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Josh Shanks, a runner with the Saint John Track Club, will be competing in an indoor track and field championship in Oromocto. Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal

Track

Lepreau runner hits stride on indoor circuit

SAINT JOHN – Josh Shanks of Lepreau will look to build upon his strong performance at the Montreal Youth Challenge when he joins some of the province’s finest track and field competitors for the 2013 New Brunswick Indoor Athletics Championships on Saturday in Oromocto.

It was one week ago in Montreal when the Grade 11 Saint John High School student posted a personal-best indoor time of 4:05.72 to finish second at 1,500 metres as part of a combined New Brunswick-Nova Scotia contingent.

Shanks is looking for another good result in the 1,500 at the provincial meet’s marquee event – the St. Thomas University Invitational – and hopes to break through another barrier at 3,000 metres.

“I’m feeling pretty good … I put up a good time in Montreal,” said the 17-year-old. “My goal is to keep running consistent times under four minutes 10 seconds for 1,500 metres. We’re also focusing on the 3,000, and I’d like to get under eight minutes 50 seconds.

“The big thing is consistency. Our club has great coaching – we’re all on the same page. So much has gone into putting momentum back into track and field in Saint John. Being part of that feels good.”

Plenty will be on the line during a big day in athletics at Camp Gagetown’s indoor facility as individual titles and a club championship are at stake. Competitive categories include peewee, bantam, midget, youth, junior, senior and master. Track events will be held at a multitude of distances, while field events include the long jump, triple jump, shot put and weight throw. It all starts at 9:30 a.m.

Bill MacMackin, who coaches Shanks along with renowned distance runner Alex Coffin, is encouraged by the early-season times.

“Josh had a great race in Montreal – he’s running well and training well,” said MacMackin. “When I look at how our distance runners are doing, Josh included, a lot of it is being done off a good, solid base – a lot of outdoor running and not a lot of specific speed work or sharpening. The fact he is able to post a personal best indoors off his core strength is great. The goal during the winter is to keep everyone healthy. So far, so good.”

Saint John enters the meet as reigning club champion – a competition where teams accumulate points based on individual performances. MacMackin said it goes beyond the competitive angle.

“We take it as an opportunity to encourage the kids to participate,” he said. “It’s a chance to unite club members for a common goal and have some fun with it versus the province’s other clubs.”

MacMackin has a dual role at the meet as a coach and athlete – he’ll be competing in the masters category in three races – 60, 300 and 600 metres. Other Saint John club members eyeing titles are: Nick MacMackin (1,500m and 800m); Sarah Kean (300m and 800m); Jake Hayes (60m and 200m); Pierre Dumouchel (8,000m); Brady Graves (1,200m and 2,000m); Alex Coffin (300m); Shannon Morris (shot put and weight throw); Paul Gauthier (shot put and weight throw); and Dave Jefferson (shot put and triple jump).

MacMackin is looking forward to the busy day, and said the men’s field for the STU Invitational looks promising.

“There are four or five guys at the top of the list who are 4:10 or better,” said MacMackin, noting his son, Nick, posted a sub-four-minute time – 3:58 – two weeks ago in Montreal. “It should be a fun race to watch. It’s a strong field, and that usually means a fast pace. It’s easier to run faster times in a pack that has a number of runners who are more evenly matched. They have a tendency to push harder, and the ability to work out of a group makes holding the pace through the latter stages of the race easier.”

Shanks recognizes there is a payoff to work done during the winter months.

“There’s definitely a big difference with winter training,” he said. “You focus more on general fitness as opposed to interval training and performance-specific stuff. You usually see a big difference in times once you get outside on the track. When we’re training, it’s important to have a quality workout. It also helps getting into fast races and keeping the pace. It’s all about being consistent right now, and peaking for the summer races. After my good result in Montreal, the coaches were saying how I’m ahead of the game, planning wise. I’m happy about that.”

It’s all points to one event Shanks has circled on the 2013 calendar - the national Legion championships Aug. 9 to 11 at Langley, B.C.

“I’d like to go to the nationals and medal again,” said Shanks, who earned a bronze medal in the youth division’s 3,000-metre event in 2012 after mining silver at 2,000 metres in the midget class in 2011.

MacMackin concurs.

“That is Josh’s number one priority,” said the coach. “He wants to medal – that’s the big goal for him. That’s what we try to do with the kids – focus on a goal and work with them on where they can have the most success.”