Going off like an uncorked champagne bottle, Richard MacLennan exploded down the stretch in the junior boys 400-metre race.
The result for the Sault Ste. Marie native was his second consecutive gold medal - and nearly a provincial record - at the three-day, Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) Track-and-Field Championships, which concluded Saturday in Ottawa.
Having struck gold in the midget 400m a year ago, the 16-year-old from St. Mary's College ran a :49.84 - his best 400m ever - barely missing the OFSAA junior boys record of :49.62.
"I went as hard as I could down the last straightaway," said MacLennan, who ran a :51.15 at provincials a year ago. "I was running into a really strong headwind for the first 200 metres, but I felt good and felt as if I hadn't used up too much energy. For the next 100 metres, I just maintained my speed."
"He looked really strong and was really pushing at the end. You could see it in his face," said Knights head coach Anna Bastos. "He left everything on the track."
At the end of the race, MacLennan said he looked at the clock, but was more focused on the fact he'd won.
His goal after last year was to repeat his success against Ontario's best.
"Winning felt really good," said MacLennan, a Grade 10 student who is also ranked Ontario's top 16-year-old, long-track speed skater.
"I was peaking going into OFSAA and the competition there brought out the best in me."
Having recorded the best time in his heat - :50.10 - MacLennan said he felt confident going into the final. He felt he hadn't expended unnecessary energy and was simply focused on staying calm.
"Having the best time in heats also put pressure on me to win," MacLennan admitted. "But I also knew I could go faster in the final."
Which he did.
"It seems as if the hard work paid off," added MacLennan, whose goal next year is to win the provincial 400m against senior competition. Bastos praised MacLennan, who also placed 18th in preliminaries in the 200m, for "representing St. Mary's so well. The competition is very strong and to win at OFSAA is difficult."
Meantime, Sault and area athletes completed competition with a total of 12 top-15 finishes.
Kaitlin Morin of St. Mary's recorded the city's next best finish, an eighth in the junior girls 400m. Morin was also 14th in 100m prelims and 18th in 200m prelims.
Korah's Matt Glibota was ninth in junior boys long jump and 11th in javelin. Joey Plastino of St. Basil grabbed a 10th in the 200m prelims and a 20th in prelims for the 100m. In midget girls, Sir James Dunn's Trisha Francis was 11th in the 100m prelims while teammate Holly Predinchuk was 12th in discus. St. Basil's Dustin Supak was 12th in senior boys high jump.
SJD's Gabriel Hunt placed 13th in the midget boys high jump while Robert Gallinger of Desbarats Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) placed 14th in high jump and 19th in the triple jump. In the same age group, Sean Plumley of White Pines would up 14th in the 400m preliminaries.
Top-20 finishes for senior girls were recorded by SJD's Kendra Wetzl (17th in 400m prelims), Celene Bailey (18th in 100m hurdles prelims) and Christine Thomas (19th in the 1,500m open steeplechase and 20th in 800m prelims).
Stevie Reville of St. Mary's was 18th in the high jump.
In senior boys, Jordan Verdone of St. Mary's wound up 16th in discus while SJD's Dom Graf was 18th in the 3,000m and teammate Tyler Brown 20th in triple jump.
Jeremy Hodgson of CASS placed 19th in the shot put.
In junior boys, the Dunn's Jesse Wetzl was 19th in the 400m prelims. In midget girls competition, Erin Murphy of St. Mary's grabbed a 20th in the 3,000m. On the boys side, David Kwolek of St. Basil was 17th in prelims for the 100m hurdles while the Dunn's Quinton Burrows was 17th in the 300m hurdles prelims. His teammates, Cam Coulter (18th in the 100m hurdles prelims) and Thomas Peer (20th in the 3,000m) also broke the top-20.
Thomas, Kendra Wetzl, Carly Wetzl and Erin Ratelle placed 19th in prelims for the 4-by-400m girls open relay while the St. Mary's team of Reville, Tiff Senko, Jess Nanne and Alysha Gjos was 20th in the same event.
SJD's Ryan Poser, Jesse Wetzl, Reg Peer and Eric Noland was 20th in the 4-by-400m boys open relay prelims.
The Dunn's 4-by-100m senior girls team of Bailey, Ratelle, Kendra Wetzl and Megan Szatanski was 19th in prelims.
In junior boys, St. Mary's team of MacLennan, Micheal Paluzzi, Tanner Rutland and Jordan Pavoni was 14th in prelims for the 4-by-100m event while Korah's team of Glibota, Josh Cerasuolo, Theo Theodossiou and Kelly Barrett was 16th in the same race.
Katie Speers, Katie Magee, Shannon Childs and Danielle Frayn of White Pines combined to finish ninth in prelims for the midget girls 4-by-100m relay while Hunt, Jordan Vernelli, Bryan Babic and David Carter of SJD wound up 10th in prelims for the 4-by-100m midget boys race.