on numerous occasions, including the latest in 2017 and 2018.
The Canadians will return to Langley, B.C., in 2023 and Montreal will play host to the national championships and Paris Olympic trials in 2024. Montreal was denied the 2020 nationals and Olympic trials at the Claude Robillard Centre because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
The Ottawa Lions are in discussions with the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism about upgrading the Terry Fox facility in different ways as well as the presentation of the national championships.
“Ottawa will be the focal point for the Canadian athletics community,” Johnston added. “I hope this gets the city’s attention. We must be able to play host to and create something worthwhile in the National Capital.”
The Canadian championships will be the ultimate domestic meet for athletes in the U20 junior, open and Paralympic classes.
“We’re pleased to return to Ottawa (as) the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Canadian track and field championships were some of the best-ever staged,” Athletics Canada CEO Mathieu Gentes said in a press release.
“Spectator attendance, grassroots integration and a first-rate sport and entertainment experience were major focus points. The Athletics Canada team looks forward to working with the Ottawa Lions and national and local partners to springboard off those 2017 and 2018 success stories.”
Johnston also is excited about growing the national championships into a major city event in 2025 and 2026.
“The expansive Ottawa Lions track and field programs and partners in the community will be vital to the volunteer base and operations, while serving as a great platform to incorporate grassroots programming into the event, attract a new fan base and create a memorable experience for those competing and those attending,” he added in the release.
He would like to follow the lead of other past host cities and possibly take some of the events into the city.
The men’s and women’s race-walking events could be held on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Colonel By Drive, following the Rideau Canal. The men’s and women’s shot put could be held at Lansdowne Park.
Several years ago, the three-day Gatineau Loppet cross-country skiing championship staged its opening-day sprint races in the Byward Market.
As the 2022 outdoor track and field season is coming to an end, Johnston will soon turn his attention to the cross-country season from September through November.
The Canadian cross-country running championships, which will determine champions in the boys’ and girls’ U18 and U20, men’s and women’s open and masters and club categories, will be the largest overland competition held at Mooney’s Bay. The Riverside Drive venue has been the site of many elementary, high school and university cross-country races in the past.
The 2022 championship, which is slated for Nov. 26, was shifted to Mooney’s Bay from Wesley Clover Parks, after the local organizing committee and Athletics Canada reviewed feedback comments from the 2021 nationals.
“Mooney’s Bay is a little bit more stable,” Johnston said in an interview. “It’s more central and aesthetically appealing. From the panoramic view on the top of the hill, you can see the entire course.”
The Mooney’s Bay courses will have the athletes run alongside water, over grass fields and through wooded trails, while facing a challenging hill.
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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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