High school track stars being offered whole new challenge
For a high school track field star in the GTA, the pinnacle has always been OFSAA.
“It’s like the Olympics in high school,” said national team hurdler Phylicia George (middle).
Well, there’s a new kid in town.
Plans were unveiled Monday for the top 312 track and field athletes across Canada to compete on May 12 at Varsity Stadium in the Nike High School Grand Prix.
George helped kick off the event at a news conference with fellow hurdlers Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla-Lopes Schliep, coming back from having a baby, and 2003 world champion Perdita Felicien.
It’s an opportunity Felicien wishes she had as a high schooler.
“I think it will be a great testing ground for athletes,” she said. “Sometimes, you find in high school you’re the biggest fish in the pond. So to kind of expand that pond to go into a bigger pool will be exciting for the athletes to see what they can do against the rest of the athletes in the country.”
Lopes-Schliep said she went to a similar meet in the U.S. when she was in high school and found the challenge of racing against the best helped shape her as a competitor.
“The love for sport and the drive to get better, to push yourself to strive to go after records was very neat because I went out and I was able to break a record there,” she said. “And then to see that this is coming to Canadian soil is just one of the best things we could be doing. It’s going to better the sport, it’s going to better our kids, it’s going to better everything all around in Canada.”
University of Toronto track and field head coach Carl Georgevski believes it will not only help promote the sport, but that it can be a means of unearthing the “diamonds in the rough that are out there in Canada.”
Nike is teaming with School Sport Canada and the integrated marketing agency TrojanOne for the event. The 312 athletes will be culled from 200,000 high school track and field athletes from across Canada.
“I think having something where it’s the whole country, it’s not just the whole province, it creates a new rivalry,” said George.
“I think OFSAA was the first time you really get to see what fast is. Sometimes when you’re just competing locally, you really don’t understand that. And then you step out and you realize ‘Whoa, there are people that are really talented.’ I think it also encourages you to want to train harder.”
Felicien has one suggestion for the organizers, though.
“I want them to actually have a masters category in this meet. Why not? Relive the golden days.”
(Video and photo by the esteemed Richard Lautens. L to R: Felicien, George and Lopes-Schliep)