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Sudbury track stars shine in Sault Ste Marie

The SDSSAA performance at the NOSSA Track & Field Championships in Sault Ste Marie was an impressive one, to say the least, bookended by the new and the old of high-school competitors.

When it comes to reporting secondary school track and field results, the Novice Girls division typically leads the way, flowing all the way through to the Senior Boys at the tail-end.

Given that Sudbury representatives captured more than half of the total events that were contested last week in the Lock City, it’s fair to suggest that each and every age bracket enjoyed its fair share of success.

Topping the gold medal parade, however, were the Senior Boys (11 gold) and Novice Girls (10), with those groupings also accounting for two of the three three-event winners in the form of Kaeden Ward (LOE – Sr Boys – 1500m/3000m/2000m steeplechase) and Marymount Academy freshman Lucia Salmaso (800m/1500m/3000m).

Nicho Labrecque of Lo-Ellen rounded out the troika, finishing first in the same races as Salmaso in the Novice Boys category. Interestingly enough, the 14 year grade nine talent and long-time AAA hockey player does alter his strategy slightly, depending on the length of race.

“I like to take the lead and set the pace,” said Labrecque, whose parents both were accomplished track athletes back in their day. “In the 1500m, I just went for the win because I had two challenging races the next day. In the 800m, I had to push pretty hard, just to get the win.”

“But the 3000m is my favourite. I have the endurance and feel more comfortable with long distances – and if you make a mistake during the race, you have more time to recover.” Asked about what mistake might be likely, Labrecque went on to explain that he does not, generally speaking, have the same closing speed as some of his competitors.

“If the pack was close to me with 400 metres to go, that would have been a close race.”

That said, jumping out to the lead in both the 1500m and the 3000m at OFSAA is likely not a realistic option – Labrecque is dropping the 800m to focus on his best two events – meaning that for the first time this year, he might actually enjoy the chance to draft behind fellow runners.

“You just want to slide in behind them but make sure not to get boxed in, where you get stuck in a bad position and you can’t get to the outside.”

For Lockerby Composite senior Sydney Coe, the NOSSA meet offered the opportunity for a bit of redemption, doubling her gold medal output from cities to include a win in both the high jump and the pole vault in the second go around.

“I had only gone to one pole vault practice before the Sudbury meet,” stated Coe, a 17 year-old multi-sport teen who also excels in alpine skiing and competes with the GSSC Impact competitive soccer crew. “I had a tendency of dropping my head back before I was even in the air, so I couldn’t get up as high as I wanted to.”

“By NOSSA, they (my coaches) had moved me back a step, so I was taking an extra step before I was leaping in the air – and I was going at a faster speed.”

There is simply no denying the natural competitiveness that Coe exhibits, a trait she noticed when it came down to crunch time in the high jump in the Sault. “I feel when there are people that I have to jump against and beat, I perform better,” she explained. “When there were only two of us left (at NOSSA), she (Sophie Hietkamp – Manitoulin) didn’t have any faults before me; I had one.”

“I knew that if I missed my last jump, I would come in second. That just motivated me more to get over the last one.”

The truth of the matter is that NOSSA track and field championships are, by nature, typically replete with young athletes who excel in a whole variety of sporting platforms. Junior girls 400m and 300m hurdles champion Finlay Cuza of Lo-Ellen is the first to admit that her passion for nordic skiing supersedes her love of track, though it did not necessarily steer her towards to middle distance events in which cross-country competitors usually tackle on the track.

“I’ve always liked just going faster,” said Cuza. “Even in skiing, sometimes when we have sprint races, I generally enjoy those distances more. But in skiing, they aren’t offered very often. Now in track, given the opportunity, I wanted to do some shorter distances, just because there’s more speed involved.”

While Cuza has competed at city meets dating back to her very early days at R.H. Murray Public School (Whitefish), this is her first stab at the hurdles, with the long hurdles (300m-400m) offering some different challenges than the sprint/short hurdles.

“For the 300m hurdles, you can’t really count your steps – there’s too many steps between each hurdle – so you have to get good at going over the hurdles with either leg,” said Cuza. “At the beginning of the season, I definitely had a stronger leg (right leg). But with working on it and ending up at the hurdles on different legs, I feel that both are now pretty even.”

Cuza and the others will leave later this week for the Toronto Track & Field Centre at York University, site of OFSAA 2022. Though she has never been before, finding knowledge of the event is not all that difficult when a student calls Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School home.

“I’ve heard that OFSAA track is one of the biggest events – and one of the toughest to do well in,” said Cuza. “I did go to OFSAA for cross-country running, so I kind of know what it will be like – but I hear this is different on all counts.”

