Athletics High Schools

Ottawa athletes heat up with personal records on big stage at home OFSAA track

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By Dan Plouffe

Lecia Patrick is very thankful to have the OFSAA track and field championships in Ottawa, but not for the reason you may expect.

The Ashbury College jumper and relay runner will miss three of her Grade 10 exams while competing at the high school provincials, though she’s still studying for when she’ll take them later.

“I think it’s best if I come here, go home, study and then come back the next day,” signals Patrick, who’s happy to have her regular study space available instead of trying to cobble something together while out of town.

Whether it was keeping her mind busy with schoolwork, simply not carrying sky-high expectations, or praying for calmness the night before, Patrick didn’t feel nervous at any point from the moment she arrived at Terry Fox Athletic Facility on Thursday.

The end product was a personal-best performance in the triple jump, which stood as Ottawa’s closest brush with the podium on the first of three days of OFSAA competition.

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The first medals were handed out in 16 field events, while the races on the track only included heats, with finals set for Friday and Saturday.

Patrick placed fourth in the junior girls’ triple jump with her leap of 11.03 metres, behind the winning distance of 11.74 m from Humberside’s Shiloh Cross.

Patrick won last week’s east region qualifier with a 10.95 m jump, which was already a massive 75 cm personal-best. Last year’s OFSAA long jump silver medallist was thrilled to improve further yet at OFSAA.

Ashbury’s Lecia Patrick reacts to her new personal-record distance. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“It was an incredible jump. All my phases were right and I actually hit the (takeoff) board,” Patrick details. “I got my PB and the school record and I’ve never been happier. Even if I didn’t win, I’m just happy.”

The Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club athlete also enjoyed having familiar surroundings, and receiving support from friends who were volunteering at OFSAA, plus Ashbury teammate Deborah Adeleye, who placed 18th in the same event.

“Deborah’s super sweet,” Patrick adds. “She’s encouraging. Whenever we practice together, she just does her best, I do my best, and we support each other. It’s not a rivalry. It’s more like we help each other.”


The first event on the track at OFSAA was the open girls’ 2,000-metre steeplechase, and Lions runner Louise Stonham led her heat from start to finish to win in a very comfortable time of 7:09.60.

“I usually like to draft behind people. I’m not too used to running in front since I have really fast teammates, but it worked out,” Stonham highlights. “Since I have the finals (Friday), I just wanted to feel strong and smooth, I didn’t want to go all out.”

Stonham was the top seed in the event, with the fastest time from regional qualifiers (7:18.35). Last year as a Grade 11 student, she placed fifth at OFSAA in 7:14.90 behind Lions teammate Elizabeth Vroom. Back home for the summer after her first year at Queen’s University, Vroom was there to cheer Stonham on.

“Lizzie actually has the (OFSAA and Canadian scholastic) record, so I definitely do have my eye on that,” smiles Stonham, who would need to go under 6:52.19 to establish a new mark. “I’m very excited for the final. I really want to break seven minutes. It’s a big goal, but I want to try. I’m gonna try my best and hopefully, it comes to fruition.”

Louise Stonham. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Stonham was happy to have OFSAA in Ottawa as well. The Grade 12 Arnprior District High School student travels in at least three times a week to train with the Lions. She says it was neat to see a big crowd and to have the track dressed up with flowers by the water jump.

But most of all, Stonham was thankful to have the chance to run period, since the poor air quality from nearby wildfires threatened the event earlier this week.

“Oh my gosh, I didn’t run (Wednesday), I was worried that I was going to mess up my lungs or something,” recalls the California State University, Long Beach-bound student-athlete. “But luckily I was able to wake up this morning and not smell like a bonfire.”


Athletes and organizers breathed a giant sigh of relief as the local air quality improved just in time to alleviate worries that OFSAA would have to be cancelled or modified.

OFSAA co-convenor Sébastien Lalonde had an air quality tracking window open on his phone since Monday.

OFSAA co-convenor Seb Lalonde in action. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“Every half hour, I’d see if the forecast had changed. It was the first thing we’d do when we get up and the last thing we’d do before we go to bed,” recounts Lalonde. “Monday was a crazy day. Then Tuesday came along and that was even crazier.”

All options were on the table as Lalonde and company spoke to officials at Ottawa Public Health and at OFSAA head office – cancel the event altogether on Tuesday before everyone travels to Ottawa, go ahead full steam, or go forward and adjust as needed (they could have cancelled heats and had timed finals, for example).

It was a stressful few days, to say the least.

“I was thinking of the kids,” Lalonde reflects. “Especially with this cohort, getting hit with COVID and having no sports for two years. I was getting fed up for them when there was the possibility that we might cancel right before the provincial championships.

“Yes, we did put a lot of work into it as a committee, but I mean, to me it’s all about the kids. It’s OFSAA, this is ‘the show’. It’s their Olympics. They want to run and compete and get that OFSAA hoodie.

“We’re extremely happy that that window of fresh air came through so we could run normally. This morning when you stepped outside, you could see the difference. We’re so happy to be running as we should be.”


Lalonde also serves as coach of the Louis-Riel high school team, and two of his Rebelles were the lone national capital association athletes to emerge as the top qualifiers in their heats on Day 1.

A week after setting a new east regional meet record of 50.17 seconds in the junior boys’ 400 m, Zachary Jeggo dipped under 50 for the first time in his career to win his heat by 1.36 seconds in 49.92.

Zachary Jeggo. Photo: Sam Loveys

Daniel Cova outkicked four athletes who all finished within one second of another to post the best qualifying time in the junior boys’ 1,500 m (4:07.08), while Glebe’s Saul Taler snagged the 12th and final qualifying position in the event.

Jeggo also qualified for the junior boys’ 4×100 m relay final alongside Louis-Riel teammates Bradley Vilson, Basirou Sorné and Ibrahim Domiati. They placed sixth in qualifying, while the Ashbury quartet of Justin Desjardins, Preston Schwarz, Chase Gillespie and Matteo Nicolini grabbed the last available final entry in eighth.

Quinn Coughlin, a Lions runner who attends Opeongo High School in Cobden, won her junior girls’ 400 m heat by 2.98 seconds in 56.77 to top her qualification standings.

Glebe’s Derek Strachan earned the second-fastest time in open boys’ 2,000 m steeplechase qualifying at 6:14.08. The top four runners in his heat eased in at roughly the same moment.

Three Ottawa runners earned spots on the start line for the junior girls’ 1,500 m final. St. Pius X’s Isabella Chiumera, Paul-Desmarais’s Ciara Villeneuve and Peak Centre’s Grace Streek finished 8-9-10 in the qualification standings.

Also reaching finals with their performances Thursday were Lisgar’s Meredith McCabe (eighth, novice girls’ 400 m), Canterbury’s Nicolas Belan (senior boys’ 1,500 m) and the Merivale junior girls’ relay team of Ingrid Moreau, Jiayang Rong, Shaharazad Singh Sharpe and Sasha Vilkoff (fifth).

The OFSAA track and field championships continue from roughly 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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