Chase is on at track nationals

Marita and Erica DeSchiffart have qualified to race the steeplechase at the Legion Youth Track and Field Championships in Langley.

Marita

Marita

In steeplechase, you set the pace, or you get soggy. Or sometimes a bit of both.

Two Nanaimo Track and Field Club athletes, in particular, must have steeplechase down to a fine science by now. Twin sisters Marita and Erica DeSchiffart, 17, have qualified to race the event this coming weekend (Aug. 9-11) at the Legion Youth Track and Field Championships in Langley.

In a lot of track events, athletes basically go fast and turn left. In a 2,000-metre steeplechase there are some twists – hurdles and a water pit.

“You have to be a good hurdler…” said Erica. “And the pit is one of the key things to master. That’s one of the hardest things.”

The twins were already competitive distance runners when they took up the steeplechase, and Marita said she’d also run some hurdles.

“The water just makes it kind of fun sometimes, too,” she said. “That’s how I got started … just combining some of the events I like together.”

The trick to the water trap, said Erica, is to build up speed to leap onto the beam, then she’ll launch herself with her power leg as far as she can and make a one-foot landing, hardly breaking stride.

“You don’t want to land two feet,” said Marita. “You kind of want to do the one foot and go, because otherwise you slow down a lot.”

Navigating those waters can be tricky when the race is close and competitors are bunched together. But damp sneakers come with the territory in steeplechase.

“I actually enjoy the water during races because it cools me down most of the time and I don’t usually notice the wetness,” Erica said.

As the laps add up, the DeSchiffarts push each other right till the finish line.

“It’s always close up until the last 400, and even then, when we finish it’s two or three seconds at the most,” Marita said.

Erica said she and her sister don’t care too much about beating the other.

“If one makes the team, it’s a little bit harder, and there’s a little bit of, ‘Aww, you made it and I didn’t’ kind of thing,” she said.

Marita just competed last month at the World Youth Championships in the Ukraine, returning home in time to run, jet-lagged, in the qualifier for nationals.

This weekend, both sisters made it to the starting line, and both get to take part in all the splash and dash of steeplechase.

TRACK SHORTS … Two other Nanaimo track club athletes are also competing at Legions – Jason Clare in pole vault and Rachel Jerome in long jump. Thomas and Peter Oxland, who are from Nanaimo, will run at the meet, as well.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com