By Martin Cleary
Ottawa has long been recognized as one of the major hubs for track and field in Canada.
Whether it’s producing high-performance athletes or staging frequent and memorable competitions, the pulse of the sport beats strong in the capital.
The 2023 outdoor track and field season is underway and this will be the year when high school athletes will be one of the main attractions. In fact, local athletes don’t even have to travel out of the city for all of their important meets.
The National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association has cast its spotlight on the Terry Fox Athletic Facility venue to manage and produce five major championships spanning nine days over four consecutive weeks.
The high school student/athletes bolted from the starting blocks and sprinted down the horizontal jump runways in earnest last week with the East Conference and West Conference championships.
These two competitions qualified a more select group for the NCSSAA city championships, which will run Wednesday and Thursday. The NCSSAA will qualify a handful of its athletes for the OFSAA East Regional meet, which will be staged June 1-2 at the Terry Fox track.
The best from the East Regionals will advance to the coveted OFSAA provincial high school track and field championships June 8-10 at the Riverside Drive athletics venue.
As the runners, throwers and jumpers prepare for the two-day city championships, let’s look back at the record-setters from last week’s conference championships.
· Olivia Baggley of Gloucester dominated the girls’ senior 3,000 metres in 10 minutes, 20.83 seconds and was 1:44.47 ahead of her nearest competitor. She eclipsed the 2014 record held by Canterbury’s Alex McGowan at 10:21.96.
· A year after breaking boys’ novice conference records in the long jump and 300-metre hurdles, Timeo Atonfo of Gisèle-Lalonde was at it again as a junior. Atonfo added four centimetres to the boys’ junior long jump record with a winning leap of 6.44 metres. The former mark was set by Japhet Divita of Louis-Riel in 2016.
A bid for a record in the 100-metre hurdles was squashed because the tailwind of 2.6 metres/second was too strong. Readings of 2.0 and lower are acceptable. Atonfo won the boys’ junior 100-metre hurdles in 14.04. Trevor Doucette of Sir Wilfrid Laurier retains his 2005 record of 14.36 for another year. Atonfo completed his conference championship by winning the triple jump in a non-record 13.04 metres.
· Jorai Oppong-Nketiah of École secondaire publique Pierre-de-Blois in Barrhaven made a smashing debut as a sprinter in the girls’ novice 100 and 200 metres. In her four races, she broke the 100-metre record twice and then tied the 200-metre standard before breaking it in the final.
In the 100 metres, Oppong-Nketiah zipped past the 10-year-old record of Glebe’s Remy Wade (12.44 seconds) when she had the fastest time in the 52-runner preliminary heats (12.39). In the final, her winning time was 12.40. Shelani Fernando of John McCrae set the 200-metre girls’ novice record at 26.03 in 2010, but Oppong-Nketiah tied it in her preliminary heat and put her name in the record book again with a winning clocking of 25.96.
· After qualifying third for the boys’ novice 200-metre final, Ange-Mathis Kramo of Paul-Desmarais registered a winning and record-setting time of 22.86 seconds. St. Paul graduate Shermar Paul held the record since 2012 at 22.90. Kramo also won the 100 metres in 11.48.
· John McCrae’s James Budrow lowered the men’s 100-metre ambulatory record by almost 1.5 seconds. By winning the race in 13.35 seconds, he broke the 2019 record of 14.83, which was held by Gabriel Ferron-Bouius of Nepean. Budrow was a para-alpine silver medallist at the 2023 Canada Winter Games earlier this year.
OTTAWA JR. SENATORS REACH CENTENNIAL CUP SEMI FINALS, AGAIN
One of these years, the Ottawa Jr. Senators will clear the semi-final hurdle and qualify to play in the Centennial Cup junior A hockey championship final.
At last week’s national championship in Portage la Prairie, MB., the Jr. Senators reached the semi-final round for the fourth time in their history, but were denied an opportunity to skate for the Canadian title.
After a 2-2 preliminary-round record, the four-time CCHL champion defeated Collingwood Blues 4-2 in the quarterfinals. But Ottawa lost 3-0 in the semifinals, when two-time defending champion Brooks Bandits of Alberta scored early in the third period and added two empty-net markers in the final two minutes.
Brooks made it three championships in a row, defeating Battlefords North Stars 4-0 in the final.
The Jr. Senators also reached the national championship semifinals in 2018, losing to Chilliwack Chiefs 3-2; in 2019, falling to Brooks 4-3; and in 2002, eliminated by Halifax Oland Exports 9-7.
