That Taryn O’Neill ran to a pair of high-standard Okanagan Valley track and field records on Tuesday in Kamloops might have come as a surprise to some, but certainly not her coach and one of the former record holders.
The Grade 12 George Elliot Secondary School student won the Valley’s senior 1500-metre event at Hillside Stadium in a time of 4:32.97, breaking the meet record (4:36.6) set by Malindi Elmore, her Okanagan Athletics Club coach, 20 years ago.
O’Neill also established a new Okanagan record in the 3000 metres with a clocking of 9:37.75, bettering the meet record (9:43.4) held by Vernon’s Hannah Bennison since 2015.
Elmore, who went on to star at Stanford University and compete for Canada at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, said O’Neill’s record-breaking performance was a “nice anniversary gift.”
“It’s so nice for me to pass it (the record) on to someone so deserving,” added Elmore, who was running for Kelowna Secondary School back in 1998. “Taryn is one of the most positive and fun-loving people you will meet and she’s an excellent competitor who loves to challenge herself in both training and races. She loves to have fun with her running and I think it really keeps her balanced.”
Elmore said Tuesday’s outstanding runs were a culmination of a steady progression over the past few years for the Lake Country athlete who this fall will move on to Villanova University in Pennsylvania, perennially one of the top running schools in the NCAA.
“Taryn works really hard; is very consistent with her training; and does the “little things” that matter — like rehab, core and easy-day runs on her own,” noted Elmore, who still holds the Okanagan Valley 800-metre record. “She’s also very resilient in the sense that she can overcome setbacks and use them as fuel to get stronger and faster.”
The two wins in Kamloops earned O’Neill and the top four finishers in all the Valley events the right to represent the Okanagan at the B.C. School Sports track and field championships in Langley May 31-June 2.
A silver medalist in both the 1500 and 3000 last year at the B.C. meet, O’Neill has her sights set on a pair of gold and provincial records at the Langley Events Centre.
While victories in the two events are definitely within her grasp, breaking the B.C. records will be more difficult for O’Neill, who (unofficially) has run the fastest 1500-metre time by a high school runner in North America so far this season.
The 1500 provincial mark of 4:26.44 has been owned by Heather de Gest (Burnaby Central) since 1995 while Bennison, also coached by Elmore, broke the 31-year-old B.C. 3000-metre record set by West Kelowna’s Brenda Shackleton with a time of 9:33.44.
Following the provincial high school championships, O’Neill is expected to compete the prestigious Brooks PR Invitational near Seattle and possibly the Harry Jerome Meet in Vancouver in late June.
A key goal before beginning her Freshman year at Villanova will be to represent Canada at the world junior championships in Finland in July.
Meanwhile, O’Neill, who had a cast removed just this week after breaking her left arm in a mountain bike crash in Utah, wasn’t the only Central Okanagan athlete to break a Valley record on Tuesday.
Bryn Walsh of the Kelowna Owls set a new mark in the senior girls 200-metres with a time of 25.6 seconds and established a record in the pole vault with a height of 3.40 metres.
She also won the 100-metre event with a time of 12.44 seconds to lead the KSS seniors to a team title with 101 points, 14 ahead of second-place W.L. Seaton Sonics of Vernon and 41 better than third-place Pleasant Valley Saints of Armstrong.
Emma Cannan of the Dr. Knox Falcons, only in Grade 9, but competing in the junior division, also won three events in Kamloops, including the 200 metres where she set the Valley record of 25.5 seconds. She added a first-place in the 100 metres with a time of 12.61 seconds and won the 400 metres in 1:01.52.
Rutland Voodoos’ James Harris claimed a pair of first-place finishes, winning the Grade 8 100-metre hurdles in 17.75 and the 200-metre hurdles in 29.33. The latter mark earned him the Valley record.
