Saturday, June 15, 2024

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Immaculata’s Ellie McGregor is young, but she’s Ottawa’s fastest high school, middle-distance runner

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By Martin Cleary

Competing for the first time in the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association track and field championships can be an eye-opening experience.

As the Grade 9 student-athletes try to steady their nerves and participate in the novice division, they’re mingling with the best from the West and East Conferences in three age groups, trying not only to win medals, but also to qualify for the two-day OFSAA East Regionals, which started Thursday in Belleville.

The Terry Fox Athletic Facility track also can be an intimidating venue as it’s constantly busy and noisy with cheering students, parents and fans. Competitions are staged on international-quality sites and long gone are the dirt or cinder tracks of their elementary meets.

But Ellie McGregor’s city high school track championship debut last week wasn’t so much an eye-opener for the Grade 9 Immaculata High School student-athlete as it was an opportunity to run exceptionally fast and open the eyes of the middle-distance runners around her.

McGregor, 15, won the girls’ novice class 400 and 800 metres in commanding, but not record, times. What stood out, however, was how she produced the fastest times at the city championships for her two races, which would have allowed her to win the girls’ junior and girls’ senior races as well.

In her 400-metre final, McGregor comfortably dipped under one minute with a winning time and personal-best 58.10 seconds, which left her slightly more than two seconds off Lauren Gale’s 10-year-old record of 55.98 seconds. Gale was part of the Tokyo Olympic team and recently competed for Canada at the World Relay championships.

McGregor’s time in the once-around-the-track race was the fastest of the day as girls’ junior winner Shannon Dewar of St. Francis Xavier finished in 59.34 seconds and senior champion Sophia McIntyre, also of St. Francis, stopped in 1:01.38.


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It was the same scenario in the girls’ 800-metre finals. McGregor scored a 6.7-second victory in the novice medal race and won in 2:20.72, which left Erinn Stenman-Fahey’s 12-year-old record of 2:18.93 intact for another year.

The other two 800-metre champions finished in times that would have placed them behind the younger McGregor in an open race as Anastasia Popadich of Glebe was the girls’ junior winner in 2:28.20 and Jocelyn Giannotti of Holy Trinity was the senior winner in 2:21.75.

McGregor lived through the same experience at the NCSSAA East Conference championships the previous week. Her winning 400-metre time of 58.29 seconds was faster than junior champion Dewar, 58.88 seconds, and senior winner McIntyre, 1:01.71. In the 800-metre finals, McGregor’s unmatched clocking of 2:24.98 outdid junior winner Popadich, 2:33.67, and senior champion Lauren Alexander of Glebe, 2:25.18.

“Yeah, I feel it was great to see all my hard training pay off,” a humble McGregor said in a recent phone interview, when asked about her best-of-championship times.

McGregor, who has been a competitive runner for five years, felt ready to run well for her first outdoor high school track season, despite a brief illness in late April. She started her indoor practices last November with McGregor Training, which is operated by her father Stuart, a three-time Paralympic Summer Games track medallist.

“I was very prepared and consistent,” McGregor continued, adding she ran a 400-metre time of 58.2 seconds in a recent university meet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “I was very excited by that.”

As for her high school season, her goals were straightforward.

“In the 400 metres, I’m just hoping to get a fast time. I want to do better than the week before. I’m happy with that,” McGregor said.

She also will be seeking faster times in the 800 metres.

McGregor rocked the national track community last July at the second Canadian Track and Field League final in Ottawa, when she won the women’s 800 metres in a personal-best time 2:15.96. As a determined 14-year-old runner who had just graduated Grade 8, she won the title by 2.23 seconds against senior high school and university women. The league final also was run in conjunction with an Ottawa Lions’ weekly Twilight Series meet.

That result didn’t go unnoticed by the four-team league.

During the 2024 CTFL Draft in late March, McGregor was the youngest-ever athlete selected from the pool of runners, jumpers and throwers, when she went 96th overall in Round 24 to the Spitfires. She was drafted by Spitfires official Lucia Stafford, who is a Canadian Olympian.

Ottawa runners Sydney Smith and Alexander also will run the 800 metres along with McGregor for the Spitfires. The other CTFL teams are called the Arctics, Huskies and Bears.

“This will help me because I will be put in fast races with high-level people,” McGregor said. “I will be out for a fast first lap. It should be good for my P.B. as I try to hang onto older women and elite runners.”

But before she can concentrate on running a few of the six meets in the CTFL, McGregor hopes to have a strong finish to her inaugural high school season at the OFSAA East Regional meet this week and qualify for the OFSAA championships June 6-8 in London, ON.

“I’m really excited to race it (regionals). I hope to do my best. I have stuff to learn about and get better,” McGregor explained.

McGregor is scheduled to run her 800-metre and 400-metre races on Friday. Both are timed finals.

Meanwhile, West Carleton’s Will Batley broke the boys’ senior meet record in the 200 metres by the narrowest of margins, running 21.26 seconds into a 3.1-metre per second headwind in the final. The regional record was formerly set by Segun Makinde of Colonel By in 2009 at 21.27 seconds.

