For the overwhelming majority of SDSSAA athletes who competed at the 2022 OFSAA Track and Field Championships late last week in Toronto, this was their first taste of what it feels like to be in the company of the truly elite of their particular discipline, an eye-opening experience, to say the least.
In that sense, the fact that Sudbury was shutout of podium placements is certainly not the end of the world. It’s happened before, many times over.
What will be intriguing is how the local talent now reacts to what they just witnessed.
Of the twelve performances of athletes who ranked in the top half of their field (a top twelve placement, if you will), all but three came from teens competing in either the novice (grade nine) or junior (grade 10) divisions, including the top two local finishers: Kendra Shanks (Lo-Ellen) – junior girls discus and James Scott (St Charles) – junior boys javelin.
Both earned fifth place ribbons, with Lo-Ellen freshman Corey Lacroix earning a spot in the novice boys 100m hurdles final (6th place) and Lasalle para-intellectual sensation Riley Cornthwaite adding a 7th place finish at York to his silver medal from OFSAA Cross-Country last fall.
Heading to Carleton University in the fall, Lockerby Composite senior Brady Ducharme cracked the top eight in the boys triple jump with a leap of 13.29 metres, while Sydney Coe (Lockerby – SG – High Jump), Chloé Rinaldi (Horizon – JG – Shot Put), Finlay Cuza (Lo-Ellen – JG – 300m hurdles), Adam Urso (St Charles – NB – 400m) and the Knights junior boys 4 X 100m relay team also all finished in the top ten.
There is definitely some potential in track and field locally - should any of those who travelled to the GTA last week decide that some extra time invested in their sport might be well worth the effort. The fact is many of those who might be medal contenders are also multi-sport athletes, with no guarantees that track and field necessarily tops their list of athletic interests.
A member of the Sudbury U18 AA Lady Wolves team, Shanks had to do some balancing of her already busy schedule, asked to add both the javelin and discus to the shot put which she had some familiarity with from her elementary school days.
“When I was preparing for the city meet, I was doing about ten minutes with each, focusing on all three,” said the 15 years old youngest of three athletic children in the family. “I thought my best one would be the shot put. At first, I could not throw the discus flat; it was always coming out all wobbly.”
“That was the hardest one for me to get, so that was the one I practiced the most. As I practiced, I kind of got the hang of it, the technique, and it all kind of came together at the right time.”
Having never thrown with a spin, Shanks set a new PB of 24.07m on her first throw, extending that nicely two attempts later (27.26m) and earning herself three extra tosses by placing in the top eight.
“As soon as I started spinning, it gave me the extra momentum which really helped,” said Shanks. “But also what helped was my confidence. As soon as I threw that 27, I knew that I could do this, that I could place really well. I think that made my throws more consistent, just because I thought I could do it.”
Side note - "one to watch" - while the entire junior girls discus field, from 2nd to 20th place, registered throws ranging from 20 to 30 metres, first place finisher Julia Tunks was in an orbit of her own.
The daughter of Canadian Olympic discus thrower Jason Tunks captured the event with a heave that travelled 53.43m, breaking the national interscholastic record. In fact, her five throws (she had one fault) ranged from 50.42m to 53.43m, more than double the distance of half of the field.
"I just threw 24 and I was thinking, I'm pretty good," said Shanks with a laugh. "And then she just went wild. I was like - OMG. You could see it in her spin. Her spin was incredible, her technique was amazing."
Of course, when you benefit from first picking up the sport at the age of nine and you're competing against athletes who first picked it up two months ago, well, the results are somewhat predictable. The good news is, the gap will close; it always does.
Hitting distances of 10.40m to 10.50m in practices, Chloé Rinaldi knew she could do it. But after capturing the city title with a throw of 10.44m, she would slip back slightly, still winning gold at NOSSA and then making some noise at her first all-Ontario competition, with both results somewhat understandable.
“At NOSSA, the weather didn’t co-operate so well, so a lot of the throwers that were there did not throw as well as we normally do,” noted the well-spoken 16 year-old grade ten student with the Aigles. “At OFSAA, it was a lot of nerves. It was a very big event and different atmosphere to what I am used to, so I was a bit shaken up.”
Still, she is adamant about returning next year, as well as adding the javelin and discus to her arsenal. It’s all very impressive (placing in the top ten), when one considers her technical background in the throwing events. “I looked a lot on You Tube because we really didn’t have a shot put coach,” said Rinaldi, who was first tapped in grade seven at Foyer-Jeunesse, largely on the fact that she was a pretty decent baseball player in Valley East.
“Most of our coaches were for the running part of track. I did a lot of researching and watching some of the Olympians throw – and my father threw some shot put in high-school, so he was able to help me a little bit.”
That said, Rinaldi is a highly attentive student of her discipline, a fact that shines through as she discusses her continued growth in the shot put.
“I’m hoping to try some different techniques with my footing,” she said. “I’m still using the basic shuffle throw that I used in grade seven. Going to NOSSA and OFSAA, I saw a lot of different techniques using some rotation to get more power.”
“I’m hoping to try some of those out.”
