Sault Stryders
Running Club

Quite a splash
SJD's Jesse Wetzl reigns supreme in grueling steeplechase
Reported May 21, 2009 by Peter Ruicci for The Sault Star
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

In one of the most demanding events of the City High School Track and Field Meet, a broken right foot helped carry Jesse Wetzl to victory Wednesday.

Using an injury that silenced him during last year's track season as motivation, Wetzl captured the boys open steeplechase on Day 1 of the two-day event at Jo Forman Track.

Action was scheduled to resume today at 9 a. m.

Competing in his first steeplechase, the Sir James Dunn runner completed the 2,000-metre race, which includes several barriers that must be jumped over, and a water pit in seven minutes, 25.60 seconds.

That was good for more than a seven-second victory over Korah's Adam Fortais, who finished in 7:33.29. His teammate, the Colts Ian Roney, was third in a 7:39.51.

"Having broken my foot skiing right before last year's track meet gave me more incentive to try harder," said Wetzl, a 17-year-old, Grade 12 student. "It definitely motivated me more. But not so much to go out and prove something -- it was more for myself."

Having derived its name from the steeplechase in horse racing, the athletic steeplechase is an obstacle course of barriers. But unlike those in hurdling, the barriers in steeplechase don't fall over.

The water jump consists of a barrier, followed by a pit of water which is normally 3.66 metres long. The water is deeper the closer you are to the barrier.

"Man, it's like running 2,000 metres, but you need so much more effort going over the steeples," said Wetzl, who took the lead for good in the early part of the race. "Everytime you hit one of them, you dread getting to the next one. The water is the toughest -- you're landing on the upslope in a puddle."

With an eye toward running more triathlons -- he's already competed in 10, including six in the last two years -- Wetzl has wanted to increase the distances of the races he competes in.

In Grade 9, competing in the Midget Division, he won the 300m hurdles and finished second in both the 400m and triple jump.

One year later, as a junior, Wetzl was first in the 800m and 300m hurdles and second in the 400m.

Since he's been training for longer distances, Wetzl said his endurance was there Wednesday.

"I competed in the steeplechase for the fun of it and it was interesting," he said. "I had experience in the hurdles, so that helped me."

Fortais, who finished fifth in last year's steeplechase, said he was relatively pleased with his performance. While the 18-yearold, Grade 12 student thought he could have run better, he doesn't think he could have beaten Wetzl.

"It's definitely tough, but I find it the most fun of any of the track events," Fortais said. "After the first lap or two you begin to lose your form. It's definitely challenging. The steeples are so high, it freaks you out."

Making his first appearance in this race, Roney thought it was "grueling," but agreed it was fun.

"I was pretty dehydrated after the first couple of laps," said the 17-year-old, Grade 12 student. "But I really enjoyed it."

Meantime, Devon Cavanagh of St. Mary's won the senior boys 1,500m race Wednesday while his teammate, Richard MacLennan, grabbed top spot in the 400m.

The Dunn's Michael Campbell won the 100m hurdles and his teammate, Andrew Marshall, struck gold in the high jump.

Another SJD athlete, Robert Ramsay, won the senior javelin.

In junior action, the Eagles Bradley Walsh, in the triple jump, and Colin Booth, in the 100m hurdles, grabbed gold medals.

Alex Morrison of St. Mary's won the 400m while his teammate, Patrick Turcotte, topped the field to finish first in the discus.

Korah's Jack Carlyle was first in the 1,500m.

In midget competition, the Dunn's Patrick Heeps won the 400m while teammate Stephen DiPietro struck gold in the 1,500m.

Bawating's Barak Bordin was first in the 100m hurdles, Dylan Hebert of St. Mary's was unbeatable in the long jump and St. Basil's Marc Rouleau won the shot put competition.