SAINT JOHN – Track and field athletes will be pursuing personal bests and meet records when they converge upon the Canada Games Stadium for the 2013 New Brunswick Athletics Championships on Saturday.
Saint John Track Club coach Bill MacMackin expects around 200 athletes will compete at the day-long event, which begins at 10 a.m. Also at stake is the Athletics NB club championship, a prize coveted by the reigning champions from Saint John.
“There’s a bit of a tradition in New Brunswick that the host team wins the club championship, said MacMackin. “We will take a certain amount of pride in keeping that tradition alive. We’ve been putting a push on to get our athletes out for the championships. It’s something to rally around – it creates a team atmosphere.”
The championship will be awarded to the club that accumulates the most points during the meet. Only two athletes, per event, can score points for their club, and only clubs registered with Athletics NB are eligible for the championship.
The meet also serves as a tuneup for athletes attending two major competitions this summer – the Canada Summer Games, which run from Aug. 2 to 17 at Sherbrooke, Que., and the Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships at Langley, B.C. from Aug. 7 to 13.
The Saint John club is well-represented at both events:
• New Brunswick’s Canada Games team includes Grace Annear of Hampton (800 metres, relays), Rachelle McDonald of Saint John (relays), Katie Robinson of Saint John (steeplechase), Daniel Brown of Hampton (relays), Jacob Hayes of Quispamsis (relays), Caleb Jones of Saint John (javelin), Nick MacMackin of Quispamsis (800 and 1,500 metres), Cameron McLennan of Rothesay (discus), Matthew McNeil of Saint John (1,500 and 5,000 metres), Alex Peabody of Saint John (relays) and Mitch Quigg of Saint John (javelin).
• Heading to the Legion meet are Josh Shanks of Chance Harbour (1,500 and 3,000 metres), Taylor Dunn of Fredericton (1,500 and 3,000 metres), Victoria LeBlanc of Saint John (300-metre hurdles, long jump), Laura Bonga of Saint John (1,500-metre steeplechase), Anthony Cormier of Saint John (300-metre hurdles, 400 metres), Brady Graves of Saint John (1,200 and 2,000 metres), Ben Fowler of Grand Bay-Westfield (octathlon), Sara Kean of Rothesay (800 and 1,200 metres) and the brother-sister tandem of Pierre Dumouchel (800 and 1,500 metres) and Danielle Dumouchel of Quispamsis (1,500-metre steeplechase).
“Most of the Legion team and more than half the Canada Games athletes will be competing Saturday,” said MacMackin. “Some athletes are dealing with injuries or have just finished competing at the Canadians juniors, so they may be taking time off. But there will be a lot of strong athletes at the event.”
The Saint John club comes into the meet riding a wave of top performances this season.
On Sunday, Shanks finished 12th in the 3,000-metre final at the World Youth Track and Field Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine. He posted a time of eight minutes, 50.16 seconds in a race dominated by Africans – Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha claimed the gold medal in a time of 7:53.56, edging out Kenyans Vedic Kipkoech and Alexander Mutiso Munyao.
The 16-year-old was the only Western hemisphere athlete to reach the final – a feat accomplished last Saturday when Shanks finished fifth in his semifinal heat in 8:32.36 – 18 seconds faster than his final time. He is currently ranked first in Canada in his age-class, and holds the New Brunswick record of 8:31.51.
Robinson, one of 52 athletes on New Brunswick’s Canada Games team, brought home the province’s only medal from the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships at Sainte-Thérèse, Que., last weekend when she posted a personal-best time of 7:05.83 in the 2,000-metre steeplechase to capture the bronze medal. She also turned in a personal-best time of 2:17.93 in the 800-metre semifinal heat to finish 12th.
Jones continued his ascension in the world of javelin throwing as the 22-year-old recently bagged a bronze medal at the 2013 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Moncton with a throw of 73.92 metres, breaking his own provincial record. He will represent New Brunswick at the Jeux de la Francophonie in Nice, France from Sept. 6 to 15.
Hampton’s Barry Britt posted a time of 14:03.48 at 5,000 metres for Idaho University Vandals during an NCAA meet in California in April, the third-fastest ever for a New Brunswicker. The record of 13:57.65 was set by former Olympian Joel Bourgeois of Grande-Digue in 2001. In May, the 23-year-old won the Western Athletic Conference 5,000 and 10,000-metre titles.
“They’ve performed well,” said MacMackin. “Another is Grace Annear, who had some fantastic times earlier in the season and has now put her head down and focused on having some great runs at the Canada Games.”
In January, the 20-year-old University of Victoria athlete finished third at an invitational meet in Seattle, Washington with a time of 2:10.29 that broke the New Brunswick senior women’s 800-metre indoor record of 2:11.92 set by Patti Blanchard in 1992. It was part of a successful indoor season where she broke both the 600 and 800-metre indoor provincial records, as well as being a member of UVic’s gold medal 4x800-metre relay team at the CIS Track and Field Championships.
In April at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford, California, she got her outdoor campaign off to a roaring start as she finished second her 800-metre heat in a time of 2:09.84, a personal best time by more than two seconds. (Blanchard’s outdoor record for the 800 is 2:07.02). Annear also performed well enough at the senior nationals to qualify for the Jeux de la Francophonie.
MacMackin would not be surprised if New Brunswick records fall on Saturday.
“One of the interesting things about an individual sport is that at any given time, someone can pull a great race together,” he said. “It can be a little random as to when that occurs – sometimes it’s result of being in the right race with the right positioning against the right competitors and it drags something out of you. You never know when it’s going to happen.
“Athletes on these provincial teams can hit personal bests at the right times. When these athletes can hold their form to the end of the season and improve, it shows they have prepared well, maintained their fitness and peaked for the national competitions. It is a testament to their training over the course of a season.”