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Dylen Belanger, Mason Basson and Brianna Rand, win U20 medals among a
group of eight athletes at the Canadian track and field championships
August 4, 2023
By Rob J. Ross
LANGLEY, B.C. - Dylen Belanger, Brianna Rand and Mason Basson, brought home medals from Canada's top national athletics meet.
The trio led a group of eight athletes from St. Thomas - Elgin County and Thames Center, at the 2023 Canadian track and field senior and U20 championships, July 27-30, in Langley, B.C.
Belanger had the top result bringing home a silver medal in the U20 men's 400-metre hurdles, finishing the race in 56.08 seconds.
"It's a good feeling because I know I still have more potential to do better when I'm at my best. I was dealing with some pain before my race, but thankfully I was able to push it to the back of my mind and it wasn't too noticeable during the race," said Belanger, who had a hip flexor issue, following two rounds of the 110-meter hurdles. "I'm definitely glad I still chose to race and the outcome was great as well."
Nicholas Tozer won gold in 55.43 seconds.
Belanger was fifth in the U20 110-meter hurdles (14.84 sec.) final.
Prior to provincials in early July, the 19-year old from St. Thomas suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss 10 days of training.
"I think the major impact it had on my season was simply not getting enough race experience," said Belanger. "When it comes to hurdles, that's as important as being in top shape."
Rand landed a bronze in U20 women's triple jump with a best effort of 11.83 metres, a first medal at a National meet for the 19-year old from Dorchester.
"I'm really happy about bringing home a medal especially with how well everyone performed in the event," Rand said. I'm feeling really good with how I performed in triple jump, and I jumped some pretty consistent marks, so I think it was a good way to end my season."
Ontario athletes swept the medals, with Asia Phillips taking gold (13.08m) and Peace Omonzane, the silver (12.75m).
"I was somewhat hoping to break 12 metres," added Rand, her personal best mark set at 11.92 metres. "But I'm still very happy with how I jumped and want to keep working to keep jumping further."
Rand finished seventh in long jump, leaping 5.35 metres, despite faulting four out of her six attempts.
"I'm still pretty new to long jump, just started it this summer," Rand said. "So I think every meet I learn something new, but this one definitely was a learning experience, helped me just sort of get even more comfortable. Even with the faults I was satisfied, although a bit frustrated. My mark was still pretty good for me and to end up seventh was still great."
In March, Rand made her debut at a National meet, competing at the Canadian University (U-Sports) indoor track and field championships, with the Western Mustangs. The first year Kinesiology student placed 11th in triple jump with a best effort of 11.79 metres.
In her third event, Rand finished 13th overall in the 100-metre hurdles (15.83 sec.).
Basson took bronze in the U20 men's 800 metre run, finishing in 1:52.61.
"I was super excited because a Canadian medal was my goal this year. However, it wasn't a PB, so it leaves me wanting even more for next season," Basson said. "The experience was amazing watching all the super elite athletes compete. Makes me feel excited for the next couple of years. Hopefully that will be me soon."
The 19-year from Sparta will return to the University of Guelph for year two.
Mike Roth of St. Thomas fought through an injury, finishing fourth in the senior men's 400-metre dash in a time of 46.62 seconds.
"I injured my quad adductor just before the semi final, so the final was rough," said Roth. "Legs didn't have enough to keep up with first and second and I just gave up third at the end unfortunately."
A week earlier at North American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) athletic championships, Roth set a PB of 45.82 seconds.
Roth is the Canadian U23 men's indoor 400-metre record holder at 46.42 seconds.
Heptathlete Luna fifth
In her debut at the National championship, Jadyn Luna placed fifth in the U20 women's heptathlon.
Luna amassed 4,240 points, just two points short of her personal best total, from the seven discipline event.
"I'm very happy with my performance. It would've been nice to PB overall, but I was only two points off. I did PB in the 800," Luna said. "It was a great experience. As always, it was a blast to compete and I met some great athletes from across the country."
The Thorndale resident won shot put (11.10 metres), finished third in the 200-metre dash (26.30 sec.), javelin throw (29.27m) and the 800-metre run (2:31.39), fourth in the 100-metre hurdles (15.75 seconds), seventh in long jump (5.01m) and 13th in high jump (1.31m).
"I would say the schedule was the biggest adjustment for me. The time zone didn't bother me much because I tried to keep myself on eastern standard time, so that when I had to wake up at five a.m. Pacific time, it still felt like eight a.m. which isn't too bad," Luna said. "At provincials, it is a very condensed schedule and my events are all close together whereas at Nationals I would sometimes have three hours in between events. It was challenging to make sure I stayed warmed up and keep up my momentum throughout the competition."
Luna gained valuable experience as she prepares for her first year at the University of Windsor, competing in the pentathlon.
"I've learned how to put more of my focus into my own competition and not worry so much on how others are doing," said Luna ."I'm going into university knowing that the competition there will be more intense and I can't let that distract me from my events. A lot can change over the course of a multi event competition and all I can do is take it one event at a time."
Saskatchewan's Shelaine Pritchard won the competition, with 4,589 points, powered by winning long jump, the 200 metres and 100-metre hurdles.
Luna won the Athletics Ontario U20 heptathlon title in June and AO U20 pentathlon gold in January.
Matt Piekny of St. Thomas, was ninth in U20 men's pole vault, clearing 4.10 metres, just under this PB of 4.20.
"It was really good. I had a really fun week. Going into the meet I put too much pressure on myself, which I let get to me during the competition," Piekny said. "In the future I need to just not worry about expectation of others, or that I put on myself and just focus on performing to the best of my abilities."
Libby McCurdy, from Sparta, only 16 years old, finished ninth, in U20 women's pole vault, with a PB of 3.32 metres.
"It was actually really fun and I was a bit nervous before that first try and then I was over 3.32 by quite a bit and almost got 3.42," McCurdy said. "My outdoor season has been the best. I couldn't want it any other way. Started the season off with 3.20 and kept consistently improving."
McCurdy concludes the outdoor season at Athletics Ontario U18 championships, August 6-8, in London.
At her first senior Nationals, Hallee Knelsen, of Malahide, had a near career PB in the senior women's 800-metre run, at 2:07.68, finishing 10th in the semifinals, just missing advancing to the final. In the prelims, Knelsen ran 2:08.85, to advance to the semifinals.
"Had a great time racing at Nationals. Definitely the most fun I've had racing this year. Really happy with it," said Knelsen. "It was a really slow start to the season due to injury, but I had to keep telling myself I'd just peak later in the season and I'm happy to say I did. I still think there's more in the tank and I'm in PB shape, but running 2:08 and 2:07 back to back definitely takes something out of you."
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