Tony Else and Siôn Griffiths both had challenges to overcome on their way to medalling at the Legion Track and Field Championships in Manitoba earlier this month.
Else needed to get past a case of nerves before he could claim a silver medal in the midget men’s 4x100m relay, while Griffiths was competing on just one healthy leg, but still managed to collect bronze in the youth men’s javelin. Both athletes are students at Brentwood College School and members of the CVAC Jaguars track team who do extra throwing training in Victoria as well.
Else says he doesn’t play team sports because he gets nervous, but he still agreed to join a team of independent athletes representing B.C. in the 4x100m.
“For the 4x100m, I was really nervous that I would drop the baton or step out of my lane and the whole team would be disqualified,” he said.
Not only did he not drop the baton, Else also helped his teammates — Harrison Trustham, Caleb Hoey and Chase Haagensen — to a podium finish.
“Somehow we beat Quebec,” Else said. “Quebec is fast. Ontario is fast. They both have at least three people who are under 12 seconds.”
Else wasn’t as nervous in the high jump, where he placed 10th, which was better than he expected. He got into a little trouble in the shot put, where he fouled out on his first two throws, then needed to make the third one count so he could get into the top eight and advance to the next round.
“On my third and final throw, I was so stressed that I was going to foul and be out of the competition,” he recalled.
Else ended up setting a new personal best to place seventh in the first round, then kept hitting more personal bests in the second round until he eventually hit 14.13 m, beating his old personal best by an incredible 1.12 m to place sixth in Canada with the best result by a B.C. athlete this year.
Legions was the biggest meet Else has attended in his two years as a track and field athlete, and it was a rewarding experience even before his first event.
“It was fun even just going to Brandon,” he said. “I got to fly to Calgary and drive there with my mom and my grandma.”
Else hopes to return to Legions next year, when he plans to take up decathlon, an event not offered at the midget level.
Griffiths missed nearly all of the track and field season this year because of a knee injury he sustained playing rugby in the spring, but managed to recover enough to attend Legions and hit a new personal best. Although he wasn’t able to defend his silver medal in the javelin from last year, bronze was still more than he expected.
“It felt amazing (to medal),” he said. “I was so shocked when they read out 59.02, the distance of my throw. Overcoming my injury and throwing further than I ever had when I was healthy was a huge confidence booster and made me believe I can get to the next level.”
Because of the injury, Griffiths didn’t even do as much of a run-up before his throw as the other athletes, confusing TV camera operators who were unable to locate him immediately.
Griffiths displayed a lot of leadership while he was injured, stepping up to help coach other CVAC throwers, which in turn helps to set up a promising Grade 12 year at Brentwood, where he will serve as Athletics Prefect.
This was Griffiths’ last go at Legions, but he has loftier aims for next year.
“My next goal right now is to get my knee better and start training more,” he said. “Next year is the World U20 Championships in Finland, so that’s the new long-term goal for me.”