The athletes will be faster, higher and stronger than ever before in Nanaimo.
The biggest track meet ever held in the city begins Thursday (June 2) as the B.C. High School Track and Field Championships get underway at Rotary Bowl stadium.
“We’re really excited, on many levels,” said Tyler Heisterman, coach of the Nanaimo Track and Field Club. “We’re excited to be able to have the athletes compete on home turf … They’re saying over 4,000 people could be here. It’s going to be just a spectacle. It’s going to be a world-class meet.”
The track club has put considerable time, money and effort into hosting. The track has undergone a thorough spring cleaning, the long jump pits have been twinned, new pole vault mats and hurdles have been purchased and a new sound system has been installed, among other repairs, renovations and improvements. Food trucks are being brought in to park between the grandstands. Professional announcers have been hired, there will be a huge TV screen displaying results, and the entire event will be webcast around the world.
“It’s the biggest athletics meet Nanaimo’s ever hosted. There’s going to be the most athletes that there’s ever been,” said Jason Clare, a pole vaulter from Nanaimo District Secondary School. “It’s going to be awesome. My excitement’s pretty high, just having that many people there in your hometown.”
Clare is an international-calibre pole vaulter, and yet some of his friends have never seen him compete. Now they’ll get that chance.
“Everyone’s going to be excited – the fans [and] especially the athletes,” Clare said. “Everyone’s going to be trying to go for a personal best. It’s the meet to do it.”
He’s not only going for gold, but is targeting the B.C. record of 4.66 metres. Also hoping to win and set a record is Wellington Secondary School’s Alyssa Mousseau in the 800m.
“There’s going to be a lot more hometown support, people from the schools are going to come…” she said. “I feel like it’s going to have a lot more fan base that will be cheering for you, specifically, from Nanaimo. So that will be really exciting to have.”
Hassy Fashina-Bombata, also of Wellington, is the local hopeful in the 100m dash and 200m. The competition is extremely fast, too, so her main focus is on achieving a personal best.
What makes a track meet exciting to watch, she said, is seeing athletes all excelling in different kinds of events.
“Everyone has their own thing that they’re doing and they’re really good at it,” she said.
Sprinter will dash toward finish
For Fashina-Bombata, that's running fast. She won Island championships in the 100m and 200m last month, and she'll feel even more comfortable on her home track.
She knows some of the other girls in the field will be fast, and there is also an element of the unknown.
"I never know how they're training and if they've gotten better, so I think everyone's my competition," she said. "So I'm just going to go and focus on what I'm going to do."
With two events to focus on, there are two very different game plans. In the 100m, Fashina-Bombata needs a good start out of the blocks, which isn't her strongest suit, she said. After that, it's getting the arms going and by 40m, knees need to be up high.
The 200m adds a turn, which brings a lot of elements. The turn prevents a runner from attaining top speed, but it's still done fast enough that the runner actually has to be running at a tilt. Another factor is the staggered start line, which makes comparisons with the other competitors deceptive.
Runner on pace for a four-peat
Mousseau, meanwhile, will be paying attention to detail in her 800m, in which she has won three straight high school provincial championships. She set a personal best at an Island series meet in Victoria last month and feels "really, really strong," she said.
"Obviously anybody can pull a really fast time at any time. So you've got to stay on your toes and be ready for anything," said Mousseau. "Whatever happens on the day will happen."
She expects the overall competition at the meet will be intense, which will make it exciting to watch.
"Everybody's going to be ready to go," she said. "Everybody's tapered, everybody's ready to show up to this meet and I think [spectators] are going to be really excited about the amount of talent that we actually have here in B.C."
Pole vaulter sets sights high
And people can see events that they normally wouldn't get to see, like pole vault.
Clare won the event last year with a leap of 4 metres, 65 centimetres, a height he'd targeted in qualifying to compete at youth world championships. So he needs just one more centimetre to tie the record of 4.66m, or two to break the record.
To break the record, or even win the event, he'll need to compete with confidence. It's a huge part of pole vaulting, he said.
"You've got to have confidence coming down the runway and if you know that you can do it, you can really think about each individual aspect and then that's when you're taking away all your fears and just focusing on what you're doing," he said. "And that's what will get you higher."
Event will be action-packed
Every event will bring its own spectacle and intrigue. The 100m dash is the fastest event, and Heisterman said with some of the senior boys qualifying with times under 11 seconds, the final will feature the fastest running Nanaimo fans will ever see. The 4x100m and 4x400m are other fast, exciting races, he said, the steeplechase, with its water feature, always makes a splash, and the heights reached in pole vault will be impressive.