With COVID-19 having wiped out OFSAA Track 2020 and 2021, Lasalle Secondary senior Charlotte Eberlein is one of a small handful of SDSSAA entries who are actually making a return visit to the all-Ontario meet.

That’s all the more impressive given that the senior girls long jump champion and former competitive gymnast certainly wasn’t fixated on post-secondary track, still undecided about whether she might try and compete with the University of Ottawa when she tackles her first year of the Geology Physics program in the fall.

Through it all, Eberlein persevered.

“I’ve been working out throughout COVID to try and stay in shape as much as I could,” said the 18 year-old who first attended OFSAA as a grade nine Lancer back in 2019. “I love sports so much. For me, high school is all about having fun and doing sports; so many of our fun experiences come from sports.”

“I wanted to have the chance to go to another OFSAA.”

The reasons behind her desire have little if anything to do with mounting the podium, though they might surprise you. “The athletes are so good there and I would love to have the chance to compete with them again,” said Eberlein. “I finished near the bottom when I competed in grade nine, but I wasn’t even upset about it because I knew that I was competing against some of the best athletes in Ontario, maybe some of the best athletes in Canada.”

“I just think you have to take it all in and really have fun,” Eberlein added. “You get to see all of these amazing athletes and you’re almost in awe of how good they are.”

Following is a complete listing of the SDSSAA winners at NOSSA (to the best of my knowledge):

Novice Girls
Marin O’Malley (STB) - 100m dash - 13.51
Milena Kulik (LOE) - 200m dash - 28.55
Gracie Dale (LOE) - 400m - 1:07.04
Lucia Salmaso (MMT) - 800m - 2:35.77
Lucia Salmaso (MMT) - 1500m - 5:23.80
Lucia Salmaso (MMT) - 3000m - 11:50.77
Sidney Skrobot (LOE) - 80m hurdles - 14.31
Sidney Skrobot (LOE) - High Jump - 1.38m
Evelyn Holloway (LCS) - Pole Vault - 2.15m
Kayeisha Thomas (MMT) - Shot Put - 9.76m

Novice Boys
Adam Urso (STC) - 400m - 57.77
Nicho Labrecque (LOE) - 800m - 2:16.67
Nicho Labrecque (LOE) - 1500m - 4:45.64
Nicho Labrecque (LOE) - 3000m - 10:22.70
Logan Mannella (LAS) - 100m hurdles - 15.66
Corey Lacroix (LOE) - 300m hurdles - 46.19
Riley Graffi (LOE) - High Jump - 1.58m
Will Mackey (LAS) - Triple Jump - 10.52m

Junior Girls
Finlay Cuza (LOE) - 400m - 1:05.31
Lauren Pineau (LCS) - 800m - 2:26.77
Georgia Wilson (CFD) - 80m hurdles - 14.45
Finlay Cuza (LOE) - 300m hurdles - 50.78
Alissa Diavolitsis (LCS) - High Jump - 1.45m
Chloe Rinaldi (HOR) - Shot Put - 9.96m
Lo-Ellen Park Secondary - 4 X 100m relay - 55.14

Junior Boys
Jacob Barney (LOE) - 100m dash - 12.11
Sam Rice (LOE) - 1500m - 4:33.77
Sam Rice (LOE) - 3000m - 9:41.42
Caleb Lalonde (CHMP) - 100m hurdles - 16.66
Jacob Barney (LOE) - 300m hurdles - 47.98
Adam Scott (LOE) - High Jump - 1.65m
Corbin Appleby (LCS) - Pole Vault - 2.00m
Evan Abel (LIV) - Triple Jump - 11.17m
James Scott (STC) - Javelin - 42.37m

Senior Girls
Sophie Moore (LOE) - 100m hurdles - 17.46
Sydney Coe (LCS) - High Jump - 1.52m
Sydney Coe (LCS) - Pole Vault - 2.20m
Charlotte Eberlein (LAS) - Long Jump - 4.70m
Abigail Howsare (LCS) - Shot Put - 9.59m

Senior Boys
Brandon Radey (LAS) - 400m - 53.48
Liam Lacroix (LOE) - 800m - 2:07.14
Kaeden Ward (LOE) - 1500m - 4:23.64
Kaeden Ward (LOE) - 3000m - 9:44.05
Caden Fabbro (LOE) - 110m hurdles - 16.62
Ryan Rubic (LIV) - High Jump - 1.75m
Luca Graffi (LCS) - Pole Vault - 2.82m
Brady Ducharme (LCS) - Triple Jump - 11.85m
Cameron Shanks (LOE) - Shot Put - 12.14m
Ethan Scott (LOE) - Javelin - 43.45m
Kaeden Ward (LOE) - 2000m steeplechase - 7:06.83

Riley Cornthwaite (Intellectually Impaired)
100m dash - 15.58
800m run - 2:54.58

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