OFSAA Highlights
By BILL MONTAGUE, The Sault Star, June 2 & 4, 2001

Friday, June 1, 2001

Lauren Podolski always felt she belonged in the same class as the best midget girls 400-metre runners in the province. On Friday, she went out and proved it. The 14-year-old from Korah collegiate battled a slippery track and a tough field en route to winning a silver medal during second day action at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field meet in Etobicoke.

The talented Podolski finished the race in a personal best time of 58.76 seconds.

``I knew it was going to be really tough because you had all the best runners in Ontario here,'' said Podolski. ``There were a lot of really fast people but I knew I was up there. I studied the other times (of the other top runners) on the internet so I knew I could maybe medal.

``I wasn't thinking first place or anything but I figured I could finish in the top four.''

Podolski bolted out to an early lead in the race and held onto first place until the final 100 metres. That's when top-ranked Meghan Fall from Windsor's Brennan made her charge, catching Podolski at the tape.

``I ran very hard at the start and gave it whatever I had at the end,'' Podolski said. ``I was in first place right up until the final 100 metres and that's when that girl beat me. It was pretty close and we were milliseconds apart.''

Podolski's performance was the highlight for all Sault Ste. Marie athletes. The only other local to medal was White Pines' Mika Tuomi, who won a bronze in the senior boys javelin with a throw of 60.55 metres.

Former Sault resident Toyin Olupona also enjoyed a spectacular day, winning a gold medal in the senior girls 100 metres. Olupona, the top seed heading into the race, also had to run on a wet track but she still finished well ahead of the pack in a time of 11.82 seconds.

Olupona will run the senior girls 200-metres today.

Other locals to fare well Friday included Bawating's Candace Kennedy (fourth in senior girls high jump, 1.60 metres); White Pines' Jason Doyon (sixth in senior boys javelin, 55 metres); Korah's Clyde Bridge (fourth in junior boys 400 metres, 49 seconds); St. Mary's' Mike Sullivan (tied for fourth but relegated to seventh on a tiebreaker formula in senior boys high jump, 1.90 metres); and the St. Mary's boys 4x100-metre relay team of Matt Chlebus, Rick Mills, Kyle Foster and Tyler Sheth finished eighth overall.

Podolski, who runs the 800 metres today, said a lot of credit has to go to her distance coach Chris Trainor.

``I have to give Mr. Trainor a lot of credit,'' Podolski said. ``He trains me and Clyde Bridge and he really prepared me for all of this. He took us over to Lake Superior State University and we worked out indoors there so I was ready.''

Podolski was also ready for the wet surface. The Grade 9 student won the city and Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association titles in the rain so she had little trouble adapting to the wet conditions.

``I'm used to running in the rain because the city and NOSSA races were in the rain so I knew what to expect,'' she said.

Saturday, June 2, 2001

The determination that has come to define Clyde Bridge served as his biggest weapon Saturday. The 16-year-old from Korah collegiate emerged from a pack with 200 metres to go and chased down Shala Hussein to win the gold medal in the junior boys 800-metre race at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field meet in Etobicoke.

``He made a move from behind at about 200 metres and just blew by the first-place guy and there was nothing he (Hussein) could do about it,'' said White Pines female athletic head Louise Barber, who witnessed the comeback.

``It was fabulous to watch. Itwas really exciting. He (Bridge) was a bit behind him and to seehim come back like that was really something.''

Even Bridge, who is known for his never-say-die attitude and lightning kick in the final 200 metres, was surprised he was able to pull it off. He found himself stuck in a crowd early in the race and by the time he sped up to get around it, he was 40 metres behind the heavily favoured Hussein.

That's when the adrenaline started kicking.

``I just kept thinking OFSAA gold, OFSAA gold, that's what was going through my head,'' Bridge said. ``At the 600-metre mark, I was boxed in and I had to sprint around everyone to get out of the pack. I wasn't sure if I'd have enough sprint left in me but I still had lots.

``He (Hussein) had about 40 metres on me and I was concerned because he didn't have to work as hard. I didn't think I'd have a shot but with 100 metres to go, I really started catching him and I ended up beating him by about five metres.''

The six-foot, 155-pound Bridge finished the race in a personal best time of one minute 55.73 seconds. Hussein came in at 1:56.65 seconds.

While Bridge was the lone Sault athlete to win an OFSAA medal Saturday, several others turned in top-eight finishes. In senior women's action, Korah's Jenn MacIntosh finished sixth in the javelin (34.97 metres) and in midget action, Lauren Podolski, who was second in Friday's 400 metres, finished fourth in the 800 in 2:20.73 seconds.

In addition, Korah's Shannon Penfold turned in a fourth-place finish in the midget girls' 300-metre intermediate hurdles in 48.17 seconds.

In senior men's action, Sir James Dunn's Cameron Wilson turned in a stellar performance, finishing fourth in the 400-metre hurdles (56.69 seconds) and eighth in the 110-metre hurdles (16.06).

In junior boys action, Tyler Koskenoja from White Pines was fifth in the javelin with a toss of 50.85 metres.

In midget action, Bawating's Andrew King finished eighth in the 800 metres (2:12.72) and teammate Kyle Gauthier was fourth in the triple jump (12.39 metres). Sir James Dunn's Dan Kennedy also had a good day, placing eighth in the discus (44.77 metres).

In addition, Sir James Dunn's boys open 4x400-metre relay team of Peter Duguay, Wilson, Nathan Inch and Dan Barber, finished seventh in 3:32.60 seconds. While Bridge's ability to run down someone as talented and popular as Hussein may have caught some people off guard, it didn't surprise Bridge's coach, Chris Trainor.

``That guy (Hussein) was his main competitor and we knew that from the start,'' Trainor said. ``But Clyde's greatest asset is his strength and his raw speed. I have yet to see him lose a race in the final 100 metres.

``He has that ability to change gears and he never quits. He's always able to kick it up to another level.''

Last year, Hussein finished second in the junior boys 800, behind Nathan Brennan, who Bridge described as ``Canada's best 800-metre runner.''

Brennan has since graduated while Bridge was in his first year of junior action and Hussein in his second season. ``He (Hussein) was definitely the favourite to win,'' said Bridge, who won the OFSAA gold as a midget last season.

``When I crossed the finish line, I heard some reporters saying `that was the OFSAA upset' of the weekend.''