Athletics Elite Amateur Sport

Ottawa athletes win big (and collect a bit of cash) at CTFL Final

By Keaton Hills

Alexandra Telford remembers being puzzled when Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club distance hurdles training partner Quinn Lyness first told her about his vision for the Canadian Track and Field League.

Fast forward a couple years, and she’s now a CTFL MVP thanks to her performance at the League’s championship meet, held on Aug. 5 at Terry Fox Athletic Facility.

“At first, we were all kind of confused about how the format would work and what the goal of the league would be,” Telford recalls. “Once we kind of got an understanding, I was like, ‘Yep, this is a great way to get the sport to grow and get to know more athletes in your event and on your team.”

Telford was the MVP for the Arctics, one of the CTFL’s four teams that competed in the League’s second season. Participating athletes were drafted onto teams and accumulated points from their best two best results out of five meets in Calgary, Montreal, London, Guelph and Ottawa, plus the Final, again held in Ottawa.

Telford earned a perfect score in the women’s 400-metre hurdles this season. The past U Sports medallist for the Carleton University Ravens says it would have been nice to get a personal-best time at the CTFL Final, but she was still excited to finish in 58.72 seconds and win the race.

A week earlier, Telford ran 58.51 at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Langley, B.C. to place fourth, finishing just .02 from the podium.

At age 27, Telford is still trying to give track all that she can. She currently works part-time, but eventually she’ll pursue a career in architecture after graduating from Carleton with bachelor and masters degrees. Finding the right balance between work and sport can be a challenge, she notes.

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“It kind of comes down to just being honest with myself about how much I can do,” Telford highlights. “If my gut tells me that if I say yes to something that I’m going to get burnt out and it might impact my training or it might impact my recovery and lead to injury, I have to listen to myself.”

Telford earned $400 for winning the women’s 400 m hurdles out of the CTFL’s total prize purse of $15,825. The young League aims to provide a professional platform and sponsors to Canadian athletics, with short made-for-TV meets and a team format.

Lyness, the CTFL founder, says they must be “doing something right” after seeing a 92% athlete return rate from last year and bringing in more elite talent this season. He adds that the CTFL also improved by providing a better experience for their athletes this year. They created content outside of the meets themselves as well, such as the ‘Day in the Life’ series (which featured Telford in Episode 2).

The CTFL will return for another season next spring with larger prize money, which is important to help athletes fund themselves, notes Lyness, who also hopes the League will take the next step and get on to larger news networks next season.

Ottawa athletes dip into prize purse

There were several other champions hailing from Ottawa in this year’s CTFL. With a time of 56.54 to win at the Final, Doyin Ogunremi led the women’s 400 m standings, while David Adeleye won the Final in 14.01 to claim the season’s men’s 110 m hurdles crown – just off his bronze medal-winning time of 13.98 at nationals.

Joshua Foster leapt 7.35 m at the Final to top the men’s long jump competition and help his Spitfires to the team title. Foster was joined by a big number of local athletes who contributed to the Spitfires’ championship-winning season, including Lauren Alexander, Zachary Bryant, Alex Collins, Audrey Goddard, Samuel Kinahan, Rebecca-Nyoka Maxwell, Maria Okwechime, Ieasha Parris and Sydney Smith.

It was almost an Ottawa sweep of the long jump. Okwechime was poised to take the women’s title, having led the standings leading into Final, but she had to settle for second overall while watching from the sidelines due to injury.

Okwechime suffered a hamstring strain prior to the national championships, and though she managed to compete very successfully in B.C., her coach advised her to pull out of the CTFL championship and spend the rest of the season recovering.

Maria Okwechime of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club posted the best distance in the women’s long jump at the Canadian Track and Field Championships on July 30 in Langley, B.C. Photo: Miles Ryan Rowat / Mundo Sport Images

Okwechime recorded the best mark by 3 cm at the Canadians with a leap of 6.13 m to match her personal-best, though she was not officially recognized as champion since she is not a Canadian citizen.

The 2021 Carleton University grad came to Canada from Nigeria to study psychology at the same school her older brother was attending. She is now going through the process of trying to gain Canadian citizenship, which she says has been long and complicated.

Okwechime is now hoping that both performance and paperwork will allow her to compete for Canada at next summer’s Olympic Games.

“That would be a dream,” indicates Okwechime, who jumped 6.23 m at the CTFL meet in London with a tailwind reading slightly over the allowable limit (the Paris 2024 entry standard for her event is 6.86 m).

“This is only my first year doing long jump, so I’m very new to the sport,” adds Okwechime. “To be able to be a six-metre jumper in my first year is incredible, so hopefully it works out.”

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