More than 400 young athletes will look to run, throw and leap their way to a gold medal at this weekend’s Golden Ears Athletics 12th annual Eagle Classic track meet.
Norm Tinkham runs the event each year, and is expecting a record number of participants, with many athletes coming from across the Lower Mainland. It’s open to the Junior Development group, which includes boys and girls from nine to 13 years old.
He’s calling it a great opportunity for kids to show off their developing skills, and also to see if track and field may be something to pursue as they get older.
“It’s a meet to get some of those kids to get into a competition and see if they like it,” Tinkham said. “The hope is when they go from grade seven into grade eight, they find something they work and excel at.”
The club will also be hosting an open 100, 200 and 400 metre events, which will feature some familiar talent. There will also be high jump, shot put and javelin events.
Two athletes confirmed in the open events are Nathan George and Ben Ayesu-Attah, a pair of runners looking to get their big break in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics.
George ran a blistering fast time in the 400m at the meet last year, and is back to defend his open title. He clocked in at 46.54 seconds last year, and went on to win the Olympic trials. Because he didn’t hit the qualifying standard, he didn’t go to Rio de Janeiro, but Tinkham considers him one of the best runners in Canada.
“They’re top calibre, you don’t get that kind of thing in Maple Ridge a lot,” Tinkham said.
George, who ran with the Trinity Western Spartans track team for five years, says he picked up a recent hamstring strain while training for a meet in Florida, and this will be the first test to see how well it’s healed.
“Two days before the meet I strained it during a time trial,” George said. “But I’ve been getting some therapy and lots of massage so I feel good now. It’s been a lot better since last week.”
He says an Olympic qualification would be a dream come true, and will be attending a few more local meets to work on the finer details of his form.
“I want to work on my pure speed a little more,” he said. “There’s some pacing involved in the 400, but it’s basically a pure sprint.”
The 2017 Eagles Classic runs on Saturday at Maple Ridge Secondary School, and runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. George and Ayesu-Attah are expected to run the open 400m at 1:10.