Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Olympians in the house for Canadian Track and Field League Final in Ottawa

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By Kaitlyn LeBoutillier

With several Olympians in the field, the Canadian Track and Field League celebrated the finale to its third and most successful season yet, says its Ottawa founder, on Saturday evening at Terry Fox Athletic Facility.

“The growth has been massive. Every single year, we’ve taken a step forward in almost every aspect,” signals Quinn Lyness, who created the CTFL to bring greater exposure to the sport and its stars-in-the-making.

The CTFL employs a team-based format, featuring four squads selected through a draft. Athletes, who train with their own coaches and clubs, come together to earn points at meets held in Montreal, Calgary, Guelph, London and Ottawa.

Despite gloomy weather, the CTFL sold over 400 tickets for the third league final in Ottawa.

“I think it was like double the amount we had last year, which was great,” Lyness highlights, noting the CTFL has developed a fanbase across the country, helped by social media storytelling.

“The media is really what kind of brings in the revenue and the eyeballs, so that’s a big part of our initiative,” he indicates, while adding that another major reason fans are coming and watching is because there are some big names at the track.

Among the stars who competed at the final were freshly-minted Paris 2024 Olympian Eliezer Adjibi and fellow Ottawa sprinter Bianca Borgella, a world para athletics silver medallist who is visually impaired and finished fifth in the CTFL women’s 100-metre standings out of all athletes.

Read More: 4 National Capital Region sprinters named to Canadian team for Paris Olympics

Also in town was 2023 world shot put women’s silver medallist Sarah Mitton, who won her event handily with toss of 19.87 m, while Ottawa 400 m runner Lauren Gale won her first two events of the CTFL season but did not participate in the final after securing her ticket to the Paris Olympics.

“The nice thing about the CTFL is that you’re guaranteed good competition. I think that’s what athletes really enjoy about it,” indicates Lyness, himself a past University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hurdler. “Because sometimes you’ll go to a meet, you have no idea who’s going to be attending until like the day or two before, and when you show up, there’s not very good competition.”

17-year-old sprinter shines at CTFL Final

Will Batley (centre) won the men’s 200 metres at the CTFL Final. Photo: Kaitlyn LeBoutillier

A week after claiming an under-20 national title, 17-year-old Will Batley continued to turn heads by winning the CTFL Final men’s 200 m race by 0.03 seconds in 21.12.

“It’s awesome to see him out here,” Lyness says of Batley. “It also only elevates the competition of the CTFL. There’s always an open lane generally for these guys and then they get to compete against the best.”

Under better conditions and a little help from a 2.9-metre/second tailwind, Batley ran 20.76 to win his U20 national race in Montreal, held alongside the Canadian Olympic team trials.

“Performing on a big stage like nationals and being able to compete against some of the greatest athletes in Canada was amazing,” recounts the West Carleton Secondary School student who won the 2024 Ontario high school senior boys’ 200 in his Grade 11 year. “To be able to come out on top too, that felt good just to know I’m up there with everyone.”

While he’s not yet a regular on the CTFL circuit, Batley says that he enjoyed the chance to race against older athletes.

“It helps me to face tougher competition. I’m a younger age, but it helps me get used to it as I get older,” he explains, noting that having a big meet in town was another nice bonus.

“It feels really great. I mean, it’s special to perform for my family and friends, I couldn’t ask for much more,” Batley adds.

Ottawa’s Kevin Robertson (left) was third in the men’s 1,500 m at the CTFL Final in 3:42.55. Photo: Kaitlyn LeBoutillier

Aside from exposure, development and a total prize purse of over $25,000, part of what makes the CTFL special is the strong family and community support around it, plus the opportunity for participants to enjoy social connections with their teammates and fellow athletes, Lyness outlines.

“After the university season, there’s nothing really too structured that’s happening, so CTFL can promise that structure and that sense of belonging because now you have a team that you’re representing,” he notes. “They get to meet new people, which is awesome. We’re building networks in the sport.”

The Arctics were the 2024 CTFL team champions, with a number of Ottawa athletes on the roster. Victoria McIntyre topped the season’s women’s 200 m standings and Saj Al-Haddad was third in the men’s 400 m hurdles, while Gale and Borgella also contributed significant points. Grace Munro, Alexandra Telford, Gillian Porter, Noémie Beauregard and Elizabeth Vroom were also part of the champion team.

Several Ottawa competitors on other teams also earned overall podium placements in their individual events. Sam Kinahan and David Adeleye won the men’s 5,000 m and 100 m hurdles respectively, while Adjibi (men’s 100 m), Connor Fraser (men’s shot put) and Maria Okwechime (women’s long jump) were second in their events, and Sydney Smith (women’s 800 m), Andre Alie-Lamarche (men’s 1,500 m), Koree Yach (women’s 400 m hurdles) and David Moulongou (tied with Al-Haddad in the men’s 400 m hurdles) all placed third.

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