A winter of hard work has put more of a spring in the step of one high school track star.
Sir James Dunn’s Christine Thomas will be among the favourites in two events Thursday, when the two-day, Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) track-and-field championships begin in Sudbury.
Competing in the Senior Girls Division, the 17-year-old Grade 11 student, won both the 800-metre and 1,500-m races at last week’s City High School Track and Field Meet at Jo Forman Track.
Thomas believes her decision to join the Sault Athletics Track Club, where she received instruction from her running coach at SJD, Lorri Purnis, has made all the difference.
“The extra training gave me endurance,” said Thomas, who finished second in the junior girls 400 m, 800 m and 300-metre hurdles a year ago. “I’ve always had a little extra kick at the end, but that got better this year after my work with Sault Athletics.”
The other key for Thomas was her decision to “switch gears” and move into longer races. As a midget in Grade 9, she ran the 100 m.
“I used to be a sprinter, but I see myself now as a middle-distance runner,” said Thomas, who is also part of SJD’s city-champion 4x400-metre relay team. “I focus better on those races than the sprints. I’m more effective.”
Purnis agrees, saying Thomas, physically and mentally, is better suited to the longer distances. The coach also expects her runner to peak at this week’s NOSSA event.
“I don’t think we’ve seen all that she can do yet,” Purnis said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how fast she can go. With more on the line, Christine does her best. I think NOSSA will bring out the best in her, absolutely.”
Having never competed in the 800 m and 1,500 m at NOSSA, Thomas said she has no idea what to expect. But she’s certain of one thing, competition will be keen.
Her goal is to hold her own and do well enough to advance to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships, June 1-3 in Toronto.
Thomas has been to provincials twice, as part of relay teams, but never to compete in individual events.
Her NOSSA running mates on the Dunn relay team include Wendy Oleskiw, Kendra Wetzl and Kristen Avery.