After a two year hiatus forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Youth Track and Field Championships roared back to life in 2022 as a global event for tomorrow’s champions. In 2023, Landover Maryland again welcomed the world to the most exciting and competitive youth track and field championship on earth. With more than 2,000 athletes registered to compete over the three days of competition, from July 14-16, this year’s International Youth Track and Field Championships (IYC) saw the biggest contingent of athletes in the meets history and the roster included athletes from more than 350 teams hailing from more than 25 US States, Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas and Kenya.
In order for athletes to be eligible to compete at the IYC they had to meet one of two criteria set out by the organizing committee; they needed to place top-8 in any of the dozen or so qualification meets held across the USA throughout the months of May, June and July, or they had to meet the very difficult qualification standard for their events. This meant that athletes outside the USA needed to qualify by hitting the qualification standards.
For the first time in club history, the Georgian Bay Coyotes Track club sent three athletes to compete at the IYC. Ethan Mei and Emmett Leary, as part of the Minor Track Association’s 40 member Team Ontario, and Isabel Spence as a member of the Georgian Bay Coyote Track club.
On the first day of competition the meet organizers were overwhelmed by the number of participating athletes and quickly fell behind schedule. That meant that two of the Coyote runners, Isabel Spence and Emmett Leary found themselves preparing to run the longest distance event of the track meet at close to 11:30am when the sun was up and temperatures had climbed to almost 35°C at its afternoon peak.
In an effort to save some time organizers decided to combine heats of the 3000m so the athletes found themselves on the starting line with more competitors than initially expected which also made for more interesting racing as the fastest seeded athletes were looking to be able to catch up to and lap some of the other competitors.
Isabel Spence was first up on the track for the Coyotes in the girls U14 3,000m race. With less experience racing in the 3,000m, Isabel was nervous heading to the start line. She was unsure about how fast she should start the race as 7 ½ laps of the 400m track can be tricky to pace just right. With some words of advice and encouragement from her coaches she was able to get off to a great start when the gun fired. With her coach on the sideline calling her lap splits she was able to settle into a good fast pace and looked comfortable through the first 2,000m of the race. With less than 1,000m to go, her closest rival was able to start picking up the pace a bit while the heat of the day started to wear on Isabel and her pace faded slightly. She managed to cross the finish line strong in 2nd place winning her first International medal and bringing home the first International medal for a Coyote in eight years.
Next up on the track was the boys U14 3,000m. Emmett Leary, who was competing as part of team Ontario was not originally slated to run in this race, but the team decided to move him up to this race from the 800m as Emmett has proven himself to be one of Ontario’s top longer middle-distance runners at recent competitions. Emmett came into the race with the third fastest time but was determined that, despite the heat of the day, he could knock some time off his previous personal best. At the sound of the gun the racers went out fast and hard with Emmett finding himself behind in the race early. He managed to stay calm and run his own race and slowly chipped away at the lead over the first 500m of the race. Emmett managed to stay on pace for the duration of the 3,000m with his coach yelling his lap splits each 400m and he continued to increase his lead with each lap. Emmett crossed the finish line in first place winning the gold medal and his first international medal in an amazing time of 9:31.30.
Not only was Emmett’s time fast enough to set a new championship meet record but it was also fast enough to set a new MTA Ontario Provincial record, breaking the old record of 9:34.80 which has stood since 1997. This is Emmett’s third age-group Ontario Provincial record having set the U14 2,000m record the previous year.
With the sun blazing hot in mid-afternoon on Friday, Ethan Mei took to the track for his first race of the competition; the 4x800m boys U16 relay. This team consisted of members of the Ontario team that MTA put together but unfortunately also included one runner who had competed in the 3,000m a few hours before and was now nursing a sore knee. The team got out to a fast start on the relay but because the team had not practiced baton hand-offs they were a bit sloppy on the transitions between runners. Each of the four athletes gave it their all, with Ethan running the lead leg in an amazing time and after all racers had crossed the finish line managed to claim the silver medals for the team.
Next up on the track for the Coyote runners, was the individual 800m races. Isabel Spence in the girls U14 category has had some amazing races this summer. She came into this race with a seed time fast enough to put her into the fastest heat, but with 11 runners with faster times she was in for some tough competition in her race. After a long day in the hot sun, racers where a bit worn down. Isabel ran a smart race by not going out too fast and then gradually passing some of the other runners over the course of the two lap race. She just missed getting a new personal best time by two tenths of a second, but with the heat and humidity of the day many of the other runners suffered the same fate and when the times from each heat where combined Isabel finished 7th overall. With medals to 8th place at this championship meet, she was able to claim her second medal of the day.
In the boys U16 category Ethan Mei stepped to the line amongst a very strong group of boys. He also came in with a seed time fast enough to place him into the fastest heat, but with little time to recover after the relay, he did not quite have the energy to repeat what he had done in the first leg of the relay. On the first of the two lap race, Ethan looked comfortable but faded a bit on the second lap. Ethan still managed to run a new personal best time for the 800m and was 13th overall.
After a day of rest with other track events occurring on Saturday, all three Coyotes were back on the track on Sunday morning for the 1,500m races. With events having been delayed from previous days due to thunderstorms and rain, the middle-distance athletes again found themselves stepping onto the track after the sun was high in the sky and temperatures rising into the high 20’s by the start of the 1,500m races.
First up on the track was Isabel Spence in the girls U14 category. She again looked strong and let her training guide her as she ran evenly and consistently throughout the race after a fast start from many of the competitors. Over the course of the 3 ¾ laps she managed to catch and pass numerous other racers and crossed the line in 7th place, claiming her third medal of the championship meet. Emmett, fresh off his 3000m victory on Friday, was excited and ready for his U14 race. He admitted that his hard run a couple days before had left him stiff and sore, but he was confident that he could have another great race. After the first lap of the race, Emmett had placed himself into the lead with a pack of three others closely tailing him. He managed to hold the lead for most of the race but with approximately 150m remaining, the three boys who were sticking with Emmett started their kick. Due to his faster than usual start, Emmett found himself fighting to keep pace with the others. He managed to hold onto third place, earning the bronze medal as he crossed the line.
In the boys U16 race Ethan Mei was prepped and ready for his 1,500m race which was shortly thereafter. Ethan ran a smart race and was consistent throughout the entire race managing to run evenly throughout the duration of the entire 1,500m. In the final few laps as his competitors started to fade, Ethan managed to make a few clean passes and moved himself into 6th position, but in the final push to the finish an athlete from Virginia, whom Ethan had just passed, managed to outsprint him to the finish. Ethan captured a well-earned 7th position, earning him his second medal of the meet.
After three days of competition in the blazing sun and heat, the three members of the Georgian Bay Coyotes Track Club, who all live and train in Meaford, managed to compete with the best in the world and came away with seven medals in their combined eight events; one Gold, two Silver, one Bronze and three 7th place medals.
“It was an amazing few days of competition, and one that will hold many memories and even a few souvenirs for the athletes. The coaches and team are so pleased to see that their hard work, dedication and determination has shown on the track and hope the community will continue to support these athletes and their teammates as they continue to grow and improve,” said the team.
The Coyote team will next compete at the MTA Ontario Provincial Championships on July 29 & 30. For a full list of results, more information about the team, or to make a donation to support the team, please visit the website: www.georgianbaycoyotes.com