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Michael Roth wins the men's 200 and 400 metre dashes with PBs then carries
the St. Thomas 4x4 relay team to gold at the AO U20 championships
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
TORONTO, Ont. - No one should ever count Michael Roth out.
The St. Thomas Legion Club athlete had one memorable meet, winning the men's 200-metre dash, 400-metre dash and the men's 4x400-metre relay race, at the Athletics Ontario (AO) Under-20 championships, July 24-25, at the Toronto Track and Field Centre.
Roth qualifies in both the individual 200 and 400 races, for the 2021 World Athletics U20 (junior) championships, in Kenya, next month.
"I've never been overseas, said Roth. "I'm really excited. I had it in my head that I could do it."
In the 200 metres on Sunday, Roth set a personal best (PB) time of 21.18 seconds, shaving off time from 21.52, his previous PB set earlier in the preliminary rounds and going under the world qualifying time of 21.25 seconds.
Twenty-four hours earlier, running in rain, Roth met the qualifying standard right on with a PB of 47.35 seconds, in the 400 metres.
The 19-year old Roth was greatly motivated by the simple fact that it's his last year in U20.
"It was my last go at it, said Roth. "I knew I had to give it my everything. If I don't do it here I don't have tomorrow."
Roth perhaps saved his best effort for the relay race, completing the hat trick of gold medals, with a wouldn't believe if had not seen performance.
Taking the baton for the final 400 metre leg, with St. Thomas Legion in second place, Roth was 25 metres behind Ottawa Lions' anchor runner, David Moulongou. It appeared Roth would have to be content with a silver medal.
However, with 200 metres to go, Roth found another gear and incredibly closed the gap on Moulongou, before edging the Ottawa runner at the finish line, giving St. Thomas the gold medal in a time of three minutes, 24.65 seconds (3:24.65).
"I don't like to lose, at all. I like golds in my hands, not silvers," said a smiling Roth. "I didn't think I could close that gap, but I thought I would try. He kept looking back at me so then I knew he was done. As soon as he looked back once, it was over."
Having ran the 200 metre final less than one hour earlier, Roth may have felt some fatigue, but his determination made up for what his legs lacked.
"It was right in my head. I had no muscle left. I willed myself to that (gold)," said Roth.
Fox Gray, Harrison Belanger and Mason Basson, compete the relay team that set a club record.
As for one of the most remarkable meets ever by a St. Thomas Legion athlete, Roth had envisioned the races during hours of practice on his own.
"I've practiced it a million times. I do it every day so why can't I do it on this certain day and knowing that I can give it my all," said Roth, who kept training even when team practices were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I had to do a lot on my own but I never skipped a day. Every day I was like, I'm going to be better in the summer. I never slowed down."
When facilities were open, Roth had workouts at the gym and in the pool.
Maybe that's how Roth pulled off a sizzling time in the 400 metres despite the weather and slippery track. His heat, the fourth of four in the timed final, faced the heaviest stream of precipitation.
"You have to do it in any climate," said Roth. "Everyone else deals with the same climate. You have to make sure that you'll not worried about what others could perform. You just focus on yourself and do the best that you can."
St. Thomas Legion coach Harry Stantsos believes Roth would have gone under 47 seconds on a dry surface.
Club mate and middle distance runner Hallee Knelsen said watching Roth over the weekend was amazing and "closing the huge gap in the relay was almost surreal."
"Mike's an extremely hard working guy. The best part is that he's so humble," said Knelsen. "If you never saw any results you'd never know from talking with him what he's accomplished. I can't think of anyone I know personally that deserves to go to worlds more than Mike. I'm so happy for him that he gets to finish off his U20 career with this."
Roth, grateful for the support of clubmates, family and friends, will soon be packing his bags for the world stage.
"It's been fun. I've had a lot of people cheer me on and I'm very grateful for them," said Roth. "Now I have to train for Kenya and hopefully get a good cap off there."
Following worlds, Roth will sprint down to the University of Windsor in September, to continue his running career and education.
Knelsen won her second gold medal of the meet, taking the women's 800-metre run in two minutes, 9.16-seconds (2:09.16), but unfortunately missed Athletics Canada's qualifying time of 2:07.2 for junior worlds.
"I didn't hit what I wanted too but I went for it. It's disappointing but I can't be upset because I left it all on the track," Knelsen said. "I tried to running it a little differently, because I wanted that first lap faster. I got it down but I just didn't have it in the end. I did my best even though it wasn't what I hoped for, but it's still an AO gold. It's bittersweet because I've never been disappointed winning AO gold."
On pace for the qualifying time at the 600-metre mark, Knelsen faded somewhat over the final stretch.
"I think it was the anticipation of knowing it's your last shot and trying to hit it. I went out a little quicker (a 62-second first lap) and it's what I wanted to go out in but I haven't ran it like that this season and it hit me in the last 100 metres. With 20-30 metres to go, my mind is telling you to go faster and my upper body wants to go faster but my legs are not moving."
Four times this year Knelsen has been under the World Athletics U20 qualifying time of 2:08.7, her best being 2:08.1. Athletics Canada lowered their time standard prior to this season.
"It sucks not making the (Canadian U20) team but I still have next year," said Knelsen. "Looking at my season, most of my eights were pretty successful. This year overall is really successful for me."
Knelsen also won the women's 1500-metre race (4:34.03).
A PB of 4:28.10, set this year, is just off the World Athletics U20 qualifying time of 4:28.00. However in Canada, the qualifying time for females is 4:23.20.
Roth and Knelsen led a team of eight St. Thomas athletes on day two.
A.J. Stanat placed fifth in men's hammer (45.21 metres) and sixth in shot put (13.50m).
"Hammer was better. I threw a PB in that. It wasn't enough to make the podium but it was alright. I was looking for more consistency through the series from the throws," said Stanat. "Shot put wasn't the greatest. I just didn't have any good throws. My warm-ups were better than my actual competition throws."
Stanat joins Roth heading to Windsor this autumn.
Mason Basson was sixth in the men's 800-metre run (1:55.89), followed by Vincent Moore, in 12th (1:57.74) and Harrison Belanger, 29th.
Dylen Belanger finished sixth in the men's 400-metre hurdles (58.25 seconds).
Tayah DeSousa was ninth in women's high jump (1.50 metres) and 19th in the 200-metre dash (26.78 sec.).
St. Thomas Legion Club finished fourth in combined team scores, bringing home six gold medals and one bronze from the two day meet.