It’s not as big as it used to be, but it’s just as im­por­tant

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MILTON

It’s tempt­ing to say that the 92nd Hamil­ton In­door Games Sec­ondary School meet is a shadow of its for­mer self, but when you’ve been go­ing nearly a cen­tury and when you’ve got the likes of, among oth­ers, Myles Misener-Daly, Alec Par­nell and Se­bas­tian Smith on dis­play, you’re not a shadow of any­thing.

You’ve still got good flesh and solid bones.

For the fifth year in a row, West­dale’s Misener-Daly shat­tered the 300-me­tre record for his age class in the Hamil­ton Games. He did it three straight years in the el­e­men­tary school meet, as a high school midget last year, and Fri­day af­ter­noon shat­tered the ju­nior record for the two-lap race around FirstOn­tario Cen­tre’s iconic, tram­po­line­like, wooden track.

Misener-Daly (sprints) of West­dale, Par­nell (mid­dle dis­tance) of Dun­das Val­ley and Smith ( jumps) from Sar­nia North­ern are reign­ing OFSAA cham­pi­ons and, po­ten­tially, bound for greater glory. But they un­der­stand that the Hamil­ton Games fill a nec­es­sary func­tion on the lo­cal, and pro­vin­cial, track cal­en­dar.

“It’s a good ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Par­nell, who won the se­nior boys 600 me­tres. “When I was younger, this meet (in the el­e­men­tary sec­tion) helped me de­cide what sport I wanted to do … and it was track.”

Misener-Daly, who shaved more than a half-sec­ond off the ju­nior 300 record, says, “The out­door sea­son is a lot more im-

por­tant but in­doors is im­por­tant too be­cause it gets you stronger for out­door. This meet in­tro­duces peo­ple to track, and maybe they take a lik­ing to it and bring more peo­ple to the track com­mu­nity.”

West­dale is one of the lo­cal schools cited as a growth area in ath­let­ics by Mike Smith, who runs the track and field pro­gram at Dun­das Val­ley. And like so many in­volved in the in­door games, Smith is among the movers and shak­ers of the lo­cal run­ning, j ump­ing and throw­ing crowd.

“West­dale has a resur­gent pro­gram now,” he says. “There’s also been a lot of growth at Mac­Nab and Mac­don­ald. We’ll see what hap­pens i n the spring (for out­door track.)

“Hamil­ton Olympic Club registration did pretty well af­ter Canada’s suc­cess at the Olympics: a lot of it on the sprint side. Peo­ple are get­ting en­gaged, and there’s a sprint his­tory in this town. We’ve got peo­ple from other sports cross-train­ing and start­ing to like track be­cause of that.”

Still, af­ter the ri­otous en­thu­si­asm and larger au­di­ence at Thurs­day’s el­e­men­tary school meet, Fri- day’s high school meet clearly lacked num­bers.

There were only 16 schools en­tered, with just six from out­side the Hamil­ton hin­ter­land and only three — Mar­shall McLuhan, Henry Carr and Francis Lieber­mann — from the GTA.

For decades, a dozen or more Toronto schools have added a lit­tle more ex­otic el­e­ment to the meet. But this year, an in­door meet at York Univer­sity was moved up a week, con­flict­ing with the Hamil­ton Games, and most of the Toronto schools chose there in­stead of here.

Ad­di­tion­ally, some school boards have a one-win­ter-sport pol­icy so many all-round ath­letes can’t take part in in­door track and field. That im­pacts the ros­ters of the re­lays, the spir­i­tual heart of the Hamil­ton Games. Plus, there is the ac­cel­er­at­ing com­pe­ti­tion for ath­letes from the rise of club sports.

In the big years of the 1980s and 1990s, when it was at­tached to the pro­fes­sional-cir­cuit Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor Games, the high school meet had as many as 100 dif­fer­ent high schools en­tered. But con­trac­tion has its ben­e­fits. “At that time, a school could en­ter only one or two kids in a race,” says high school meet direc­tor, Dan Clark.

“But since there are fewer schools, we’ve opened it up and you can have three or four kids in an event.”

Sarah Cush­nie of West­dale, who won the midget girls 1,000 me­tres, and was city cham­pion in cross­coun­try last fall, says she views the Hamil­ton Games, “as a step­ping­stone and prepa­ra­tion for out­door track. I want to go to OFSAA for that.”

And Smith, who won the long jump by an ab­surd amount, and in the meet-con­clud­ing high j ump nar­rowly missed break­ing the old­est record on the books, voiced his sup­port.

“I haven’t com­peted since last year,” he said, “so this meet is im­por­tant to see how I com­pare to last year.”

Very well, ap­par­ently.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The bell is rung for the fi­nal lap of a race Fri­day, dur­ing the 92nd edi­tion of the Hamil­ton In­door Games, or­ga­nized by the 91st High­landers Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion. For more photos, see S3 and specpho­tos.ca.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Rachel Kru­dyn­sky from Nora Frances Hen­der­son Sec­ondary School in Hamil­ton com­petes in the se­nior girls shot put.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Adrian Di­mac­u­lan­gan from Bishop Ryan shoots away from the start of a 4x100m re­lay heat.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Camille Arci­nas from Francis Liber­mann high school in Toronto wins the ju­nior girls high jump.

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