You Tube, it appears, is often the go to for the start of local throwing talent. Tapping into a base of instruction from St Charles teacher/coach Mike Lariviere and supplementing that with some on-line learnings - "I would watch videos and take a rake and throw it around my backyard for a few hours" - James Scott was able to stand alongside Kendra Shanks as city best in 2022.
For this 15 year-old, however, this was his first at the throwing events. "When I watched the Olympics, I had seen people throwing the javelin and thought it was really cool," said Scott.
"It was very different from any other throwing style. You don't throw it like a baseball, you don't throw it like a football - it's very unique." Though he would win gold at the city championships in both the shot put and javelin, it was the latter that qualified him for OFSAA, improving from 35.70m to 42.37m in the process.
An avid researcher of the numbers, Scott was well aware of what his competitors were throwing heading into provincials, what it would take to beat them.
"I practiced a lot, a little too much practice, actually," he said. "And it was definitely stressful, the first major athletic event I had ever been to. I was doing very poorly at the start."
A fault combined with a toss of 35 metres left the grade 10 St Charles junior looking up a three quarters of the field. "I was in 18th place and I knew I needed top eight to get three more throws."
"I had one last chance and needed a PB. I really focused, buckled down and got it done," noted Scott, who hit 43.05m on his third throw before bumping that standard up another couple of metres on his last attempt.
Now, he looks to the spring of 2023. "For me, I think it's most important to practice the technique until you have it down to muscle memore," said Scott. "Then, even if you're stressed out at a meet, your body still knows how to do it."
With their first OFSAA Track meet behind them, locals have something to build upon. As Lo-Ellen coach Colin Ward noted in a conversation on Monday, many of the first-timers struggled with the atmosphere on day one, but by Saturday, almost all were hitting new personal bests.
Following is a listing of all SDSSAA athletes who qualified for OFSAA, a very noteworthy accomplishment, in and of itself (based on our best efforts to ensure that no one was missed - if so, kindly email Randy Pascal at firstname.lastname@example.org - thanks)JG – Discus – Kendra Shanks (LOE) – 27.26 (5th)
JB – Javelin – James Scott (STC) – 45.55m (5th)
NB – 100m hurdles – Corey Lacroix (LOE) – 15.17 (6th) *qualified for final; 15.11 in final (6th)
SB – Triple Jump – Brady Ducharme (LCS) – 13.29m (8th)
IP – 800m - Riley Cornthwaite (LAS) – 2:41.23 (9th) *qualified for final; 2:41.96 in final (7th)
SG – High Jump – Sydney Coe (LCS) – 1.55m (9th)
JG – Shot Put - Chloe Rinaldi (HOR) – 10.04m (9th)
JG – 300m hurdles – Finlay Cuza (LOE) – 48.96 (10th)
JG – 4 X 100m relay – Lo-Ellen – 53.02 (10th)
NB – 400m – Adam Urso (STC) – 54.69 (10th)
JB – 300m hurdles – Jacob Barney (LOE) – 43.22 (11th)
NB – High Jump – Riley Graffi (LOE) – 1.60m (11th)
NB – 300m hurdles – Corey Lacroix (LOE) – 44.44 (11th)
NG – 100m dash – Marin O’Malley (STB) – 12.94 (11th)
SB – Javelin – Ethan Scott (LOE) – 45.05m (12th)
JB – Triple Jump – Evan Able (LIV) – 12.04 (12th)
NB – Javelin – Brayden Bertrand (SC) – 38.58m (12th)
SG – Long Jump – Charlotte Eberlein (LAS) – 4.92m (13th)
JB – Pole Vault – Corbin Appleby (LCS) – 2.30m (13th)
NB – 100m hurdles – Logan Manella (LAS) – 15.47 (13th)
NG – 800m – Lucia Salmaso (MMT) – 2:26.12 (13th)
NG – Shot Put – Kayeisha Thomas (MMT) – 9.69m (13th)
JB – High Jump - Adam Scott (LOE) – 1.65m (14th)
JG – 800m – Lauren Pineau (LCS) – 2:24.62 (14th)
NG – Javelin – Kayeisha Thomas (MMT) – 25.19m (14th)
