It’s rehearsal time for OFSAA track and field

GUELPH – This week the organizers of the OFSAA school track and field championships are to get their first of two sort of dress rehearsals in preparation for June’s championship meet.

The provincial high school track and field championship meet is to be held in Guelph for the first time in more than 50 years. It’s to go at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium June 6 to 8 will get a chance to see how things run at Thursday’s Gaels/Gryphons relay meet and at next week’s District 4/10 championship meet. Both are to be held at Alumni Stadium, the first time in almost 30 years for the D4/10 meet to be held there.

“Certainly having two meets here before OFSAA and allowing us to get more familiar with the facilities and trying to anticipate what might need to change and what any issues might be is a great benefit for us,” says co-convenor Brad MacNeill.

“It gives some athletes the opportunity to get here and compete on the OFSAA track. For us it’s a bit of a dry run through to work out some of the logistics and see if anything needs to change between then and OFSAA. The main thing, though, is it’s the opportunity for students to come and compete on the OFSAA track.”

“It’s going to be a much bigger meet than we’ve had in the past because there are a lot of people around the province who want to get here and see the facility and do that sort of thing,” co-convenor Rich Tremain says of the Gaels/Gryphons relay meet. “We’ve got teams from across the Niagara peninsula, the GTA, just the other side of the GTA, London, a couple of Windsor schools that just want to get here and see what the facility is like and try it out to prepare for OFSAA.”

This year’s Relays meet has 1,515 entries in individual events and 306 in relays to compare with last year’s totals of 882 in individual events and 220 in relays.

MacNeill and Tremain are both coaches with the Guelph CVI Green Gaels and have worked together hosting the Gaels Relays in the past. The Gryphons offered support this year as they’re also helping out with the OFSAA and D4/10 meets.

“Normally it’s a two-year process to organize (the OFSAA meet) and we had a little less than a year so it’s been quite a bit to get organized and get together, but we’re very fortunate,” MacNeill says. “We’ve partnered with the University of Guelph’s track and field team with Dave Scott-Thomas and his track and field staff. The experience and expertise that they’ve been bringing has been invaluable to us.”

Guelph was not originally supposed to be the home for this year’s OFSAA meet.

“There was a group somewhere else that wasn’t able to do it so OFSAA put out the call for someone to jump in, so we put our name in and won the bid,” MacNeill says. “It’s something that we’ve been talking about for years, that we wanted to bring it to Guelph. We were hoping to do it in a couple of years, but the opportunity came so we jumped at it.”

“Everybody’s excited and everybody wants to be a part of it,” Tremain says. “Some want to be a part of it as competitors and others want to help out and be volunteers and support it. The enthusiasm is great right across the school and it shows in the track team. This is the biggest team we’ve had in probably 15 years or so. We have a roster of 75 kids. That shows some excitement.”

While the track and throwing competitions can be cut-throat at times, the various school teams in the area often work together in harmony so that any meet hosted by a local school runs smoothly. They also often cheer for their fellow rivals the further along they go on the road to the OFSAA championships.

“Everybody works together and everybody’s supportive,” Tremain says. “It’s a little bit different than the other sports where you’re competing against those teams and it’s rivalries and that sort of stuff. That exists in the track world, but it’s a little bit different in the sense that it’s sort of that cooperative-competitive concept which is neat. You just don’t see in a lot of the other sports.”

Tremain is one of the coaches who competed in the D4/10 championship meet the last time it was held at Alumni Stadium. He ran for Ross then and the track at the University of Guelph had a cinder surface.

“Not much has changed in the amount of participation and the excitement level the kids get for track,” he says. “Obviously the cinders, but it was always nice to get here. Back then, there weren’t rubberized tracks anywhere near here. You’d have to go to Kitchener and beyond. But you’d be on the cinder track and having the big grandstand – being on the big track in Guelph was exciting for everybody.”

While the football field, the football team’s pavilion and the surface of the track has changed since then, the overall look of the facility is much the same.

“The stands are the exact same,” Tremain says. “Everything’s the same except for the surface down here. Even these black railings (in the stands) are the exact same as it was in 1990.”

One big difference for the local high school track scene this year will be the lack of travelling involved. While schools will enter in various open and invitational meets in the province, the meets athletes have to attend in order to qualify for OFSAA are close by. The longest trip is to Hespeler so that will make it easy for parents and local high school track and field fans to watch the competitions in person.

Both the D4/10 (May 15 and 16) and OFSAA meets are at Alumni Stadium while both the CWOSSA (May 22 and 23) and OFSAA West (May ) meets are in Hespeler.

“It’s good this year in that it’s much closer,” Tremain says. “We don’t have to book hotels. Our bus trips are much shorter than they would normally be as we’re not going to London or Windsor or Ottawa or Belleville or what have you.”

Organizers of the OFSAA meet also feel they’ve solved the biggest challenge with hosting a top track and field meet at Alumni Stadium – the lack of a throws area. The track is obviously there for the track events and there are also pits for long jump and triple jump and areas for pole vault and high jump. But there is no specific area set aside for the throws.

“We’ve got a solution for that,” MacNeill says. “We’re going to have shot put and discus on the infield here which I think will be great for the throwers. They’ll get to be in the main stadium and have the crowd right here. We’ll do javelin just in the (softball) field up above here. It’s still within sight of the main stadium and not far for the javelin throwers to go and they should get great crowd support up there.”

For organizers, they’re in the run-up to the event portion of the season and it’s an anxious time.

“I’ll feel better once the gun goes for the first race (at OFSAA),” MacNeill says. “I think we’ve got a good plan in place. We’ve got a great team and I think we’re on track. It’s all starting to come together.”

 

  • Guelph Sports Journal