Looking in on Legion track
by Randy Pascal
Come the weekend of August 11th to the 13th, many of the top young track and field athletes in the country will be gathering in Brandon (Manitoba),
site of the 2017 Legion National Youth Track & Field Championships.
For local hopefuls, the first step of that journey took place on Saturday at the Laurentian University track, as the Legion District H
meet was hosted under near ideal conditions. While the event itself extends down to include youngsters 11 years of age and younger, the final two rungs of
the ladder (provincials and nationals) are open only to those competing in either a 15U or 17U classification.
A record setting high jumper in her elementary school days, Jaclyn Groom of Lockerby Composite overcame a major knee injury a few years
back, remaining one of the most versatile athletes in the city. That skill-set was front and center at the Legions, when the now 17 year old Viking opted
to tackle the heptathlon, a combination of events which drew on some of her more familiar track background, along with jumping into some completely new
“I started doing this a few months back, and I try and train six days a week for it, so I can get all of the events in,” said Groom. “I’ve found I had a
lot of trouble with high jump, which is weird, because I used to do it a lot – but I haven’t done it in a while. The throws are new too – I haven’t done
throwing events before – and the javelin has a lot to it.”
Still, the heptathlon seemed like a pretty good fit for Groom, given her current stage of development. “It’s something that my coaches and I thought
would maybe be good for me,” she said. “I’m good at the jumps, and I’m OK with the sprints, and they figured if we put it all together, I might make a
pretty good heptathlete.” Groom finished first with a total score of 3587.
Over on the track, Nathalie Marks de Chabris from Lo-Ellen captured first place in both the 800m run and 2000m steeplechase, making her
attempt to narrow down a priority event moving forward somewhat easier than the dilemma that Groom was facing. That decision was made even easier when
Marks de Chabris reeled off her fourth straight personal best time in the 800m win, following up the high school trilogy of PBs (SDSSAA, NOSSA, OFSAA) with
a new best mark of 2:25.80 on Saturday.
“I was thinking my target at the beginning of the season was 2:25, but I got that today, so my new target, I think, is going to be 2:20, or sub 2:20,”
she said. “For next year, that would put me in the pack with those girls at OFSAA.”
Completing her grade 10 campaign and second year with the Knights, Marks de Chabris understands full well that as a typical middle distance runner, her
favourite and best-suited event might be something of a moving target. “I think it’s the 800m, actually,” she said.
“I’ve improved so much since last year, getting 2:40 last year and now 2:25. That’s a really big difference for me. I used to be a 1500m runner, I really
liked that race last year. But I tried the 800m this year and I think that’s really where I am leaning, and really want to concentrate on that next year.”
Coming off a pair of record setting performances at a Rainbow Elementary Board meet two weeks ago, Alison Symington can still demonstrate
the patience to take the time to scope out where she eventually finds her most natural strength in track and field. Racking up a pair of first place ribbons
in both the 13U 800m (2:32.30) and 1200m (4:06.98), Symington is really still just getting her bearings when it comes to elite level athletics.
“This is the first year I’ve really trained,” noted the grade seven student at Lo-Ellen Elementary. “Miss Yauk is our track teacher. We train
every day and she really pushes us.” Come the Rainbow Champions meet next week, Symington will compete in the 800m and 1500m tandem, having run shorter
distances in prior years. “It’s less stressful now. If you have a bad start, you have lots of time to catch up.”
Like Marks de Chabris, this potential future Knight seems to really find her stride when it comes to races covering two full laps of the 400 metre
track. “I ran 2:37 in the 800m last week, and 2:32 today,” said Symington. “I’m going for 1:15 in each lap, so 2:30 is my goal.”
Celebrating his 12th birthday on April 28th, Cale Bast of Northeastern was sitting third in the long jump, trailing only a pair of
competitors both one year older (Dax Mazzuchin and Chase Lefebvre) when his meet came to a sudden halt.
“I was on my last jump and I was going to take my run up,” stated Bast, who secured two first place finishes and a second place as well, competing at
his school meet last week. “I was on my last step and about to do my takeoff, and then I don’t even know what happened. It felt like something popped
While he may miss the Rainbow Relay meet later this week, he is hoping to be back for the Champions Meet on June 21st. If not, there is still
plenty of time and potential that lies ahead. “I want to be more serious about track and field,” Bast admitted. “I’m not sure why, it’s just fun.”
“We do after school track practices, and start with doing a warm-up game, and then we will set up high jump mats and we will do some sort of endurance
training on the mats (typically triple jump simulations), so that when you get to the pit, it will be easier.”
The District H team that will compete in mid-July in Windsor is expected to be named within the next 7-10 days or so, with several local high schoolers
expected to make a serious bid at cracking the roster.