St. Thomas native is golden at the Canadian track and field championships
while Hallee Knelsen of Malahide, wins silver in U20 women's 800-metre run
June 29, 2022
By Rob J. Ross
Tristan Coles has been waiting to have the right race at the right time.
No better place for a break out performance than at the Canadian track and field championships.
The 17-year old from St. Thomas won the U20 men's 5000 metres on the final day of the National meet, in Langley. B.C., June 22-26.
"It's a good feeling. It's definitely been a long time coming, waiting for one of those races where it clicks," Coles said. "I knew I had a chance of winning, but I didn't know how it was going to be and how other people would run."
Coles crossed the finish line in 14 minutes and 56.94 seconds (14:56.94), out-kicking Quebec's Xavier Lemaitre (14:57.79) over the final 100 metres.
Earlier in the race, Tristan, along with brother, Aiden, who finished eighth, watched a few different runners attempt to take control of the race.
"It was weird. The race was getting so strung out and kids were making random moves," Tristan said. "We, and a couple of others who were running together for awhile, didn't know how it would play out and if we could catch them or not. I stayed back and stayed patient. I felt good until about two K (kilometres) to go and then I felt it a little bit. I think it was more the heat, but I knew I had a chance."
Patience was instrumental to remain in the hunt for the medals. With a lap remaining, Tristan made his move, one that turned out to be golden.
"There was a kid ahead of me by about 30 metres going into the last lap. I got to the last 400 and made a move on a couple guys, to get myself into second and started reeling that kid in and passed him with 300 to go," said Tristan, recalling pre race advice from coach Dave Mills.
"He was saying, trust your kick, trust your speed, and know that if you're there with a lap to go, you can win it," said Tristan. "Xavier followed me and the two of us we were going by ourselves and I pulled away in the last metres."
It is Tristan's biggest win, in a career includes an OFSAA bronze medal in the 1500 metres, earlier this month, OFSAA gold with the St. Joe's junior boys cross country team, in 2019 and fourth place, in the U18 men's race, at Canadian cross country championships, last November.
"It was really exciting to be on top of the podium. The first time getting a celly for awhile," Tristan said. "I was going in to it, hoping something would come out of it."
Crossing the finish with no one in front and later standing on top of the podium, erased any disappointment from a fifth place showing in the 1500 metre run, a day earlier.
"Rebounding from the 1500 was hard at first, for the first couple hours after missing out on the podium, by point-one something (of a second)," said Tristan. "It was a little frustrating, but I didn't want to hang my head over one moment. The way the race went, I closed my last 400 metres in 52 seconds. There wasn't more I could do. It was more of a positioning game."
Fueled by his gold medal performance, Tristan is now taking aim at attaining the U20 world standard for the 3000 metres and making Team Canada. Coles has until July 10 to be under 8:15, hoping to join London-Western club teammate Heath McAllister, who ran a 8:14.36, winning the 3000 at OFSAA.
"I'm glad I got the (5K) win and now I will focus on the (3K) standard," said Tristan. "If I can get the standard I'm automatically on."
That is due to only McAllister having the 3000 metres standard and Canada will likely send two runners, if Tristan attains the standard.
The World Athletics U20 (junior) championships are
in Cali, Columbia, August 1-6.
Knelsen 800 silver
Getting fitted for Team Canada gear is a promising sign of a selection to a National team.
Hallee Knelsen appears to be heading for her first international meet, the junior (U20) worlds, following a silver medal performance in the U20 women's 800-metre final.
The 19-year old Malahide resident finished in 2:10.15, behind Avery Pearson, of Saskatchewan, who won in 2:09.23. Having previously posted a time under the required standard for junior worlds, of 2:07.2, Knelsen needed to finish first or second.
"I was really happy to finish in the top two, because it was a really strong field and that was my goal," said Knelsen. "I haven't had a standout race this year, so there was a little bit of pressure there. Even though the time doesn't show it, it was the best feeling race I've had. I felt really competitive and in the race."
Fourth approaching the final lap, Knelsen made a move to the outside when Pearson took over the lead.
"The race was tactical and went out really slow," Knelsen said. "I saw Avery going and I knew I wanted to stay with her. It was hard and I was boxed in, but I was able to get out."
Powered by her well known and respected kick, Knelsen moved in to second with 200 metres to go and didn't let Pearson relax over the final 100.
