It’s becoming an annual September ritual at Ajax City Council. Councillors’ first order of business after their summer break is to acknowledge the significant achievement of Pickering High School track teams.
At last June’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships in Sudbury, the Trojans made history becoming the first provincial school to win three straight boys and girls titles. The Durham school also captured a record 12th team title surpassing Michael Power High School which clinched 11 crowns in 12 years with Father John Redmond at the helm.
“This is an outstanding accomplishment by the entire team and we want to congratulate the team members,” said Ajax Mayor Steve Parish who presented each student with a plaque.
The school has flourished in the sport since Cyril Sahadath joined the staff in 1989 and established a stellar program that’s among the best in the country. In his first season, Pickering won the Lake Ontario Secondary School Athletics Association track and field championship and, two years later, captured the first of its eight provincial boys’ titles. The girls program has been equally successful, winning four titles since its creation five years ago.
“Track and field is now a tradition at our school,” said Sahadath who migrated to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago in 1965. “The kids come in knowing what we have here and what the expectations are from them.”
It also helps that Sahadath knows how to motivate and press the right buttons to get the best out of his student athletes.
Trever Jean-Baptiste entered Grade Nine last year as a short sprinter, but Sahadath encouraged him to try hurdling.
“I never hurdled before, but coach seemed to have confidence that I could do well in the event and be pretty good,” recalled Jean-Baptiste who attended Sir John A. McDonald Public School in Pickering. “It was something new and I accepted the challenge and worked hard to become the best in the event.”
At the provincial championship, the 15-year-old won the 300-metre hurdles in 41.46 secs. and anchored the midget 4 x 100-metre relay team to a gold medal. The other gold medallists were team captain Xavier King who won the senior 2,000-metre steeplechase event in 5.51:81, Brian Betty who clinched the midget 100-metre hurdles in 13.97 secs. and the junior girls relay team.
Despite the fact that three seniors from last year’s team, including 100-metre hurdles bronze medallist Izzy Ogieva are now attending university, Sahadath expects this year’s teams to be formidable.
He singled out junior Nichelle Prince, whose father Fabian represented Kingston College in Jamaica’s high school championships (CHAMPS) in 1976 and 1978, as one of the athletes to watch this year.
“She has so much raw talent and ability,” said Sahadath. “The only drawback is that she plays soccer at a high level like most of our girls and it’s a challenge to get her focused because she’s juggling two sports in which she’s very good at.”
Prince, who scored a hat-trick last July to lead Ontario to a 3-2 win over Quebec in the Nutralite All Stars Under-16 final and is a member of Canada’s Under-17 training squad, won a silver medal in the 100-metre provincial final.
Sahadath acknowledged the school administrators for supporting the program over the years.
“We could not have done it without them,” he said. “This year, we have a new principal and four new vice-principals and I expect they will embrace us in the same way their predecessors did.”