Volume 12 Week 5

Monday, May 30


 

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

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Tim Tierney



Track and Field
Gisele-Lalonde hurdler shocks track fraternity with gold, silver at OFSAA championships
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Gisèle-Lalonde's Leewinchell Jean is the latest phenom to come out of the east end. The 15-year-old won a gold and silver medal in the 100- and 300-metre hurdles at the recent OFSAA provincial championships in Windsor. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Remember the name Leewinchell Jean. There's a good chance you will be hearing a lot about the Grade 9 Gisèle-Lalonde high school student in the future.

On Saturday, the 15-year-old hurdler shocked his fellow competitors and many observers when he won the gold medal in the midget boys 300-metre hurdles at the OFSAA provincial track and field championships in Windsor.

Jean went into the final as the third seed after winning his heat in a personal best time of 42.60 seconds. The favourite to win the gold medal was Wilson O'Neill from Country Day Prep School in King City who won his heat in 41.67 seconds.

The two young men drew lanes six and seven, with Jean getting the outside lane. After running the first 100 metres in a blistering pace, he settled down thorough the back stretch and into the final turn. Jean was coming out of the turn when noticed someone gaining on him on his left.

"I saw the guy in lane five was gaining on me, so I put into an extra gear and he was already gassed out," says Jean who won the race in a jaw-dropping 40.43 seconds, nearly six seconds faster than his winning time at the National Capital East Conference championships five weeks previous.

Remarkably, Jean took up the hurdles in April after watching a race during an Ottawa Lions sanctioned event at the Louis-Riel Dome. Jean was competing in the 100-metre dash and placed second.

In his first ever 300-metre hurdle race at the uOttawa Invitational meet on April 29, Jean placed fifth in a time of 46.59 seconds running in a pair of cross-trainer sneakers. Later on at the same meet, he showed a flash of things to come by winning the 100-metre hurdles in a time of 17.07 seconds.

"I was really happy to win that race and really excited," says Jean.

At the East Conference championships on May 12, Jean lowered his time in the 100-metre hurdles to 16.22 seconds and 46.26 in the 300-metres, in winning both events.

The first real test of Jean's abilities came a week later at the city championships. Running head-to-head against the West Conference champion, Kevin Adeli from Bell High School, Jean won the 100-metre hurdles in a new personal best time of 15.03 seconds and he came second in the 300 despite lowering his personal best time over the distance by more than a second to 45.10.

Jean's incredible progress and the success that came with it made a believer out of Gisèle-Lalonde track and field coach Paul Carrier, who bought him a pair of track spikes prior to the East Regional OFSAA qualifying meet in Belleville.

Jean went into the meet seeded first in the 100-metre hurdles, but seventh in the 300. Having replaced his cross trainers with a pair of racing spikes, he blazed his way to a 14.50 in the 100 and a 42.65 in the 300 to win both events and earn a ticket to the provincial championships.

As stiff as the competition was in Belleville, the OFSAA championships are at another level entirely. His first event in Windsor was the 100-metre hurdles. Only two other competitors had a faster time than Jean heading into the competition. Jonah McPhee from Waterloo Collegiate had run a 14.27 and Adam Exley from Resurrection Catholic in Kitchener had a 13.83.

Jean won his heat with the fourth faster time among the eight competitors who qualified for the final. Fortunately, he drew lane four in the final between Exley and Seth Robertson from Jacob Hespeler Secondary School in Cambridge, who had run the fastest qualifying time with a 14.13.

After getting off to a good start, Jean was leading the pack heading into the final hurdle when he was caught by Exley who crossed the finish line in 13.86 seconds, Jean was able to hang on to second place with a new personal best time of 14.05 seconds -- three-tenths of a second faster than his qualifying time and nearly half a second faster than his winning time at East Regionals.

"I loved the time, but I hated the position," says Jean who was determined to redeem himself in the 300-metre event on Saturday.

A member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Jean normally wouldn't compete on Saturday, but his parents allowed him to make an exception if he qualified for the final, which he did.

With his parents watching a live stream of the event at home, Jean blazed to a gold medal to go along with the silver he won in the 100-metres.

With so much raw talent and a personality that can light up the entire track, Jean has already been approached by the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club which has invited him out to the Twilight Series of races at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility. He plans to join the club, but not until next spring. For now he trains in his parent's large back yard which is about 100-metres in circumference.

If he were to join the Lions, qualifying for next year's World Youth Championships for athletes 18 and under is not out of the question. He also has his eyes set on next years provincial high school championship and the record books.

"I want to win more gold medals and get in the record books," says Jean who has the potential to do both for many years to come.

(Posted 6:30 a.m., June 8)

 

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