By RON FANFAIR
It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters.
With that in mind, Neil McNeil High School sprinter, Dushane Farrier, is on cloud nine after recovering from a poor start to defeat Birchmount Park Collegiate’s Aaron Brown in a close finish in the senior boys 100-metre dash at last weekend’s Ontario Federation of Schools Athletic Associations’ (OFSAA) 60th annual track and field meeting at the University of Toronto’s refurbished Varsity stadium.
After stumbling at the beginning of the highly anticipated race, Farrier rapidly made up ground to cross the finish line in 10.54 secs., just ahead of Brown who clocked 10.55.
“My coach (Al Baigent) told me that when you are in trouble, you should stay calm because if you become tense, you will never recover,” said Farrier. “I remembered that. That was definitely my worst start in a competitive race, but I was able to relax and get back into stride quickly. For a moment, I definitely thought I was out and that Aaron had it.”
Farrier, who returned to the all-boys Catholic school after graduating last June to boost his low grades and improve his track times, was impressed with Brown’s raw talent.
“He’s a very promising kid,” Farrier, 19, said. “He’s in Grade 11 and you have to watch out for him in the future.”
Brown, who won three gold medals and set provincial high school junior-age records in the 100-metre and sprint relay events last year, did not make excuses and was gracious in defeat.
“I saw him stumble and I tried to pull away, but he came back very strong and beat me at the end,” said Brown, who is a running back on his school’s varsity football team which clinched the Toronto citywide title.
This was the third meeting between the sprinters this season. Brown defeated Farrier in the Nike/Neil McNeil John Rowland Games at York University in late April, but Farrier bounced back a month later to avenge the defeat at the Metro Regionals at the same venue.
Last month, five-time world and Olympic sprint champion, Donovan Bailey, made a surprise visit to Birchmount Park to meet Farrier, who was training, after learning that the young athlete wanted to be a role model for young kids.
“It was quite a good meeting and we talked about several things, including track,” Farrier said.
The senior girls’ 100-metre race also produced a close and exciting finish with T’Keyah Dumoy of St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga squeezing past Simone Martin of St. Thomas Aquinas School in Brampton. Both athletes clocked 11.94 secs.
“I am not surprised that it was this close because I knew who my competition was,” said Dumoy, who hopes to secure a track scholarship in the United States. “I knew it was going to be a fight, but I had a good feeling and I knew I was going to meet her at the line.”
Martin turned the table on Dumoy in the 200-metre final, winning in 24.28 secs.
Chanice Taylor-Chase’s bid to capture three gold medals was thwarted when she fell just before the end of the 200-metre junior girls final which was won by Sade Lewis of St. Thomas Aquinas in a new meet record time of 24.99 secs.
Though bothered by groin and ankle injuries, the Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School gifted athlete established new marks in the 80-metre hurdles (11.44 secs.) and the long jump (5.69 metres) before her disastrous fall.
Taylor-Chase, who Athletics Ontario selected the best female midget-age sprinter in the province in 2007, captured three goals medals last year at the OFSAA championships in Hamilton.
Several new records were set during the three-day meet at the U of T track which became the fourth Greater Toronto Area facility to host the championships after the Canadian National Exhibition, York University and Centennial Park Arena in Etobicoke.
Marlon Laidlaw-Allen of Bendale Business Technical Institute clinched the 100- and 200-metre junior boys events in a record 10.77 and 21.72 secs. respectively while Oluwasegun Makinde of Colonel By Secondary School in Ottawa breasted the tape first in the 110-metre senior boys hurdles and 200-metre events in new meet times of 13.36 secs. and 20.99 secs.
Pickering High School Grade Nine student, Noelle Leon-Palmer – who secured five wins at the Central Regional finals in Midland last month – captured the 100 and 200-metres midget sprint double, breaking the record in the sprint dash with a fast time of 12.13 secs. that eclipsed Cassandra Pascal’s mark of 12.20 secs. set last year.
Pascal, a Grade 10 student at St. Marcellinus Secondary School, broke Dionne Wright’s 20-year record (12.05) in the 100-metre junior final, clocking 11.94 secs.
Xavier King of Pickering High School turned in a remarkable performance in the junior boys 3000-metre race, leading from start to finish to blow away 23 contenders and cross the line in an impressive time of 8:39.06.
Other winners included Dieuleveut Mufuta (midget 100 metres), Jharyl Bowery (senior long jump), Keith Cyrus (junior 100-metre hurdles), Alistair Moona (senior 400 metres) and Steven Ajayi (midget 200 metres).
Pickering High School dominated the relays, winning the senior girls 4 x 100 and 4 x 400-metre races and the junior girls and midget boys 4 x 100-metre events. Birchmout Collegiate Institute captured the senior boys’ 4 x 400-metre race. Pickering also won the boys and girls team titles.
Several former Canadian Olympians attended the meet, including Molly Killingbeck who is the U of T sprint and relays coach, Mark McCoy and Milt Ottey.
“It has been a long time since we have seen such a high caliber of running and jumping in Toronto,” said Ottey, an eight-time national high jump champion and two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist who took part in his first OFSAA meet in Kingston in 1978. “I came here to watch one of my athletes (Garrick Mok) and also present some awards.
“This has been a very successful meet, not just in terms of participation but in the quality of the performances. I am very impressed with the talent on display.”