Nxtchamp meet return to competition

 Knelsen golden but not satisfied


   The St. Thomas Legion Club runner handily won two races but

   a goal of attaining a junior world standard eludes her


  Monday, July 19th, 2021


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TORONTO, Ont. - Hallee Knelsen brought home two gold medals but left the track not completely satisfied.

Knelsen, who trains with the St. Thomas Legion Club, handily won both the senior women's 800 and 1500 metre races at the Nxtchamp Invitational meet at the Toronto track and field centre, July 16-18.

Knelsen won the 800 by almost three seconds, in 2:08.6, her fourth consecutive finish in the 2:08 range.

However the 18-year old from the Aylmer area came into the race with a goal of eclipsing 2:07.2, the time standard required to qualify for the U20 world track and field championships, next month in Nairobi, Kenya.

"It was a great night for it but it's hard without a pacer to go for the standard," said Knelsen. "I had the high performance meets earlier this season. Those were really great for the competition, but now I'm at peak point in my season and now I need those competitions."

The Athletics Ontario U20 provincial championships, July 24/25, are the final opportunity to meet the standard.

"I have to go for it myself and hopefully next weekend get that standard," said Knelsen, who is Canada's number one ranked junior for the 800. "It's the last opportunity which is disappointing because open is the weekend after and I would be racing those quick, older girls again. I wish that meet was in the qualifying window, but unfortunately it's not, so I have to do it next weekend."

In the 1500, Knelsen pulled away from her competitors in the final lap, winning by nearly five seconds in 4:28.80, a personal best time by two and half seconds.

"The 15 was definitely a really good race. It felt really good. Probably the best 1500 I've ever run," Knelsen said. "I felt really calm and relaxed throughout it. It went out a little quick but I was just relaxed and felt good. I kept building up throughout the race and on last lap the goal was just to kick and I did that and got away from the rest of the field."

In her third event and her first race at the distance, Knelsen finished fifth in the senior women's 400-metres (57.49 sec).

Knelsen was one of nine St. Thomas Legion Club athletes who combined for five gold medals, two silvers and one bronze.


DeSousa hurdles to gold

Two years ago Tayah DeSousa was an OFSAA champion winning the junior women's 80-metre hurdles gold.

The 2021 graduate from Central Elgin Collegiate Institute may have lost both of her high school senior years due to the COVID-19 pandemic but DeSousa showed she still has the golden touch.

DeSousa took the gold medal in the senior women's 100-metre hurdles, in 14.40 seconds edging long time rival Abby Weening (14.48), who was fourth in that OFSAA race.

"It was good especially since my prelim race I was like 0.06 of my PB, so super close. I'm really happy with that," said DeSousa said, who ran a 14.28 in prelims. "The final was a little bit slower but still wasn't bad.

Five minutes after the race, both DeSousa and Weening were at the long jump pit. Both missed their first two jump attempts due to sprinting over hurdles, but landed top five jumps on their first attempts into the sand.

Weening would grab the silver medal (5.51m) while DeSousa placed fifth (5.31m).

"I think my long jump would have been more successful if I wasn't running back and forth," DeSousa said. "I was really drained today."

The postponement of this meet, originally scheduled for mid June, gave DeSousa additional time regain her golden form.

"I know this (meet) was supposed to be a month ago. I was actually happy it got pushed back because I feel a month ago I wasn't as ready, said DeSousa. "More time to train. I'm getting there."

Next month DeSousa heads to California State University Long Beach, in Los Angeles, taking the St. Thomas native away from her family and St. Thomas coach Harry Stantsos for the first time.

"It's weird because I've been with Harry for so long , like seven years, and now I'm going off to university," said DeSousa. "I don't know anyone down there. I haven't met anyone in person yet. I've met and talked with my coach and my teammates through zoom calls."


Gray Fox was the junior men's 100-metre sprint champion, in 11.9 seconds, edging four competitors in a photo finish.

"I felt good. My start felt really good. I got out fast but half way through the race I tensed up a bit. Overall though I feel I ran a pretty good race," said Fox, a Grade 11 student at Central Elgin Collegiate. "I did better today than in the 200 yesterday performance wise."