NG – Pole Vault – Evelyn Holloway (LCS) – 2.00m (14th)
IP – 100m - Riley Cornthwaite (LAS) – 14.42 (15th)
JB – 3000m – Sam Rice (LOE) – 9:25.49 (15th)
NG – 200m – Milena Kulik (LOE) – 27.25 (15th)
SB – Pole Vault – Luca Graffi (LCS) – 2.70m (16th)
SG – Shot Put – Abigail Howsare (LCS) – 8.77m (16th)
SG – Pole Vault – Sydney Coe (LCS) – 2.10m (16th)
SG – Pole Vault – Kaija Beljo (LCS) – 2.10m (17th)
JG – High Jump – Alissa Diavolitsis (LCS) – 1.35m (17th)
NB – 800m – Shiloh Sauve (LOE) – 2:10.52 (17th)
NB – 3000m – Nicho Labrecque (LOE) – 10:11.99 (17th)
NB – Long Jump – Nicholas Bechard (CND) – 5.39m (17th)
NG – High Jump – Kali Clement (LAS) – 1.35m (17th)
IP – 800m – David Barber (SSS) – 3:21.31 (18th)
SB – High Jump – Ryan Rubic (LIV) – 1.70m (18th)
SB – Pole Vault – Eli Gerhardt (LCS) – 2.20m (18th)
JG – 80m hurdles – Georgia Wilson (CFD) – 13.86 (18th)
JB – 100m hurdles – Caleb Lalonde (CHMP) – 16.14 (18th)
NB – Discus - Owen Gatchell (CFD) – 29.60m (18th)
SB – 4 X 100m relay – Lo-Ellen – 46.74 (19th)
SB – Shot Put – Cameron Shanks (LOE) – 12.16 (19th)
SG – Pole Vault – Maeve Caddel (LOE) – 1.80m (19th)
JB – 1500m – Nolan Kuhlberg (LOE) – 4:20.28 (19th)
JB – Javelin – Beckett Smith (ESMC) – 34.78m (19th)
JB – 300m hurdles – Owen Dobson (LOE) – 45.57 (19th)
JG – Long Jump – Maeve Sullivan (LCS) – 4.43m (19th)
JG – 100m dash – Aimie Remillard (BAC) – 13.29 (19th)
NB – Triple Jump – Gabe Gauvreau (LAS) – 10.85m (19th)
NB – 4 X 100m relay – LOE – 49.70 (19th)
NG – Javelin – Keena Richard (LCS) – 22.91m (19th)
NG – High Jump – Kaylee St Pierre (CFD) – 1.30m (19th)
IP – 100m dash – David Barber (SSS) – 17.02 (20th)
SB – 400m – Brandon Radey (LAS) – 52.94 (20th)
SB – Shot Put – Owen MacDonald (LIV) – 11.97 (20th)
SB – 110m hurdles – Luke Vrbanic (LOE) – 16.75 (20th)
SG – 100m hurdles – Sophie Moore (LOE) – 17.25 (20th)
JG – Finlay Cuza (LOE) – 1:04.73 (20th)
JG – Triple Jump – Aimie Remillard (BAC) – 9.53m (20th)
JG – 300m hurdles – Tara Guse (MMT) – 52.59 (20th)
JG – 3000m – Georgia Lepage (STB) – 11:35.88 (20th)
NG – 80m hurdles – Sidney Skrobot (LOE) – 14.43 (20th)
NG – 400m – Gracie Dale (LOE) – 1:04.68 (20th)
NG – 4 X 100m relay – LOE – 55.23 (20th)
NB – Triple Jump – Will Mackey (LAS) – 10.84m (20th)
NB – 200m – Nicholas Bechard (CND) – 24.37 (20th)
SB – 400m – Liam Lacroix (LOE) – 53.03 (21st)
SB – 400m hurdles – Travis Annett (LCS) – 1:06.12 (21st)
SB – 3000m – Kaeden Ward (LOE) – 9:19.10 (21st)
JG – 4 X 100m relay – Lockerby – 54.77 (21st)
JB – 3000m – Liam Binks (LCS) – 9:48.73 (21st)
NB – 4 X 100m relay – Lasalle – 50.25 (21st)
SB – 1500m – Kaeden Ward (LOE) – 4:31.01 (22nd)
JB – 400m – Atom Thususka (LCS) – 54.93 (22nd)
JB – 100m dash – Jacob Barney (LOE) – 12.02 (22nd)
JB – 800m – Russell Joiner (LOE) – 2:11.38 (22nd)
JG – 1500m – Lauren Pineau (LCS) – 5:05.95 (22nd)
JG – 80m hurdles – Alissa Diavolitsis (LCS) – 14.51 (22nd)
JB – 1500m – Sam Rice (LOE) – 4:26.30 (22nd)
JG – 4 X 100m relay – Bishop Carter – 56.81 (22nd)
JB – 4 X 100m relay – Bishop Carter – 49.23 (22nd)
SB – Discus – Harrison Wilson (CFD) – 21.93m (23rd)
SB – 800m – Liam Lacroix (LOE) – 2:04.33 (23rd)
NG – 1500m – Lucia Salmaso (MMT) – 5:10.65 (23rd)
NG – Shot Put – Cameron O’Daiskey (BAC) – 8.22m (23rd)
NB – 3000m – Shiloh Sauve (LOE) – 10:50.41 (LOE) (23rd)
NB – Shot Put – Isaac Jeanveau (BAC) – 10.34m (23rd)
2000m steeplechase – Sophia Oommen (LOE) – 8:23.64 (24th)
2000m steeplechase – Travis Annett (LCS) – 7:12.64 (24th)
SB – 110m hurdles – Caden Fabbro (LOE) – 17.26 (24th)
SG – 400m hurdles – Sierra Boyuk (BAC) – 1:19.62 (24th)
NB – 1500m – Nicho Labrecque (LOE) – 4:46.74 (24th)
NB – 300m hurdles – Clark van Drunen (LCS) – 48.88 (24th)
NB – Shot Put – Brayden Bertrand (SC) – 9.77m (24th)
NG – Shot Put – Caedene Troscinski (BAC) – 8.01m (24th)