Three gold for Legion athletes

 Rain fails to slow golden sprint


   Michael Roth wins the men's 400-metre dash, one of three St. Thomas

   Legion Club athletes to win gold at the AO U20 championships


  Saturday, July 24, 2021


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TORONTO, Ont. - A steady rain failed to slow Michael Roth.

The St. Thomas Legion Club athlete set a personal best (PB) time of 47.35 seconds winning the men's 400-metre dash, on day one of Athletics Ontario Under-20 championships, at the Toronto Track and Field Centre.

His time qualifies the St. Thomas native for the World Athletics U20 championships, next month in Nairobi, Kenya.

Of the four heats for the event, Roth's heat, the fourth and final one had the heaviest amount of rain to contend with.

"My gosh, that was huge," expressed St. Thomas coach Harry Stantsos. "It was pouring really hard. Pouring more than for everybody else. He brought it exactly to 47.35. If it was clear and dry, I think he's going under 47 for sure."

Roth has a strong hold as one of the top under-20 400-metre sprinters in Canada.

"If you look at the AC (Athletics Canada) rankings, he's got the fastest five times in the country, Stantsos said. "One, two, three, four, five. Every time he runs, he's faster. I'm happy and really proud of him. It's great, just great."

Roth did pay a price for the victory enduring a severe upset stomach after the race.

The 19-year old has the 200 metre dash and the 4x400-metre relay on Sunday.

Roth was one of three St. Thomas Legion athletes to win gold today, joining Tayah DeSousa and Hallee Knelsen.

DeSousa lowered her PB to 14.32 seconds, taking gold in the women's 100-metre hurdles.

"I was feeling really good this morning and rather than tensing up towards the end I just kept smooth," said DeSousa. "Whenever people come up on me, I get the bad aggressive, not the good aggressive and start tightening up and it's not fluid anymore. Today I practiced being more relaxed. That helped me a lot."

DeSousa continues Sunday with high jump and the 200-metre dash.

"Tayah's performance is amazing," Stantsos said. "Her PB was 14.88. I was expecting her to do better but 14.32, that was something else. It was awesome and a new club record. (breaking a 12-year old mark) That was a race but I know she can go faster."

DeSousa also placed seventh in women's long jump with a best effort of 5.19 metres.

Knelsen won the women's 1500-metre run in 4:34.03.

Her time was six seconds off her PB of 4:28.8 set at the Nxtchamp Invitational a week earlier. Knelsen's focus this meet is on Sunday's 800-metres, attaining the standard (2:07.2) for the Junior World championships next month.

"Today I was just hoping to get out there, have a good race and hopefully win. The time wasn't amazing but it went out a lot slower than last week. It was more tactical. Sticking out near the front and putting it on in the last lap," Knelsen said. "The goal was a little different. Last week I wanted to break (four minutes 30 seconds) for the first time. Now I had that. Obviously my priority this weekend is the 800 because it's the last chance to qualify for worlds."

Knelsen has become one of the nation's top young runners in the 800 and now the 1500 metres.

"I've definitely stamina wise a lot stronger for the 15. My mindset is a lot better about it too," Knelsen said. "This past winter there was no indoor season so there was more time to build up a strong base. My endurance has been a lot better this year. I've had so much time to work on that speed as there has been so much training and not much competing this year."

The trio of champions were part of a nine member team representing St. Thomas Legion.

Justin Cole took a bronze medal in the men's 3000-metre steeplechase.

A.J. Stanat was fourth in men's discus with a personal best throw of 43.82 metres.

"I'm happy. I made some improvements throughout the competition. Every throw I was moving up in the placements with the distances so I felt good about that, said Stanat. "Using my legs more. I was still stiff in the circle so I couldn't make the implement fly so well. I was trying to fix speeds and work on energy and power that I am transferring to the implement from my legs. Those little fixes, those improvements, led to me having a personal best."

Dylen Belanger placed 17th, in the men's 400-metre dash (51.52 sec.)

Mason Basson was 19th (4:09.68), in the men's 1500 metres, followed by Harrison Belanger, 21st (4:10.7) and Vincent Moore, 27th (4:14.71).


Coles help London-Western

Brothers Aiden and Tristan Coles, from St. Thomas, who train with London-Western club, finished second (3:53.71) and fourth (3:56.62), respectively, in the men's 1500.

The twin brothers then helped London-Western win the men's 4x800-metre relay race in 8:11.40.