Fox took silver in the 200-metre dash (23.48 sec.).

Thrower Lexi Stanat brought home three medals, winning novice women's javelin and finishing second to Julia Tunks, in both discus (36.69m) and shot put.

"I think it well. I think I could have done a bit better but I'm happy with my results," said Stanat. "I haven't practiced as much as I would have liked too, but I did pretty well. For practices I've been throwing 40s for discus and today I threw 36 and change. It's getting there but I'm trying to achieve more. I definitely need to be a little bit more calm and focus on what I'm going to do and trying to improve on each throw."

The 15-year old Parkside Collegiate student entering her Grade 10 year, will be on the blueline with the London Devilettes juniors, this upcoming season in the Provincial Women's Hockey League.

Emma Westbrook brought home the bronze medal in the novice women's 80-metre hurdles, and finished eighth in long jump and ninth in the 100-metre dash.

Mason Basson, fifth, in the senior men's 1500-metres and sixth, in the 800.

A.J. Stanat, fifth in senior men's shot put and sixth in discus (40.28m).

Justin Cole, sixth, men's 2000-metre steeplechase.

Harrison Belanger, 10th, in the senior men's 800 metres.


Coles brothers combine forces

Prior to the pandemic, St. Thomas brothers Aiden and Tristan Coles, were rivals with Heath McAllister of London, but now the three running talents are together with London-Western Club.

Aiden Coles won the senior men's 1500 metres in 3:59.39 and with McAllister (4:00.81) and Tristan (4:00.82), finishing second and third, respectively, giving London-Western a sweep of the medals.

"When I finished and looked and saw the boys (Tristan, McAllister) behind me I was super excited. Our goal was to finish one-two-three. I knew we were capable of it. It's big for our team," Aiden said. "Going in to the last lap it was me and Eric Campbell side by side. I didn't know where (Tristan and Heath) were so we went. With 200 metres to go I thought there'd be a crowd of people but it was me kind of alone."

Aiden had ambitions of lowering his personal best effort of 3:53, but the race's early pace doused those hopes.

"I know I would go out slow, but I didn't think I'd go out that slow. We opened with something like a 49 (seconds on the opening lap). So I threw out the idea of getting a PB," Aiden said "Once I decided to go for the win, I started thinking of Matthew Centrowitz in the Olympics in 2016 and his tactics of just waiting for the last lap. So I took the lead, slowed it down a bit and then went for it. I was happy with it."

The trio also swept the medals for the senior men's 3000 metres, with McAllister squeezing out the gold over Aiden by one-thousandth of the second.

McIntyre's first 3000 golden

Dorchester's Hannah McIntyre made a golden debut in her first 3000 metre run in competition, winning the junior women's event in 10:41.17. McIntyre took silver in the 1500 metres, in 4:49.36, behind South Simcoe's Kyla Martin. (4:45.14).

"This is definitely what I was looking for. It feels really good," said McIntyre, following the 3000, the second of her two races. "This is my first three K ever. The pace was really slow from the start, so it was, I'll sit in here and then kick. With 600 (metres) to go, I started easing off a bit to see if they would try and go. With 400 left I just went. The race went really all together."

McIntyre who led Lord Dorchester's novice ladies to OFSAA cross country in the fall of 2019, welcomes the return of official meets like the NXTCHAMP Invitational, following a handful of time trials and hours of practice with no races.

"The first few races were definitely challenging. It's a completely different mentality in races then practice. It feels a lot different when you're on the track actually running a race than a time trial," said McIntyre. "This is one of the better meets, with the music and live streaming, especially being the first meet back after being off for so long. It's something exciting to get you back in to it".

Dorchester's Brianna Rand, competing for London-Western Club, finished sixth, in the senior women's 400-metre hurdles.

Madie Wilson-Walker, of Avon, had a heart-breaking day in women's long jump, missing the standard to qualify for the Paralympics Games. Her best effort of 4.17 metres.








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