Athletes Shine Despite The Heat
It was a whirling hot, record-breaking weekend at the 35th annual Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships, held Aug. 4-8 at the Terry Fox Athletics Facility in Ottawa.
Nearly 1,000 young athletes from across Canada flocked to Ottawa to participate in what is one of the largest and most important sporting events of their athletic season.
Despite the incredible number of talented competitors and record-breakers, this year in Ottawa was really a show stolen by one guy: the fastest teenager around, the red streak, the undoubted star of the whole event. This was Brandon McBride, a 17-year-old from Windsor, Ont., who managed to win both the 800-metre and 400-metre runs and smash both the Canadian youth records while doing it.
What made McBride’s 46.83 second 400-metre victory on Saturday afternoon even more impressive was that he did it in a sweltering haze—very difficult conditions in which to break a record. And he performed much the same feat on Sunday in the 800-metre with a time of 1:48.41 seconds.
This was McBride’s third time at the Legion championships, and the future Olympic-hopeful is no longer second-guessing his recent decision to quit basketball, his other sporting love, and focus full-time on running. “I’m gonna try (to go to the Olympics),” he said after his victories. “I don’t know if they’ll take me. I got some seconds to take off, and a couple years to do it.”
McBride gets his desire to run from a unique place. “I just love running. I just love it,” he said. “When I was younger, my house was far away from all my friends’ places and so I used to have to jog half-an-hour to hang out with my friends. I’d do that every day.
“When I’d arrive, they asked me how I got there.” And with a big smile McBride concludes. “I said. ‘I ran.’”
But McBride wasn’t the only sprinter to make a mark at the Legion nationals. In the girls’ 17-and-under 100-metre dash, Khamica Bingham destroyed the Legion record of 11.69 with a monstrously powerful run of 11.55. While it just happened that the record she beat was one she herself had set in 2010, she was only a hundredth of a second from tying the Canadian record of 11.54. From track level, Bingham’s run was a nearly unbelievable blast of strength; her cleats seemed to be tearing the track apart as she blew past.
Records fell, too, in the longer runs and relays. Quebec’s Anne-Marie Comeau won the 1,200-metre run in the girls’ 15-and-under division with a time of 3:35.33, beating the old Legion record by just over a second. And in the 17-and-under 4×100-metre relay, Team Quebec won gold with their timeof 46.58 and beat the Legion record in the process. The team of Clemence Paiement, Marie Colombe St-Pierre, Sarah Bedard and Caroline Morin-Houde, were ecstatic at the result.
After the day’s competition had ended, it was time for the official opening ceremony. After interesting, if lengthy, speeches from local MPP Bob Chiarelli and Ottawa Deputy Mayor Eli El-Chantiry, Local Arrangements Chairman Barry Young came to the microphone and, with his brevity, earned the largest cheer of the night. “Welcome to Ottawa,” he said. “Enjoy the competition and good luck.” The crowd of teenage athletes erupted with pleasure.
Dominion President Pat Varga and Dominion Command Sports Committee Chairman Dave Flannigan also spoke.
“It is fitting that both the Legion teams and the open-class athletes are gathered here to mark the 65th anniversary of the Canadian founding of peacekeepingas we know it today,” said Flannigan. “Your appearance at this event is on behalf of Canadian veterans, who performed yeoman service all over this world. They performed it in the past, now, and will do so in the future.”
As for Varga, she whipped the Saskatchewan portion of the crowd into an instant frenzy by cheering on the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team and generally welcoming everyone to the event with tremendous energy and happiness.
It wasn’t only the runners though who were feeling the record-breaking spirit this year, as yet another Legion best-ever was crushed in a somewhat unlikely event called the 17-and-under 3,000-metre walk. The old Legion record of 16.13.10 set by Rachel Inglis in 2010 was smashed by Hana Ready—who also holds the Legion record in the 1,500-metre walk—in a relatively scorching time of 15:46.84, which is about five seconds slower than the Canadian youth record of 15:41.22.
In non-record breaking news, the event did have another standout competitor by the name of Nathaniel Mechler, 14, of the Speed River Track and Field Club in Guelph, Ont. He competed in the pentathlon—a five-event test of endurance and skill comprising of 100-metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 1,000-metre run. It’s not surprising that he won, because he was in fact the only competitor.
Running the last track event on his own, the crowd yelled their support as he circled. “It’s pretty hard,” he said with great humility after the event was complete. “There’s no one else to go after, no one to race.”
On late Sunday afternoon, Team Alberta-Northwest Territories not only dominated one of the day’s final and most important events—the girls 17-and-under 4×400-metre relay—they actually set a new Canadian youth record with their time of 3:45.32.
After the race, the team of Ellie Hirst, Jenna Westaway, Alexa Hrycun and Sage Watson, collapsed just behind the finish line and took off their shoes and socks. A lengthy if exhausted celebration ensued until eventually, with a simple “walk it out girls,” the team got up in their bare feet and padded away across the asphalt, the fastest four girls in Canada.
While the event was now over and the winners duly crowned, there was still much more in store for the young athletes. On Monday morning, several busloads of sleepy youth arrived at the Canadian Peacekeeping Monument in downtown Ottawa to pay their respects to Canada’s current and historic commitments to peace and security.
Later that night, the athletes dressed up in their finest clothes for a dinner and dance in the most fitting location possible—the Lebreton Gallery at the Canadian War Museum. There, amid all the planes and tanks from wars past and present, Canada’s best young athletes celebrated their freedom.
The 2012 Legion Canadian Youth Athletic Championships will be held next August in Charlottetown.