Franco-Ouest’s Emma Galbraith (left) was the OFSAA senior girls’ 1,500 m and 800 m champion. Photo: Dan Plouffe
By Braedon Clark
, published June 14 in EMC
Their backgrounds couldn’t be much different. She’s from sleepy Merrickville; he’s a Rwandan refugee who first set foot on Canadian soil less than two years ago.
But Emma Galbraith and Yves Sikubwabo’s end destination was the same at the June 7-9 OFSAA track-and-field championships in Brockville was the same – top spot on the podium.
Both national capital high school athletes took home gold in the 1,500-metre races at the senior level this past Saturday, but not before a rain delay of about 45 minutes sent hundreds scurrying for the dry confines of Thousand Islands Secondary School, the host for this year’s championships.
“Physically, I kind of felt like I was feeling it in my legs because I had warmed up two-and-a-half hours prior to my race,” Galbraith said about the effects of the delay.
If she struggled at all, it was certainly hard to tell during the race. Galbraith was at the head of the pack for nearly the entire three-and-three-quarter laps. Crossing the finish line, she embraced second-place finisher Jaimie Phelan, tears of joy interrupted by gasps for breath.
“I’ve been racing against Jaimie for at least three or four years now and most of these girls in the field are super nice,” explained the Grade 12 Franco-Ouest high school student who finished in a time of four minutes, 29.11 seconds. “They’re angels.”
In an odd scheduling quirk, Galbraith received her gold medal on the grassy infield while the boys, including Sikubwabo, raced by in front of her.
Unlike his fellow Ottawan, Sikubwabo had to come from behind to capture his gold medal. As the bell rang for the final lap, Corey Bellmore of Windsor’s Riverside turned on the jets and opened what seemed to be an insurmountable lead over the rest of the field.
Yet that lead began to steadily dwindle as Sikubwabo inexorably made up the difference on the backstretch. The Glebe Collegiate Institute senior’s long, easy stride is as graceful as it is efficient and he seemed to be gliding across the track rather than pounding his feet into it.
As Sikubwabo passed Bellmore in the final metres to win by .41 seconds in 3:53.08, he raised his arms in victory and allowed himself to smile.
Drenched in sweat with the gold medal hanging around his neck, he admitted after the race that it hadn’t gone according to plan.
“The guy (Bellmore) just broke away and I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m not gonna catch him,’” Sikubwabo recalled with characteristic humility. “But the last 200 metres, he kind of slowed down, so I kept pushing until I caught him.”
Galbraith capped an incredible weekend by winning gold in the 800 m on Sunday, while Sikubwabo finished second in the 3,000 m.
There were four other double-medalists from Ottawa schools at OFSAA, with two of the most eye-popping results coming from Grade 9 athletes.
Just minutes after earning a fifth-place result in the midget girls’ 80 m hurdles, John McCrae’s Hannah-Kelsey Smith blew away the field in the triple jump, leaping 11.59 m – a comfortable .40 m ahead of second place.
“My goal was to beat my sister when she was my age,” highlighted Smith, who also won the long jump handily with a 5.18 m mark.
The high school freshman’s OFSAA-winning triple jump was .27 m ahead of the midget mark set by her sister, who was ineligible to compete this season due to transfer rules after the family moved from Whitby last year.
St. Paul’s Shermar Paul made a big impression in Brockville, taking home the midget boys’ 100 m crown. Despite feeling he had a poor start caused by crowd noise, Paul won easily and recorded a personal-best time of 11.05 seconds. Paul also had a strong showing in the 200 m event on Sunday, finishing second – just .02 away from gold in 22.75.
Sacred Heart’s Alexandra Tierney won junior girls’ 300 m hurdles silver and 80 m hurdles bronze, while Lycée Claudel’s Lucas Trapeau earned silver in both the junior boys’ 400 m and 800 m to round out the double-medal winners from the nation’s capital.
Also turning heads both for his ability and his size was Mother Teresa’s Eddie Ekiyor, who high jumped 1.90 m to win gold at the midget boys’ level. Ekiyor just turned 15 but is already 6’8” and towered over his competitors in the 400m final, in which he placed fourth.
Ekiyor thinks his height gives him an advantage, but acknowledged it can be hard to run with much grace at that size.
“I think it helps me, but I still have to work on my form a lot more, which I haven’t done yet but I will,” he promised.
Hillcrest’s Zack Kerr (junior boys’ pole vault) was also an OFSAA champion, while Osgoode’s Geoffrey Lawson (midget boys’ 300 m hurdles) won silver, as did South Carleton's Tyrone Henry in the boys' 1,500 m wheelchair, as well as Sacred Heart’s Lauren Farish, who finished less than a second behind the new girls’ 800 m wheelchair record holder in 4:07.95.
Winning bronze were John McCrae’s Kayla Maduk (junior girls’ javelin), Franco-Ouest’s Tania Bambi (senior girls’ 100 m hurdles), A. Y. Jackson’s Davine Reid (senior girls’ high jump), Ashbury’s Fiyinfoluwa Ukiri (junior boys’ 300 m hurdles), All Saints’ Leeson Guay (senior boys’ high jump) and Merivale’s Kevin Chung (senior boys’ long jump).
Event finalists who cracked the top-8 from national capital schools included: Regina Remadji and Lia Hendricks from Louis-Riel, Erinn Stenman-Fahey and Aymen Sayed of Canterbury, Charlotte Gardner and Hailey McKechnie from Earl of March, Merivale’s Lindsay Spoerri, Sebastian Saville and Ding Ran Dai of Colonel By, Ali Chiarelli and Bridget Hayes of Mother Teresa, Hillcrest’s Amelia Brohman, Ashbury’s Victoria McIntyre, Charifa Labarang and Brandon Stewart of Deslauriers, St. Joseph’s Vanessa MacMillan, Julianna Tebrake and Bailey King of Longfields-Davidson Heights, Bell’s Erin O’Higgins, Cairine Wilson’s Nathan Egert, Tony N’Zoigba and Jibrel Jama of Louis-Riel, Jake Duff and Alex Berhe of Woodroffe, Sacred Heart’s Liam Meades, A. Y. Jackson’s Brendon Howard, Samuel-Genest’s Yvan-Marcel Ntivumbura, Longfields-Davidson Heights’ Nathaniel Thompson, Gloucester’s Isaiah Moses, John McCrae’s Bryson Patterson, and Claire Smith, Courtney Dwyer, Adara Dillabaugh, Charlene Rhead – all from Glebe.