By Charlotte van Walraven & Dan Plouffe
Keira Christie-Galloway repeated as senior girls’ 100-metre hurdles champion to lead a strong showing from national capital athletes at the June 1-3 OFSAA Track-and-Field Championships in Belleville.
“I didn’t get my record, but I was happy with my run,” smiles Christie-Galloway, who blasted onto the scene in a big way last year when she broke world champion Perdita Felicien’s OFSAA record as a Grade 11, and later erased Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep’s under-19 club provincials mark.
“Breaking their records was crazy,” recalls Christie-Galloway, a former gymnast who never watched track and didn’t know the Canadian legends’ names at first. “Finding out all their accomplishments and what they’ve done, I was pretty proud of myself and really excited.”
Last year’s breakout performance launched Christie-Galloway onto bigger stages. As a 16-year-old, she qualified for the 2016 IAAF World Under-20 Championships , placing 39th in Poland.
“Being at that level and seeing everything is an amazing feeling,” highlights Christie-Galloway. “Before I was just coming out here running, but at that level, it’s shocking. You have to get yourself ready.”
The Ottawa Lions athlete has moved into a new group with her club under the guidance of 1996 Olympic champion Glenroy Gilbert.
“It’s cool training with all those high-level athletes and just seeing how they prepare themselves and focus,” signals Christie-Galloway, whose coach is making her run more often, including 200 m races, to improve her fitness.
“I feel like at a young age I’ve experienced a lot,” she adds. “But I’m definitely improving and getting stronger.”
Now eyeing bigger prizes than OFSAA gold, Christie-Galloway is eager to have friends and family watch her chase a berth on Canada’s Pan American U20 Championships team come the July 3-9 nationals at Terry Fox.
She plans to attend the University of Ottawa for at least one year before possibly taking on one of the NCAA offers she’s received, though she says she’ll miss the atmosphere of the high school meets.
“High school is just fun. Getting the OFSAA sweater. It’s a great experience,” says the athlete who moved to Glebe from St. Matthew for her senior year, noting her favourite moments come from outside of races.
“We’re like a big family,” she explains. “I just love everyone that’s here and how we all support each other.”
Gymnast-turned-pole vaulter sails to 1 of 20 Ottawa medals
Ottawa students brought home a total of 20 medals from OFSAA track-and-field. Each athlete has their own story behind their success. Amongst them is senior girls’ pole vault bronze medallist Caroline Poirier’s unique transition from a top provincial-level gymnast.
Poirier says she doesn’t find pole vaulting to be very stressful because there is “not as much immediate risk of injury or actual death” – a bit strange coming from an athlete involved in perhaps track-and-field’s riskiest discipline, but it doesn’t quite compare to the flips and tricks she’d perform in her prior athletic pursuit.
A bronze medallist in the top provincial category of gymnastics at age 13, Poirier decided to explore something new at the beginning of her Grade 10 year at Louis-Riel.
She saw some pole vaulters practicing at her school’s Dome LR 400 m indoor track, and “I just thought, ‘I wanna pole vault. I wanna be good at that,’” says Poirier, recalling her eureka moment.
That spring, Poirier reached OFSAA for pole vault and in hurdles, after less than a year practicing.
“Gymnastics taught me so much about hard work and respect, and listening to my body,” highlights the former Tumblers Gymnastics Centre athlete, noting it was very difficult to leave her first sport behind. “A lot of former gymnasts have a hard time when they leave the sport. It’s a really, really big thing.”
Her family and friends have remained as supportive as ever in her new pursuit.
“Everyone is really excited and involved,” signals Poirier, who finished one place ahead of fellow Louis-Riel student and former gymnast Annabelle Gagne at OFSAA. “They’re always asking ‘What’s your new PB? What did you jump this week?’ They even come to see me compete on weekends.”
Following a jump off 3.30 m at OFSAA, the Grade 11 student improved her personal best to 3.60 m at a later competition. She now plans to continue pole vaulting once she reaches university.
Alongside Christie-Galloway, the local OFSAA champions were St. Pius’ Madison Mclean in the junior girls’ javelin, Longfields’ Benjamin Adams in the midget boys’ triple jump, and Ridgemont’s Joe Fast, who won his second OFSAA gold of the school year in the midget boys’ 1,500 m following his fall cross-country running title.
Local OFSAA track-and-field championships medallists:
SG 100 m hurdles
MG 1,500 m
St. Pius X
MB triple jump
JG 400 m
SG 400 m
MB 800 m
Girls’ 800 m intel.
MG 3,000 m
MG long jump
JB 100 m hurdles
JB 300 m hurdles
SG 100 m
MG 1,500 m
SG pole vault
De La Salle
MB 800 m
MB 3,000 m