Michael Schriemer of the Kelowna Christian School Knights claimed two first-place finishes and set an Okanagan Grade 8 record in the 3000 metres with a time of 9:52.28. He also won the 1500-metre race in 4:36.60.
The Grade 8 girls 3000-metre event saw Ava Graf of Dr. Knox break the Valley record with a clocking of 11:33.91 while the KSS junior boys — Chris West, Jonathan Bender, Makafui Tettey and Nolan Ulm — teamed up to set the Okanagan 4x100 relay record with a time of 45.37 seconds..
The 2018 edition of the Kelowna Owls ran, jumped and threw their way to a pair of Okanagan Valley team titles on Tuesday while upcoming student-athletes served notice the future looks bright for the Kelowna Secondary School program.
While the KSS senior girls won the team title, the Owls dominated the junior boys’ competition by finishing with 112.5 points. The Revelstoke Avalanche were a distanct second with 70 points.
Meanwhile, the KLO Middle School Cougars, a feeder school for KSS, displayed their promise as future Owls by claiming the Okanagan Grade 8 girls team championship, finishing ahead of 26 other schools with a 91-point total. Shuswap Middle School placed second, just four points back while Valleyview of Kamloops was third with 57 points.
Kailey Fejer contributed a pair of second-place finishes for the Owls’ senior girls total. She was runner-up in the long jump with a distance of 4.71 metres and matched that performance in the triple jump (10.89) while placing fourth in the high jump at 1.45 metres.
Nolan Ulm set the pace for the KSS junior boys, winning the three dashes — 100, 200 and 400 — and anchoring the Owls’ first-place, record-breaking finish in the 4x100 relay. The Grade 10 student ran a season-best 11.49 seconds in the 100; won the 200 in a time of 23.09; and led the field in the 400 with a clocking of 54.65.
The KLO Grade 8 girls were led Mekhila Brown, who won the 80-metre hurdles event with a time of 13.69 seconds and placed second in the 100 metres (13.43) and the high jump (1.40). Teammate Jada Buechi pitched in with a first in the long jump (4.34) and a second in the triple jump (9.18).
The senior boys competition saw the Westsyde Whundas of Kamloops leading the field of 20 teams with 74 points, with the Okanagan Mission Huskies of Kelowna finishing second with 63 points, one more than the third-place Kelowna Owls.
Alex Gross ran to wins in the 100- and 200-metre races with times of 11.15 and 22.27 seconds while helping the Huskies to first place in the senior 4x100 relay (44.57). OKM’s Alex Smith posted a time of 11.18 to finish second in the 100 metres and was also runner-up in the 200 with a clocking of 22.47. He ran for the Huskies in their relay victory as well.
The senior Owls were led by Joel Aitken, a first-place finisher in the 110-metre hurdles and the runner-up in the triple jump (11.35). Also contributing 10 points for first place were Zachery Lecky (1500-metre walk (11:52.65) and Nathan Tonogai (long jump - 5.57).
Joining the Owls’ Walsh and Cannan as triple winners at the Valley champonships was Okanagan Mission’s Grade 8 Nolan Humphries. He duplicated his performance at the Central Zone championships a week earlier by winning the 100 metres (12.19), the 200 metres (24.99) and the long jump (5.17).
Elayna Glen of the Const. Neil Bruce Cubs was also among the top individual performers on Tuesday, winning the Grade 8 girls high jump (1.47) and the triple jump (9.45) while finishing second in the 80-metre hurdles.
KLO’s Michael Jowsey garnered a pair of firsts, winning the Grade 8 shot put (10.72) and the discus (36.18) while Cougar teammate Caeleb Schlachter took first place in the junior 100-metre hurdles (15.58) and the triple jump (11.98). And Tatum Wade of OKM won both the Grade 8 Valley’s 800- and 1500-metre events in 2:33.20 and 5:15.37.
RSS teammate, Jaxon Slaney ran to firsts in the junior girls 1500 metres (5:08.34) and the 800 metres (2:33.13).