Saint John Track Club snares provincial title

SAINT JOHN – Tradition continued at the Canada Games Stadium on Saturday as the Saint John Track Club beat out eight others for the team title at the New Brunswick Outdoor Track and Field Championships, an honour typically won by the host team.

“It sort of becomes of numbers game,” SJTC coach Bill MacMackin said with a laugh. He estimated 180 athletes competed in the one-day event. “The more athletes you can put on the field the better chance you’ve got.”

But it didn’t hurt having some top talent to boot.

Jason Reindl juggles three coaching roles between the Saint John Track Club, University of New Brunswick and the province as a high-performance coach.

Reindl pointed out two stars – Ben Fowler and Victoria LeBlanc – who did well at Saturday’s track meet, whom he expects to shine again in three weeks at the Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships at Langley, B.C.

Fowler will compete in the octathalon at nationals, and on Saturday he placed first in each of his individual events – javelin, shot put and 110-metre hurdles.

Reindl watches as the 17-year-old readies himself, hand cocked, javelin relaxed in his grip. When he lets it fly, it wobbles slightly from the force and sinks into the grass, usually around the 50-metre mark. He doesn’t beat his personal best (52.59-metres) but he’s close at 51.59.

Reindl said that’s a good sign.

“You get that energy, that excitement going and so this shows us that everything is going very well and allows me to sleep easy,” he said, adding if things keep progressing the way they have, Fowler is in position to beat the provincial record in points and take the gold.

Fowler said he’s changed a lot in the last year, after a concussion and a sixth-place finish. He quit volleyball and basketball and said training with Reindl, who was hired in March 2012, has made a huge difference in his focus.

“I train pretty much every day,” said Fowler who went from twice a week practices last year, to full-time focus on track. “I just want to be the best and it’s something you have to earn.”

In the background, the loud blast of a start gun springs runners into action and over a loud speaker a male voice blares names of winners and their personal achievements.

Victoria LeBlanc, 15, finished first in the 200-metre sprint, clocking a time of 27.10-seconds, her second notch after a win in 300-metre hurdles.

Long jump is her forte, but she took a break this weekend, approaching it as a practice meet to prepare her for nationals in B.C. where she hopes to get personal bests and maybe medal.

LeBlanc is also a competitive gymnast, but she said it’s more than the competition that keeps her engaged.

“I like it because you have great travel opportunities and you meet a lot of neat people from different places,” she said.

Both athletes say they have Olympics in their sights, but first thing’s first with the Legion championship.

“Today’s not really about surprises,” said Reindl, who will going to the nationals in B.C. from from Aug. 7-13 and then head over to the Canada Summer Games, which run Aug. 2-17 at Sherbrooke, PQ. “It’s going to be a long nine days,” he said.

He said he’s happy to hear the Saint John athletes are looking beyond provincial placements – and it means he’s doing his job.

“I’m the guy trying to make sure we rise higher and higher,” adding he’s starting to see in the athletes “the Josh Shanks effect,” referring to the 16-year-old who just finished 12th at the World Youth Track and Field.

He said Saint John – which is sending 11 of the 36 provincial athletes to the nationals and 12 of the 48 provincial athletes to the Summer Games – is well-positioned to dreaming of placing on an national and international stage.

“We’re leading in numbers, we’re leading in medals,” Reindl said. “We’re having a very good year.”