NCSSAA RESULTS AT 2024 OFSAA EAST REGIONAL TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS, BELLEVILLE (TOP 5 QUALIFY FOR OFSAA CHAMPIONSHIPS, JUNE 6-8, LONDON)

GIRLS

NOVICE

200 metres – 4. Carmen Hill, St. Francis Xavier, 26.80 seconds;

1,500 metres – 1. Bianca Arabackyj, De La Salle, 4:54,43; 2. Laila Lebel, Colonel By, 5:01.78; 4. Dahlia Loreti, Pierre Savard, 5:05.97; 5. Myla Carleton, Franco Ouest, 5:09.16;

High jump – 1. Ivie Omoregie, Immaculata, 1.51 metres; 3. Roxy Gardiner, Sir Robert Borden, 1.48 metres;

Shot put – 2. Maggie Hughson, Merivale, 10.25 metres; 5. Maggie Young, Brookfield, 9.67 metres;

JUNIOR

200 metres – 2. Shannon Dewar, St. Francis Xavier, 26.33 seconds;

1,500 metres – 4. Evelyn Davies, Immaculata 5:05.01; 5. Elissande Hutt, De La Salle, 5:08.45;

Long jump – 1. Deborah Adeleye, Ashbury, 5.35 metres; 4. Naomi Olberg, Lisgar, 5.02 metres;

SENIOR

200 metres – 1. Fega Eruotor, Merivale, 24.55 seconds; 2. Lecia Patrick, Ashbury, 25.09 seconds; 4. Amy LeBlanc, St. Francis Xavier, 25.54 seconds;

1,500 metres – 2. Grace Streek, Peak Centre Academy, 4:40.42; 3. Jocelyn Giannotti, Holy Trinity, 4:42.26; Lauren Alexander, Glebe, 4:47.15; 5. Ciara Villeneuve, Paul Desmarais, 4:47.54;

400-metre hurdles – 4. Waverley Lyons, Glebe, 1:07.41

Triple jump – 3. Franckie Cobby, St. Peter, 10.81 metres;

Pole vault – 1. Balqis Chouikhi, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 2.90 metres;

Javelin – 5. Katie Purves, Franco Cite, 30.54 metres;

BOYS

NOVICE

200 metres – 2. Daniel Pilkington, St. Francis Xavier, 23.91 seconds; 4. Daniel Wu, Merivale, 24.23 seconds;

1,500 metres – 2. Luke Van Brabant, Earl of March, 4:23.80;

300-metre hurdles – 1. Zachary Benfaida, Merivale, 43.00 seconds; 2. Mikhael Atonfo, St. Peter, 43.88 seconds; 4. Maxime Chartrand, Louis Riel, 44.70 seconds; 5. Eric Badour, Bell, 45.33 seconds;

High jump – 1. Ian Belanger, Brookfield, 1.70 metres; 3. Nathan Melsness, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 1.65 metres; 5. Raphael Kankonde, Mer Bleue, 1.65 metres;

Shot put – 1. Colens Desardouin, Mer Bleue, 13.07 metres; 3. Marcus Kunstadt-Landon, Ashbury, 12.71 metres;

JUNIOR

200 metres – 1. Ange-Mathis Kramo, Paul Desmarais, 22.33 seconds; 4. Anderson Alexandre, Franco Ouest, 23.45 seconds; 5. Xavier Placid, John McCrae, 23.51 seconds;

1,500 metres – 5. Charlie Mortimer, Hillcrest, 4:07.68;

300-metre hurdles – 1. Taisei Tan, Beatrice-Desloges, 40.53 seconds; 2. Eli Mordel, Sir Robert Borden, 41.11 seconds;

Long jump – 4. Kiran O’Hare, Glebe, 6.04 metres; 5. Thomas Filus, Longfields-Davidson Heights, 6.02 metres;

SENIOR

200 metres – 1. Will Batley, West Carleton, 21.26 seconds, record (old record, Segun Makinde, Colonel By, 2009, 21.27 seconds) 3. Stephan Balson, Lisgar, 21.98 seconds; 5. William Sanders, St. Mother Teresa, 22.22 seconds;

1,500 metres – 2. Saul Taler, Glebe, 3:58.48; 4. Max Wilson, Woodroffe, 4:01.07;

400-metre hurdles – 1. Zachary Jeggo, Louis Riel, 55.46 seconds; 2. Kyle London, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 56.72 seconds; 3. Eric Zielonka, Brookfield, 58.02 seconds; 5. Diego Rodriguez, Hillcrest, 58.88 seconds;

Triple jump – 2. Pj Lobetti, Immaculata, 13.98 metres; 5. Timeo Atonfo, Gisele Lalonde, 13.44 metres;

Javelin – 2. Nicholas Bertrand, Longfields-Davidson Heights, 49.67 metres.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 51 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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