Two Muskie field athletes qualify for OFSAA

Dan Falloon

Attending OFSAA is old hat for Josh Strain.
Making some noise at the all-Ontarios has been a little more elusive.
“Going into it, last year, I kind of had an off-year,” Strain acknowledged. “This was my redemption year.”
If the 2010 NWOSSAA meet, held last Wednesday and Thursday in Thunder Bay, is any indication, the face of Muskie track and field is peaking leading up to the provincial showdown June 3-5 in London.
Strain captured top honours in the senior boys’ high jump and triple jump (where he bested his previous record by about a metre), and complemented that with a silver medal in the long jump—setting a personal best with a jump of 6.08 metres.
“As soon as I got that [personal best] and I got the gold in [triple jump], I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about the other events,” Strain recalled.
“I couldn’t really stop smiling after I got it,” he enthused.
“I was kind of shaky, too. It was awesome.”
Strain attended a track-and-field camp last summer. And while he said his mechanical training has changed only slightly, his mental approach has evolved.
“Last year, I was going running, jumping, but this year I focused more on my sprinting to get speed for the jump,” he explained.
“There’s one thing I used in the long jump that helped out a lot . . . .
“I just looked up, looked at the sky, didn’t look at the ground, and just tried to fly,” he remarked.
Muskie coach Natasha Shack has seen Strain develop into a graceful competitor who can contend with the province’s best.
“He has an ease about him as he jumps, and he doesn’t slow down as he approaches,” she observed.
“You just know when he goes in toward the mats, when he kicks off, that he has an ease about him.
“He’s a natural athlete that way and so it’s great to watch him compete,” Shack added.
The veteran Muskie athlete will have some company preparing for OFSAA alongside him after Garnet Paxson beat all comers in the senior boys’ shot put event at the NWOSSAA meet, with his throw of more than 12 metres standing up as the longest in the division.
Paxson joined the team on Strain’s suggestion, and Shack lauded Paxson for his effort over the course of the season to qualify for OFSAA as a rookie.
“Garnet attended all practices, and he threw that shot put over and over again,” she noted.
“The amount of practice that he had really was a testament to how he placed because he did have so many practice throws,” Shack added.
With Paxson training seriously in the discipline, Fort High purchased the 5.443 kg shot put since the teen had been training with a four-kg shot put used by every division except for senior boys.
“We actually purchased a shot put for him so he could throw the heavier weight,” said Shack. “We practised three times a week, and three times a week he was out there throwing for 45 minutes to an hour.
“He really dedicated himself to those practices and throwing as much as he could before he got down there [to Thunder Bay].”
Shack was proud of the whole Muskie team, which roughly doubled its point total from 2009 with 64—good for 10th out of the 15 schools at NWOSSAA.
“It was a good performance considering we brought 10 kids,” she enthused. “Some of these teams are bringing 50-plus kids, so they’re getting hundreds of points.
“For the amount of events we entered, and the fact we made it to a few finals, we had a really good turnout,” Shack noted.
One up-and-comer appears ready to keep the Strain name strong at Fort High in coming years. Junior Mary Strain earned a bronze in the girls’ 1,500m race.
“That was the strongest 1,500m junior girls’ race we’ve ever had,” lauded Shack.
The Strain family was strengthening its name simultaneously as Josh and Mary both competed at the same time.
“The neat thing was he [Josh] was competing in the high jump on his last jump when his sister, Mary, was running the 1,500m,” recalled Shack.
“She was on her third lap and was running very strong. . . . She was third at that point but holding strong with the leaders . . . [who] were two girls who were going to the World Youth Olympics in August.
“He was in the middle of the field jumping and he was cheering her on as she was racing. . . .
“He would cheer her on, turn around, and jump,” Shack noted.
The black-and-gold tried some new events this year, rounding up enough senior boys to field a 4x100m crew of Strain, Jake
PleasSmith, Britton Green, and Jesse Ranville.
The quartet finished fifth.
“We’ve never put in a 4x100m team,” said Shack, “We had four senior boys, so we put them in the 4x100m.
“They fought right ’til the end and their baton exchanges were great, and that’s the key to that,” she stressed.
“Any fumble in there, you lose a second or two, and that’s a big deal when they’re all doing 100m dashes, so that was just awesome to watch.”
Some other Muskie athletes also put in some solid performances in Thunder Bay although they didn’t qualify for OFSAA.
Hailey Clendenning, for instance, finished sixth in the Midget girls’ 1,500m and seventh in the Midget girls’ 800m.
Smith and Ranville, meanwhile, qualified for the finals of their respective races (Smith in the 100m and Ranville in the 200m).
In terms of field events, Will Anderson placed fourth in the Midget boys’ shot put event.
Josh Strain feels the Muskies are a group on the rise, and has been encouraged by the commitment Fort High has showed to track and field in recent years, such as investing in high jump mats which has helped him train more effectively.
“It’s helped out a lot, actually,” he noted. “It’s going to help out people in the future, too, just everybody else who decides to follow in my footsteps doing jumping.”
The high school also has provided starting blocks and relay batons in recent years.
“We are building,” agreed Shack. “The school has been great with providing us more equipment every year as this team is building and taking off on a bit of a roll.”
The next item on Shack’s wish list, though, are spikes.
“That’s one of the things they notice: the kick-off with their runners is so much different than the kick-off with the spikes, especially in the short distance races,” she explained.
“That advantage of having spikes is great, so even if we can just purchase a couple pairs of spikes for the team, it’s something to think of in the future,” she noted.