Brittany Shamess thought about the question for a couple of seconds and then realized the magnitude of what her Sir James Dunn Eagles’ 4x400-metre open-women’s relay team accomplished last week.
“That’s just crazy,” she said, about her team’s time of four minutes, 21.16 seconds that broke the 16-year-old City High School record of 4:22.01, set by SJD’s Kathy Dool, Kristen Moore and Wendy and Jennifer Klute.
It’s also pretty scary, particularly considering three of the members on this year’s team Shamess, Sierra Rutland and Christine Thomas are only in Grade 10 and the other Kristen Avery is in Grade 11.
The foursome will be looking to better that time as the Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championships kick off at Jo Forman Track today and Friday.
Today’s action begins at 3:30 p.m. and will include mostly field events while action Friday begins at 9 a.m.
The top finishers at NOSSA advance to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations meet in Windsor June 2-4.
“We’re expecting to go even faster at NOSSA because the competition will be a lot tougher and we won’t be racing as many events as we did at the city meet,” said Rutland.
While a lot of excellent teams have come out of SJD since 1989, Shamess credits this year’s success to coach Lorri Purnis, who did an excellent job before last week’s race convincing them they could set a new record.
She also said the camaraderie on the team coupled by all four runners’ competitive spirit, was the perfect recipe for something special.
“We’re all really good friends and we pump each other up a lot and we have a good coach in Ms. Purnis,” said Shamess, who ran the final leg of the race. “She was super excited for us and she kept telling us that the Sault teams in the past could never set the record at the city meet but then they’d go to NOSSA and demolish it there.
“She knew we had the potential. She told me me if we had the lead, to keep going fast because she knew Christine, Kristen and Sierra would probably get me a big lead. I knew I had to keep pushing myself because the record was our goal and everyone was cheering so I had a lot of adrenaline.”
Rutland, who also won the junior girls’ 800 and 1,500-metre races, said the goal at the city meet was to set a new mark and she was surprised the former one stood so long.
“We were going for it,” said Rutland, who also won the junior championship at the city and NOSSA cross-country meets in the fall. “Ms. Purnis told us we could do it so we went out there and tried our best. We all really wanted it and the thing with this team is that we never, ever give up, not even at the end of a race”
While elated with their success this season, Shamess can’t help but think about what the future holds. She said if they remain focused and committed, there’s potential to actually medal at OFSAA in two years.
“Three of us are all in Grade 10 and we have some awesome midget runners so we’re excited about our chances in Grade 12,” Shamess said. “We think we’ll do really awesome then and we should have a great chance at winning NOSSA and, if we keep training, hopefully we can make it to the final at OFSAA and maybe even medal.”
Aside from the Eagles’ 4x400-metre girls team, several other Sault competitors are expected to fare well at NOSSA, including Holly Maskell from White Pines (senior discus, javelin and shot put), Kaitlyn Train from Korah (junior 300-metre hurdles, 400 metres and high jump), Stevie Reville from St. Mary’s (midget 400, 800 and high jump), Korah’s Jaclyn Cummings (senior 400 hurdles and the 400 metres), SJD’s Kristen Johnson (800 and 1,500-metres), St. Mary’s Tiffany Senko (junior 200 and long jump), teammate Kira Favaro (junior shot put and discus), SJD’s Holly Dailey (midget 100 and long jump) and teammate Taylor Corelli (midget 1,500 metres and 3,000 metres) and St. Basil’s Lauren Wozny (midget shot put and discus).