2017: A year of highlights

With just one day left in 2017, we thought it best to take one last look back at the year that was for the Ottawa Lions before switching our attention to the 2018.

Here are some of our top highlights from the past 12 months.

Ottawa hosts the nation

It was arguably the biggest highlight for many in the Ottawa track community in 2017 – the Canadian Championships returned to the nation’s capital for the first time since 2006. Boy, were they ever treated to a show. Over 1400 athletes ran, jumped, threw and wheeled their way around the Terry Fox Athletic Facility over the course of seven days in July with approximately 18,500 people on hand to watch them compete.

The home town crowd seemed to help as Lion athletes captured a remarkable 25 medals, including 7 gold, in the junior, senior and para categories. Included among those was Melissa Bishop’s wire to wire win in the 800m and Tim Nedow’s shot put victory – both of which set new stadium records.

Bishop and Nedow’s performances were just two of the ten new Terry Fox Athletic Facility Records to fall during the Canadian Championships.

Sultana Frizell begins assault on Canadian weight throw record

After breaking her own club record in the final meet of 2016, Frizell would go on to smash the Canadian record three times in 2017 beginning with her 22.00m heave at the St. Lawrence University Invite. She would improve the mark to 23.32m a month later in Toronto and out further to 23.61m a week after that in Indiana.

 

Adam Palamar runs fastest mile in NCAA

It may still have been early in the indoor season, but on January 27th at the Boston University Track and Field Centre posted an NCAA leading time in the mile with a spectacular 3:57.39 second clocking. Palamar, based on his 5th place finish, would receive All-American honours at the NCAA Championships in March. His early season clocking also was the second fastest in club history, just two one hundredths off the record.

Glenroy Gilbert named top coach in Ottawa

Gilbert was recognized for the third time in four years as the Male Coach of the Year at the Ottawa Sport Awards in February. The award highlights his excellent work with local athletes Oluwasegun Makinde and Farah Jacques as well as the Canadian Relay Program.

In May, Gilbert was tapped as the Head Coach for Canada’s entry at the World Championships in London. The role was made permanent in July following the Canadian Championships.

Lions athletes win five medals at USport Championships

It was the largest medal haul since 2013 with three athletes bringing home two gold, a silver and two bronze. Leading the contingent was Ashley Connell as she swept the shot put and weight throw with lifetime best performances. Her weight throw mark puts her second in club history while her shot put mark leaves her fourth all-time.

In the men’s heptathlon, Telvin Tavernier had the competition of his lifetime as he improved his personal best by nearly 200 points to claim silver. He would follow up the performance with another extraordinary effort in the pole vault where he raised his day old personal best from the heptathlon another 12 cm to claim bronze.

Tania Bambi rounded out the medal collection with a bronze in the 60m hurdles, narrowly edging out teammate Devyani Biswal.

Wendy Alexis wins two silvers at World Indoor Masters

It’s not often you travel around the world to do battle with your rival from a few hours away. However, when you’re Wendy Alexis it seems to always be the case. The 61 year old sprinter battled it out with Karla Del Grande of Toronto for global sprint supremacy at the World Masters Championships in Daegu, South Korea this past March. Alas Alexis would have to settle for silver in both of the women’s over 60 60m and 200m events despite seasonal bests in both events.

Divya Biswal jumps into record book

Some might think that working for a hedge fund on Wall Street and being a top level triple jumper don’t quite go hand in hand. But then again, they likely don’t know Divya Biswal. The bouncy Biswal was on a tear in 2017 beginning with one weekend in April where she would surpass the club’s 15 year old standard of 12.74m on back to back days. Divya would surpass the previous record a total of five times in 2017, highlighted by her club record of 13.27m set at the Ontario Championships.

Lions regain Ontario Senior Championship

For the first time since 2013, the Ottawa Lions were crowned Ontario Senior Champions at the provincial event in June. On the strength of seven gold including winning three of the four relays, the Lions beat the University of Toronto Track Club by a score of 184 points to 169. One of the golds came from the 4x400m relay team of Lauren Gale, Erinn Stenman-Fahey, Madison Clarke and Sharelle Samuel who lowered the club record by nearly two seconds to 3:44.58. In addition to the gold medal haul, Lions athletes also took home six silver and three bronze.

 

Bishop breaks Canadian record… again

For the third straight season Melissa Bishop re-wrote the Canadian record book with an electrifying 1:57.01 performance over 800m at the Monaco Diamond League event in late July. The time was a hair ahead of her 4th place finish at the Rio Olympics when she set the previous standard of 1:57.02. Bishop would follow up her record performance with a fifth place finish at the World Championships in London.

Dunkerley and Venne medal at Worlds

When Jason Dunkerley spoke to the crowd at the club’s 2016 award banquet, he announced his retirement from competitive racing after five Paralympic Games appearances and five medals. All of that suddenly changed in early 2017 when Athletics Canada told him he could qualify for July’s World Championships in London.

Dunkerely, who had been guided by Joshua Karanja for more than 5 years, would rely on new guide Jeremie Venne for London though as Karanja was injured. The pair appeared to mesh from the start, culminating in their run to silver at Worlds. As for whether he’ll compete again, Dunkerley said he’s not quite sure. He plans to “let the dust settle” from the championship before making a decision.

Sekou Kaba named flag bearer at Jeux de la Francophonie

Hurdler Sekou Kaba was named Canada’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies at July’s Jeux de la Francophonie in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It was the second time a Lion has led Team Canada into the stadium of a major games after Sultana Frizell carried the flag into the closing ceremonies at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Kaba, the defending champion in the 110m hurdles, again found himself on the podium after a silver medal run in the Ivory Coast. He was one of three Lions to medal at the Games with Charifa Labarang picking up silver in the 4x100m relay for her native Cameroon and Ashlea Maddex grabbing a bronze in the women’s 100m hurdle event.

Sharelle Samuel runs to bronze at Commonwealth Youth Games

For many, their first taste of international competition is an opportunity to get their feet wet – not for Sharelle Samuel. The Ashbury College student appeared primed and ready to go at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas this July. After a fourth place finish in the flat 400m, Samuel would return to pick up bronze in the 400m hurdles in a time of 59.59 seconds – just two tenths of a second out of top spot. The time was also personal best of nearly 1.5 seconds for Samuel and moved her to fourth overall in club history.

Emergence of OneTrackMind vlog

For years, OneTrackMind was simply known as the guy to buy spikes from, but in late 2016 the man behind the brand, decathlete Kevin Nault, decided to get both in front and behind the camera. The vlog, depicting the day in and day out struggles and victories of life as decathlete, emerged as Canada’s preeminent track and field vlog in 2017.

Nault, along with training partners Matthew Johnson, Telvin Tavernier and Toluwalope Makinde make for an entertaining, if not hard working, quartet exemplified by the growth in viewership. If you’re not already a subscriber, check out Kevin’s YouTube Channel to sample some videos.