Track and field has slowly been growing in Brandon for the last few years, and one of the city’s schools was rewarded for its effort on Saturday.
The Neelin Spartans became the first Brandon school to win a provincial high school track and field championship, taking the AAA banner in Winnipeg, even though only three of the 13 athletes representing the school stepped on the podium.
The news shocked the Spartans, who figured they weren’t in the running for the title and left Winnipeg before the presentation, but it’s an accomplishment they’re proud of.
"Pretty awesome," said Brodie Gill. "This is pretty cool to have a track banner up in the gym.
"Me and another teammate were talking about it through the winter and how we came close the other two years, but now it’s actually happened."
Gill, a Grade 11 student, was motivated for Saturday, the third day of the meet. His goal for provincials was to medal in the varsity boys’ high jump, but he ended up in eighth place in Friday’s finals.
He used that to fuel himself in the 100-metre hurdles, in which he ran the race 14.31 seconds to win the gold medal.
"I just happened to come back and ran a good heat to make the finals and ran a good final," the 6-foot-5, 170-pound multi-sport athlete said. "During high jump, the hurdles kind of overlapped with it, so after I finished high jump I was pretty mad at myself and ran as hard as I could."
Sean Coey earned Neelin’s other medal on Saturday in the junior varsity boys’ tetrathlon. He finished with 2,099 points to win silver. Keegan Herperger won a bronze in varsity boys’ javelin on Friday.
Vincent Massey’s junior varsity boys’ relay team of Miggy Siam, Iwan Levin, Mack Adams and Tyler Rowan were the other Brandonites to win a medal on Saturday, finishing the 4x100 metre relay in 47.70 seconds to earn bronze.
Although Massey had 47 athletes, the largest of any team there, and won only two medals, head coach Jason Jones believes it was a solid meet for his squad.
"Not at all (disappointed)," he said. "I’m a very proud coach right now, especially with all the kids that came out of Brandon. Neelin had quite a bit of success this year and I’m very happy with what we did. We made a lot of finals."
Meanwhile, Somerset’s Prairie Mountain Predators won the A provincial track banner, with Jessica Gundrum playing a large part of the team’s success.
Gundrum closed out the event by winning silver medals in the varsity girls’ 80m hurdles with a time of 12.38 seconds and the varsity girls’ triple jump with a distance of 10.80 metres. She also earned a bronze medal in the varsity girls’ long jump with a leap of 4.90 metres.
Madison DeRoo claimed the Predators’ fourth medal of the day by winning bronze in the junior varsity girls’ tetrathlon after posting 1,857 points.
The Neepawa Tigers also had a solid final day in Winnipeg on Saturday by taking home four medals. Lynden Middleton, Wyatt Salmon, Rylin Mitchler and Bryson Kaye finished the varsity boys’ 4x100m relay in 45.16 seconds to claim a silver medal, while Logan Young won a bronze by finishing the varsity boys’ 3,000m race in 9:15.78 and Amy Todoruk scored 2,110 points in the varsity girls’ tetrathlon to win a bronze medal.
Dillan Neufeld was the other Neepawa athlete to reach the podium, earning a silver medal in the JV boys’ discus with his toss of 34.30 metres. MacGregor’s Matthew Radford won bronze with a throw of 32.64 metres.
Nathan Arde of Boissevain earned silver in JV boys’ javelin with a 40.60-metre throw, while Treherne’s Austin Green was third with a toss of 40.35 metres. Rossburn’s Adam Selby claimed a silver medal in varsity boys’ discus with a throw of 38.94 metres, while Baldur’s Chelsea Dearsley left Winnipeg with a bronze medal around her neck after throwing her discus 28.94 metres in the JV girls’ event.