“We pushed them (Bandits) to the limit. What a team. What a ride. Lots to be proud of. We will be back,” the Jr. Senators posted in a message on Twitter.
Goaltender Rorke Applebee was outstanding for the Jr. Senators, stopping 38 of 39 shots in the semifinals. In his five previous games, he was ranked the No. 3 goalie in the championship with 131 saves off 139 shots, a 1.57 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage.
Massimo Gentile led the Jr. Senators’ offence with three goals, four assists and seven points, including the game-winning goal in a 2-1 decision over Terrebonne Cobras, two goals in a 4-3 victory over Yarmouth Mariners and three assists against Collingwood.
Mickael Hebert, who counted two goals against Collingwood, finished with two goals, four assists and six points.
Meanwhile, Sean Marcellus attended the Centennial Cup in his new role as upcoming commissioner of the CCHL. He officially becomes the league’s commissioner on June 1, replacing Kevin Abrams.
Marcellus has been president of the Hockey Eastern Ontario U18 AAA league for one season and director of hockey operations for seven years.
TEAM CANADA SELECTS FIVE LOCAL RINGETTE JUNIORS FOR WORLDS
The National Capital Region will be represented by five players and one coach at the 2023 world junior ringette championships Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 in Calgary.
Gatineau Fusion’s Maxim Moisan of Cantley, PQ., and Alex Violette of Gatineau, Nepean Ravens’ Jalena Marelic of Ottawa, and Revolution Rive Sude’s Brittany Lanouette of Gatineau will skate as forwards. Fusion’s Danika Osborne of Ottawa was named to the 22-member team as a defender.
Colleen Hagan will serve as one of three assistant coaches.
BRONZE MEDAL FOR TEAM CANADA GYMNAST AT NATIONALS
Jenna Lalonde earned the top local result at the May 17-21 Canadian artistic gymnastics championships in Richmond, B.C., and it came in the top level of competition to boot.
Competing in the senior high-performance division, the 17-year-old Ottawa Gymnastics Centre athlete placed third all-around while also earning a bronze medal in the balance beam event.
The next stop for Lalonde will be the May 26-28 Senior Pan American Championships, where she’ll represent Team Canada in Colombia.
OGC had two other medallists at nationals. James Doucette was fifth overall and the men’s national open champion on pommel horse. Addison Graham won a balance beam silver medal en route to a seventh-place finish overall in the novice women’s competition. Kanata Gymnosphere’s Mackenzie Grant and Julia Read were ninth and 13th all-around respectively in the same event.
At the Canadian rhythmic gymnastics championships on the same dates in Markham, Serena Nie was the class of the competition in the senior open division. The Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club athlete won gold medals in the ball and clubs disciplines and silver for hoop and ribbon en route to the all-around title.
PLAYOFF BIRDIE GIVES JARED COYLE FLAGSTICK AMATEUR TITLE
Jared Coyle of the Carleton Golf and Yacht Club birdied the first playoff hole to win the 36-hole Flagstick Open Amateur Championship at the eQuinelle Golf Club.
Coyle shot rounds of 71 and 72 for a one-under par 143, which was matched by Cataraqui Golf Club members Danial Abraha (72-71-143) and Brady Hall (71-72-143).
The four division winners were Coyle in A, Chris Cooke (79-70-149) in B, Jason Nice of Stonebridge (78-76-154) in C and David Hood (82-75-157) in C.
“It feels great. I feel good after last year,” Coyle told Flagstick Magazine, referring to his second-place finish in 2022.
Coyle was the first-round leader last year at 68, but finished with a 75 for a 143 total and trailed winner Brennan Smith of Amherstview by two strokes.
CANADA 3RD AT OTTAWA INVITATIONAL WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
Canada won two of its five matches and placed third in the three-day Ottawa Invitational men’s wheelchair basketball tournament at Carleton University.
The tournament was a good test for the three countries as they prepare for their world championship June 9-20 in Dubai.
Canada split a pair of games with the United States, the eventual champion, winning 67-55 and losing 85-49. In its matches against The Netherlands, Canada won its opener 57-56 before losing twice 57-37 and 63-47.
“On the whole, our effort was there and our fight was there, but our execution wasn’t where it needs to be in a couple of weeks in Dubai,” said veteran Patrick Anderson of Fergus, ON.
“I think overall, a step forward, but we need to go home and work on some things and then hit the ground running once we get to Italy for staging.”
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
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 “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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