"I knew based on the clock, the race wasn't very fast, but at that point, I was going for placement," Knelsen said. "I ran the whole back stretch on the outside. I didn't want to make my move too early, but when I saw a chance to pass and I felt alright, I thought I have to do this now. I wasn't able to catch (Avery), but I went for it."
It was as much relief as excitement, for the St. Thomas Legion club member and University of Western student.
"I was quite nervous for this race. A lot more than usual. I felt I had to live up to that standard of top two," said Knelsen. "I was ranked second coming in, based off a time I ran once during the indoor season. When you ranked high, you always want to finish high."
Having attained the U20 (junior) world standard for the 800 of 2:07.20, back in February, at an indoor meet in Boston, Knelsen, has done all she can to be chosen for Team Canada, the announcement scheduled for July 11.
Junior Worlds (U20) is August 1-6, in Cali, Columbia.
"It's really exciting. It feels a bit surreal, because I hit the standard so long ago. It's not the same excitement, if I'd hit in that last chance last year. I was working, working, towards it," said Knelsen, who just missed the standard last summer.
Knelsen ran five races in the 2:08 range in 2021, but couldn't dip under than 2:07.20, that would have automatically sent her to junior worlds.
"It's not the same excitement as hitting it right when you need too," said Knelsen. "But it's still definitely less stressful knowing that I have that standard."
Knelsen's two teammates with the Western Mustangs' track and field team, sisters Chloe and Sophie Coutts, finished third and fourth, respectively. Chloe Coutts won a silver medal in the U20 women's 1500-metre run, a day earlier, while Sophie placed fifth.
In the 800 semifinals, Knelsen avoided a potential disaster 200 metres in to the race, when two runners tripped and fell in front of her. In a split second decision, Knelsen stepped left and jumped over the runners.
"Almost coming to a full stop takes a lot out of you," said Knelsen. "In a semi where you're expected to move on, you hope it's a bit of a confident booster because you hope to feel comfortable in your race. Even though I was in the slowest heat, it was a weird race and definitely not comfortable. I had more left in the tank, but I was more tired than I should have been for a 2:16."
Knelsen had been in one previous race, where a runner had tripped.
"I was the person," said Knelsen, with a laugh. "It was at Legion provincials in 2018. They had 15 people in the heat."
Up next Knelsen, the Canada Summer Games Trials, in Toronto, July 2-3 and the Canadian track and field league championships, July 20, in Ottawa.
Then most likely wearing that Team Canada gear for her first appearance on the world stage.
Roth to NACAC meet
At his first senior Canadian championships, Mike Roth placed fifth, in the men's 400-metre final, clocking in at 47.21 seconds, on June 25.
Due to the top two runners in the 400 metres, making team Canada for Worlds, Roth was selected for the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) championships in Nassau, Bahamas, August 19-21.
Last summer, the St. Thomas native, competed in the 200 and 400 metre dashes, at junior worlds. Roth made the 400 final, placing sixth, in a personal best time of 47.25 seconds. For the 200, Roth advanced to the semifinals, with a PB of 21.14 seconds.
Stevens meets Legion standard
Evan Stevens made the qualifying standard in U16 men's javelin, for the Legion Youth Nationals, at a District meet, in Hamilton, June 26.
The 14-year old from Thorndale, won javelin, with a throw of 43.7 metres.
"It feels great," said Stevens, who recently joined London-Western club. "I should be able to improve quite a bit and be in good shape for Nationals and (Athletics Ontario U16) provincials. I'm excited for both and really happy to have the chance to go."
Earlier this month at OFSAA, Stevens won silver in novice men's javelin, with a PB of 44.71 metres.
Basson, Belanger, win at Nxtchamp meet
Two St. Thomas Legion members won gold at the Nxtchamp Invitational meet, in Toronto, June 18-19.
Mason Basson won the U19 men's 800 metres (1:57.43), while Dylen Belanger took the U19 men's 400-metre hurdles title (54.72 sec.).
Emma Westbrook was seventh, in U17 women's long jump (4.46m) and ninth in the 80-metre hurdles (14.24 sec.).
Andrew Monteith, of St. Thomas, with London Legion club, placed second, in the U17 men's 800-metre run (2:03.87).
Jadyn Luna, of Thorndale, with London-Western club, finished third U19 women's in shot put (9.73m), fifth, in the 200-metre dash (26.60 sec.) and fifth, in long jump (4.94m).
Vincent Moore, of St .Thomas, with London-Western, was fourth in the U19 men's 800 metres (2:00.56).
Dorchester's Sam Willsie finished fifth, in the U17 men's 800 metres (2:06.6).