Without the standard provincial pathway competition in place for the summer of 2022, it was tough to know exactly what to make of the Legion District Track and Field meet that was staged over the weekend in Sudbury.
Yes, numbers were down a little as the sport, like so many others, battles its way back to some semblance of the pre-Covid era.
But the truth is that Legion Nationals (National Youth Track & Field Championships) remain on the calendar, with Sherbrooke (PQ) hosting from August 5th to the 7th. As well, the first Ontario Summer Games since 2018 are set to take place in Mississauga from July 21st to the 24th.
And to top things off, there were a solid handful of noteworthy performances on Saturday at the Laurentian University Track Complex, with a few records broken and a glut of kids entered in the U11 and U13 divisions, for a change.
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the event itself is as difficult to pigeon-hole into a simple single theme as it is to try and group all of the athletes in a single fashion, with everyone looking to walk away with something a little different from Legion District Track this year.
Now several months into her training, Manitoulin Secondary junior Maren Kasunich looked to the meet as perhaps the icing on the cake, capturing the girls 17 & under 1500m race (5:10.84), as well as the 3000m (10:55.47) and the 2000m steeplechase (7:41.75), setting new records in both of the latter two distances.
“The season has been kind of long and I’m ready to settle down for the summer,” said Kasunich, who mixed in a little volleyball and gymnastics and a healthy approach to academics during her 2021-2022 school year in M’Chigeeng. “When we get into the season, I start jogging for fun and then doing light interval workouts two or three times a week.”
“I do weight resistance workouts and training on my own – and intervals with my coach (Gerry Holliday).”
Earlier in June, the talented middle distance runner competed at OFSAA for the first time, sharing a story that is reminiscent of so many northern athletes who have gone before. “It’s so different,” said Kasunich, who cracked the top ten by finishing 9th in the 3000m in a time of 10:23.70.
“In my 1500m and 3000m, I got like eighth and ninth – and I ran even faster than I ran today. There are some insane runners there. It’s a blow to the ego, for sure.”
That said, some teens find themselves able to simply go with the flow a little better in the intense environment that is OFSAA, including Marymount Regals grade nine thrower Kayiesha Thomas, who swept the 15 and under girls javelin (30.91m), shot put (11.08m) and discus (17.50m) on Saturday.
“At first, it was super intimidating (at OFSAA), but as soon as I made my first throw, it was okay and I got into it,” said Thomas, who qualified for two of her three events following the NOSSA meet in Sault Ste Marie. “I got a new PB in the javelin (25.19M) but didn’t do as well as I believe that I could have done in the shot put – but still did pretty well.”
Still, it’s all pretty heady stuff for a 14 year old who had really only a short crack at the softball toss a few years back prior to being encouraged by teacher/coach Tina Trudeau to give these new throws a shot this spring. Keep in mind that for as much as there is a strength component to all three, there is also plenty to differentiate the trio of field events.
“In the javelin, you have a run up which gives you momentum,” explained Thomas. “As soon as you get to the line, you have to do crossovers which force you to twist and pull over. With the shot put, I start backwards, so I twist and then I turn and then I have to push outwards instead of throwing it up.”
“With the discus, I have to wind up and start with my legs further apart and have to fling my arm which gives me the momentum to throw, and then flick it off my finger to make it spin. Miss Trudeau taught me that.”
One of several members of the Air Blastoff contingent coached by Robert Esmie on hand on Saturday, Mélina Doiron will have a few options at her disposal as she prepares to start high-school at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary in the fall, walking off with first place ribbons in the 15 and under girls 100m dash (13.05 seconds – new record), 200m dash (27.48 seconds) and the triple jump (9.59m).
“Honestly, I am not sure what I want to do, but I do really like the triple jump,” said the grade eight student at LOE Intermediate School. “I just got a new highest record today (PB) – but I really think I will keep doing the 100m and 200m in high school.”
“They are very good races for me.”
Joining Air Blastoff earlier this year, the triple gold medal winner at the Rainbow Champions meet last week noticed an immediate change to her practice routine. “He (Esmie) makes you train a lot more and stuff,” she said. “It’s really difficult, but it’s really fun.”
“You get a lot more of a push.”
Other local multiple event winners on the girls side on Saturday included Ava Bebawy (U11 – 200m and HJ), Adrielle Charette (U13 – 100m/200m/300m), Megan Pineau (U13 – 800m/1200m), Maggie Polischuk (U13 – HJ and shot put), Aimie Remillard (U17 – 100m/200m) and Lucia Salmaso (U15 – 800m; U17 – 400m).
On the boys side, the potential for the future is easy to see with first place finishers Nehemiah Esmie (U11 – 100m/200m and LJ), Drew Herranen (U11 – HJ and TJ), Janssen Fransen (U13 – 100m/200m and LJ) and Liam Lacroix (17U – 400m/800m).