For track and field athletes in Canada, there are three global competitions they all strive to compete in –- the Commonwealth Games, the Pan Am Games and, of course, the grand daddy of them all, the Olympic Games.
The 19th edition of the Pan Am Games which feature competition in 39 different sports, got underway in Santiago, Chile on Oct. 20. The final day of competition and the closing ceremonies are on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Among the athletes representing Canada at the Games is Orléans resident and former St. Peter High School student Stephen Evans who will be competing in athletics in the 800 metres.
Evans qualified for the Pan Games by finishing third at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in July in a race won by Marco Arop who went on to win gold for Canada at the World Athletic Championships in Budapest in August.
Evans’ track and field journey began as a Grade 9 student at St. Peter High School in 2011. During his first two years, he finished ninth both years at the East Conference meet in the 400 metres and failed to qualify for the city championships.
His most successful season was in Grade 12 when he managed to place third at the city championships and third again at the OFSAA East Regionals to qualify for provincials.
“I bought one of every shirt. I bought a couple of short-sleeve shirts, the long sleeve shirt and the hoodie,” says Evans, referring to the outer wear sold at every OFSAA meet.
After graduating from St. Pete’s in 2014, Evans decided to go to the University of Ottawa. “It was the only school that wanted me to join the track team,” recalls Evans.
It was at U of O that Evans eventually switched from 400 metres to 600 metres and then to 800 metres.
The 600 metres is the distance used for middle distance runners at the CIS champ-ionships. Evans placed second at the CIS track and field championships in 2018 and first in 2019.
Unfortunately, the 2019 CIS champion-ships would be the last major track and field meet he would compete in for the next two years.
Like many other athletes, Evans was restricted to training during the pandemic. It wasn’t until 2021 that he was able to go down to Florida to start competing there.
After missing out on the first post-pandemic Canadian track and field championships in 2022, Evans competed in the event this past spring. After setting the fourth fastest time in the heats, he placed third in the final in a time of 1:47.02 and earned a ticket to the Pan Am Games.
At 27, Evans is considered a late bloomer. His times are still creeping lower year after year and he has set his sights on the Olympic Games, if not next summer in Paris then possibly in 2028 in Los Angeles.
“There’s still a lot of areas I can improve on through another cycle,” says Evans, referring to the four-year period in between the Summer Olympic games. It’s a goal that is entirely achievable for an athelte from Orléans.