Richard MacLennan was counting on the competition to bring out the very best in him.
Following his gold-medal performance at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track and field championships, it would appear MacLennan’s opponents in the midget boys 400 metres have only themselves to blame.
Buoyed by the elite talent around him, the Grade 9 student at St. Mary’s College roared to a first-place finish Friday Sault Ste. Marie’s only gold medal in the annual three-day event, which concluded Saturday in Toronto.
With the eighth-best time (53.77 seconds recorded at the Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) championships) among those competing in OFSAA, MacLennan said he “thought with someone to push me I could run a lot faster.”
He did, closing fast in the 400-m final, recording a time of :51.15. The OFSAA record is :50.84.
“The competition definitely brought out the best in me,” said MacLennan, who also placed fourth at the provincials in the midget long jump (6.14 metres). “I wanted to save enough to go really hard for the last 200 metres and with 50 metres left I overtook the leader.”
“He had the perfect strategy,” said Knights head coach Robby Calvano, who watched the race with a number of St. Mary’s athletes. “On the last corner he was right up with the pack and then he took over in the last 50 metres. We almost fell out of the stands watching it. We erupted. We were so excited, we had goose bumps.”
MacLennan, ranked No. 1 for his age among Ontario speed skaters, said Sunday his track-and-field accomplishment had started to sink in.
“It feels really good to know I’m the best in Ontario at that distance,” the 15-year-old said. “I trained really hard since the start of the season and this feels great.”
Meantime, Korah’s Jordan Lang was the only other Saultite to secure a top-eight finish, winding up eighth in the junior boys discus with a toss of 44.04 metres.
Sir James Dunn’s Dominik Graf was 10th in the junior boys 1,500 m (4:10.60) and 14th in the 3,000 m (9:14.46).
Because she wasn’t among the top eight, Kaitlin Morin of St. Mary’s failed to qualify for the midget girls 400-m finals. But Morin was 10th overall after preliminaries (1:01.50). Morin also placed 13th in the 200 m (:27.46).
With a toss of 26.78 metres, Korah’s Jessica Bauer wound up 12th in the junior girls javelin. Her teammate, Cassandra McCaig, finished tied for 12th in the senior girls triple jump (10.44 metres).
The St. Mary’s midget boys 4-by-100-m-relay team was 12th overall in preliminaries, falling short of gaining one of the eight spots in the finals. Consisting of MacLennan, Mike Paluzzi, Matthew Amadio and Brett Thompson, the Knights team finished in :47.66.