Sault Stryders
Running Club

Several factors have combined to make SJD a track and field power
May 21, 2003
Column by Peter Ruicci for The Sault Star
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

There's dominant, and there's DOMINANT.

And then there's the Sir James Dunn Eagles.

When it comes to beating the Eagles' track-and-field team, the rest of this city has been on a starvation diet for 21 years.

That's how many consecutive City High School Track and Field Meet, coed aggregate (boys and girls combined) championships the Dunn had won, heading into today's annual event at Jo Forman Track.

The SJD girls, midgets, juniors and seniors combined, have captured 23 straight city titles while the boys have won six in a row and 18 of the last 21.

Pretty heady stuff.

They've done it with superior athletes, dedicated coaches and a lot of hard work. They're also at an advantage at SJD because their large student body gives them more talent to choose from.

But to say sizable enrollment is what's behind the Dunn's track successes would be to cheapen what this school has done.

Were that the case, the Eagles should also control girls' and boys' basketball, football, hockey and every other high school sport.

They don't.

But track and field supremacy, something that began under Forman, who once headed up the boys' phys.ed. department, and continued under Linda Vetrie, who retired from teaching as well as coaching the Dunn girls a year ago, has definitely been a constant.

"Our girls' success all stems from Linda," said current head coach Randa Coulter. "She was at it for a long time, she built the tradition and made it a team sport."

Though track and field is, except for relays, an individual competition, the we-are-a-team approach has helped develop camaraderie and pride.

The Dunn girls work out a lot as a group, including taking aquabics (resistance training), side-by-side at the John Rhodes Community Centre Pool.

"The kids thrive on doing things together," said Coulter. "And attendance, to us, is critical."

"We outwork everybody," added Rick Heino, head coach of the Dunn boys. "We train hard. We have a sizable number of hard-working, talented athletes who want to keep the tradition going."

And that tradition has led to an aura of confidence that seems to surround the Dunn teams.

Neither Coulter or Heino would speculate about SJD's chances of repeating today.

All Heino would say was that his boys' team was "looking forward to a good battle with St. Mary's."

The SJD boys expect to be led by the likes of seniors Hannibal Cull, Ian Hazlett and Brent Gerhart, and juniors Ian Flaxey and Dan Kennedy.

The strength of the girls' team appears to lie with its youth. Juniors Janine Olthuis and Marnie Smith, and midget Kristen Johnson bear watching today.

At each city meet, the Eagles fight a legacy of their own creation.

There's always pressure to repeat, but for the Dunn it seems as if the hotter the fire, the stronger the steel.