Josh Strain felt he came a long way in his third trip to the all-Ontario track and field championships this year.
And that progress has left him with a strengthened resolve to make the jump into the elite class next year—his final year of eligibility.
“This year was kind of different when I was down there,” Strain stressed. “I wanted to take it more seriously and be with the top athletes there.
“Next year, I’m going to try to break a few records at NWOSSAA,” he vowed.
“This year, I was pretty close for triple jump, and I think I can beat it next year,” Strain added.
“I just need to add on another 20 cm.”
It was from watching some of his opponents in London that Strain started to feel he could ratchet up his skills to the next level.
“I picked up lots of technique,” he explained. “They [the other athletes] all have really good warm-ups.
“They’re just really professional about it,” he lauded.
“I didn’t really have a specific warm-up, or I didn’t measure my running distance for my jumps, while they had all that figured out.”
The drive comes from Strain’s performances at OFSAA over the weekend. In the long jump, he achieved the same height as the eighth-place competitors at 1.83 metres—a new personal best—but finished 16th based on faults.
“You have three attempts at jumping the height, and on my first two tries [at 1.83m], I hit the bar, and on my third try, I made it over,” he recalled.
“The people that jumped the same height, they jumped over first try.”
Strain also competed in the triple jump, finishing 12th with a jump of 13.10 metres—slightly below his qualifying jump of 13.24m.
Still, Strain was pumped about his development over the past season, having progressed in each of his three events (he also participates in long jump, garnering a silver medal at NWOSSAA with a personal best of 6.08 metres, but only the top athlete qualifies for the all-Ontarios).
“My high jump, I set a personal best [at OFSAA], so every event this year, I set a personal best at NWOSSAA or OFSAA. It was a really good year,” he enthused.
“In high jump, I was always stuck at 1.80 and it was hard to get over that plateau.
“I had a feeling that I was going to do better in the triple jump than high jump just because I’ve improved so much on my triple jump and long jump since last year,” Strain added.
“All of a sudden, when I went to NWOSSAA, my triple and long jump just improved by a metre each. And it was just crazy.”
Strain credited the improvement to being less tentative on his approaches, gathering up speed before he launches.
“I used a lot more speed on my jumps, and I try to get myself pumped up and things like that,” he explained.
“When you have a lot of a lot of energy, it’s easier to jump for some reason.”
Strain plans to strike while he has momentum, opting to tweak his technique over the summer instead of limiting his training to just the track season as in years past.
“This summer, I’m going to start right soon,” he pledged. “I’m going to start working on my technique for my jumping outside of school and maybe start working out my legs.
“If I take it really seriously, I think I can go far.”
For the first time in his three years at the all-Ontarios, Strain had a fellow Muskie there with him.
Garnet Paxson finished 20th in the senior boys’ shot put with a throw of 11.53 metres, falling below his qualifying mark of 12.07m.
“I faulted the first throw, so I was kind of nervous, and then I never really recovered from that,” he recalled.
“I didn’t really throw that good the entire competition.”
Paxson noted the fault, which was called because of improper technique, left him trying to adjust on the fly.
“That fault just kind of messed me up,” he sighed. “It was too far away from my head.
“I’ve never been faulted on that before, so I was kind of worried that I was going to fault on that every time. That’s just the way I throw,” he noted.
“My second throw [11.53 metres] wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t enough to get me into the top eight.”
He also pointed out several of the competitors had been to OFSAA before—and some had even competed internationally.
While that put Paxson at a disadvantage from a results standpoint, he felt it was a boon for him from a learning one.
“I learned a lot,” he remarked. “All those guys have been to OFSAA quite a few times, so it was nice talking to them.
“I got some pointers, and my technique got better when I was down there just from talking to them, since they’ve been doing it for so long.
“[They told me] just to get lower and to put a little chalk on my neck just so it slides off better.
“That helps a lot,” he concluded.
Paxson admitted the large crowd at TD Waterhouse Stadium at the University of Western Ontario also played on his nerves.
“I think it was just kind of the pressure at OFSAA with all those people watching,” he acknowledged.
“Both stands were packed. It was pretty intense.”
However, with his first big meet experience under his belt, Paxson also has some grand designs for next year.
He is aiming to attend the Legion Athletic Camp at the International Peace Garden on the Manitoba/North Dakota border this summer, where he plans to add discus and javelin to his repertoire.
“I’ll do all three events next year and hopefully go to OFSAA for those,” Paxson remarked.
“I want a triple crown in all three of my events, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” he admitted.
“Our school doesn’t have either of them [discus or javelin]. I’ll try to convince the school to invest in one for this year.”