Local track stars show their stuff at Varsity



Track and field fans in the Greater Toronto Area were given the opportunity see some of the local stars preparing for next month’s World Championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London through the inaugural National Track League (NTL) that concluded last week at Varsity Stadium.

They also got the chance to look at some of the top high school performers who, in the next few years, could be vying to represent Canada at major international competitions.

Middle distance runner Vanessa McLeod seized the moment to showcase her talent on the big stage, making it “two for two” at Varsity after winning the Nike 800-metre event in 2:17.54.

“I am happy with the outcome even though I was hoping for a faster time,” said the Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School & Regional Arts Centre student who missed last season because of injuries. “Nobody wanted to take the initiative and go out in front, so I stayed with the pack and turned it on over the final 100 metres. That strategy worked well and I felt pretty good.”

McLeod won a gold medal on the same track two years ago in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) 800-midget final in 2:17.42. Last month, she had to settle for silver in the OFSAA championship in Sudbury behind Elizabeth Whelan of Branksome Hall who did not take part in last Wednesday’s Varsity event.

She said she is happy with her season results.

“I am pleased with the way I have come back after missing a year,” said McLeod who gave up soccer and started competing in track seriously in Grade Nine. “There is no pressure on me. I just want to reduce my personal best and have fun.”

In her first year of high school, she won the Toronto District Colleges Athletic Association cross country midget girls’ championship and the Redmond outdoor midget 800-metre race in 2:24.29. She also ran the fastest 1,000 metres indoors (3:06.00) in 2009 at the Highlanders meet in Hamilton, breaking the old record at the same event by five seconds.

Scarborough-born Phylicia George captured the NTL Top Female Athlete award. The University of Connecticut graduate nipped 10-time national champion Perdita Felicien at the line in 12.87 secs.

The aspiring medical doctor, who represents Canada next month at the World Track and Field championships in South Korea, also won a $5,000 cash prize.

Other Canadian winners were the world’s number one shot putter Dylan Armstrong who clinched the NTL Top Male award, Bryan Barnett who won the 200-metre event in 20.86 secs. and long jumper Krysha Bailey who recorded a winning leap of 6.53 metres.

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