SMUS, Reynolds sprinters track down gold at Island championships

Centennial Stadium has proven a track and infield of dreams. Many great athletes have come out of the Island high school track and field championships there, including Olympians such as Bob McLaren, Debbie Scott, Murray Keating, Phil Olsen, Zach Whitmarsh, Mike Mason and Cam Levins.

Angelina Shandro of St. Michaels University School stamped her name in meet lore Thursday by sweeping to the girls’ 100, 200 and 400-metre titles. Shandro, named female athlete of the Island championships, won the 400 metres in 55.69 to break the 31-year-old record set by Kristen Lundgren of the Esquimalt Dockers in 1988. Shandro’s clocking of 24:96 in the 200 metres eclipsed the old record of 24.98 set by Veronica Luedke of Dover Bay in 2010.

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Chase Haagensen of the Reynolds Roadrunners was indeed a roadrunner but he was chasing nobody. They were all chasing him as Haagensen won the 100, 200 and 400 metres to be named top male athlete of the Island meet.

Meanwhile, Alisa Lyesina and Gabi Kinnis represented two separate paths while running on the same track Thursday at Centennial Stadium.

NCAA Pac-12 Arizona Wildcats-bound Grade 12 star Lyesina is from the Oak Bay factory that won its 27th consecutive Island championship and is gunning for its 13th B.C. championship in 18 years from May 30 to June 1 at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna.

“Our athletes have pride in that Island championship streak and want to keep it going,” said Oak Bay coach Mike Sheffer.

"They don’t want to be on the team that snaps the streak.”

No worries there with the likes of three-time Island and two-time defending B.C. high school girls’ 800-metre champion Lyesina, who was named the most inspirational athlete of the 2019 Island meet. Lyesina won the 800-metre Island threepeat Thursday with a record time of 2:10.12 to crush the old standard of 2:12.81 set by Alyssa Mosseau of the Wellington Wildcats in 2016 and threw in the 1,500-metre title for good measure.

“We have great facilities, coaching and support at our school,” said Lyesina, who inked her four-year, full-ride athletic scholarship to Arizona just this week.

In another path is Kinnis, representing the reborn Vic High program looking to recapture long-ago past glories. Kinnis is only in Grade 10 and has time to grow into her role as a rising star as she won the girls’ junior high 400 metres ahead of Vic High teammate Charlotte Blecha and placed second in the 800 metres behind Kate Cameron of Nanaimo District.

Every athlete who competes for Vic High is constantly reminded of how great the school used to be in sports in its glory era of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when B.C. championships in basketball for the Totems were as common as spring rain, as were future Canadian national team stars and World Cup performers such as Ian Bridge and Brian Robinson in soccer and Hans De Goede in rugby. That hasn’t been easy to live up to in the preceding decades.

“I’m glad Vic High is getting wins and more recognition,” said Kinnis, who runs in club for the Victoria Track Project.

That’s thanks to second-year Vic High track and field coaches Doug Oxland and Matt Phillips. They saw potential and have rebuilt the program. Vic High’s top performers are young and this is a team of the future. Oxland is no stranger to success at the Island high school championships as a former 1,500-metre champion with the powerhouse Dover Bay Dolphins program before running in U Sports for the University of Victoria Vikes.

“We knew there were good budding athletes at Vic High in rugby and soccer and saw a lot of untapped potential among those kids for track and field, as well, and we tapped into that and built up the program,” said Oxland, a special education teacher at Vic High.

It’s rebuilt to the point that the Vic High dream is now on the level of what the Oak Bay stars strive for.

“I am definitely thinking about a U.S. athletic scholarship,” said Kinnis, of when that time comes for her in two years.

Oak Bay won the senior high team title with 297 points with Mount Douglas second with 190, Brooks third with 123, Ballenas fourth with 105 and Nanaimo District fifth with 81. Rounding out the top-10 among the 28 high school were St. Andrew’s sixth, SMUS seventh, Dover Bay eighth, Brentwood College ninth with Reynolds and Alberni District tying for 10th.

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