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Preparing for blastoff; MacLennan has eyes set on another OFSAA gold medal

Reported June 6, 2007 by Peter Ruicci for The Sault Star
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Richard MacLennan won OFSAA gold as a midget and now
he's taking aim at the 400 metres as a junior competitor.

Success, like a loyal puppy, just seems to follow Richard MacLennan.

Ranked Ontario's top 16-year-old, long-track speed skater, the Grade 10 student at St. Mary's College has also earned a name for himself on the provincial track-and-field scene.

A year ago, MacLennan won a gold medal in the midget boys 400-metre race at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track and field championships.

Thursday, competing as a junior, he'll look to repeat that feat when this year's three-day, OFSAA meet begins in Ottawa.

"I'm confident and I'm feeling good about the 400," said MacLennan, who'll also run the 200 metres and is part of the Knights 4x100-metre junior relay team.

That foursome also features Micheal Paluzzi, Tanner Rutland and Jordan Pavoni.

"I'm really competitive in the 400," added MacLennan, who has the fastest qualifying time - a Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) record :50.6, recorded last week in North Bay - of anyone in the 24-man provincial field. "I know if I do my best, I'll have a good chance of winning."

The thought of how rare a repeat win would be, hasn't escaped MacLennan. He's well aware of the difficulty involved in going from the midget division to junior, or from junior to senior.

"People in the past have done well in Grade 9, but have struggled the next year going into junior," he said. "If I could win it, it would show how hard I've worked to maintain a high performance level."

Hard work and MacLennan have long been well-acquainted.

The dedication that has helped propel him into a select speed skater has also served him well in track.

"He puts 110 per cent into every practice," said Knights head coach Anna Bastos. "He takes care of himself, he prepares well and he's definitely an elite athlete."

Bastos said it wouldn't surprise her to see MacLennan win the 400 metres.

In fact, "I have a good feeling he will," she said.

While also preparing for the 200 metres - he set a NOSSA record of :23.37 at that distance last week - and his relay race, MacLennan said he's scaled back his training this week. That's to concentrate on his starts, rest up and prepare mentally for the upcoming challenge.

He said he must focus, "but not too much. When I stay calm, I perform best."

While the 400 metres is his specialty, MacLennan's initial goal is to make it to the final in the 200 metres. Once that is accomplished, he said he'll "try to elevate my performance to do the best I can."

MacLennan began this season by winning both the 200 and 400 metres at the Sault Ste. Marie city meet.

A year ago, he won the midget boys' 100 and 400 metres and long jump locally and followed by setting NOSSA records, while winning both the 400 metres and long jump. He was second at NOSSA last year in the 100 metres.

His OFSAA gold-medal time of :51.15 last year was barely off that meet's midget boys record of :50.84. MacLennan was also fourth in the long jump at last year's provincials.