STEPHENVILLE Jillian Forsey was expected to raise the bar as 250 Canadian high school track and field stars converged on Toronto for the Nike High School Grand Prix.
The fleet-footed teenager didn’t disappoint.
Forsey, one of the province’s rising stars in both running and cross-country skiing, captured top honours in both the 1,500-metre and 800-m races at the Grand Prix — Canada’s inaugural invitational high school track and field event.
The 16-year-old Stephenville High student posted a time of 5:00.60 to win gold in the 1,500-m event, edging out Emma-Ros Savard of College Jean de la Mennais (5:02.06) and Katie Robinson of Saint John High School (5:04.15), while claiming first place in the 800-m race with a final clocking of 2:25.64 ahead of her nearest competitors — Lindsay Smith of E.S. Oak Park (2:26.60) and Claudelle Provost-Cormier of College Jean de la Mennais (2:27.33).
“I didn’t get the times that I was aiming for in my races, but I guess the main goal going up there was to win and I did that so I was pleased,” Forsey said Tuesday. “When I started my races I just focused on going out strong and holding my pace, and I did that well and the other girls couldn’t keep up.”
Launched by School Sport Canada — in a joint venture with integrated marketing agency TrojanOne and sponsored by Nike Canada — the Nike High School Grand Prix aimed to celebrate sport, culture and youth, while inspiring Canada’s 200,000 high school track and field stars to raise the bar. While participants focused their energy on finding out how they stacked up against the rest of the country, all hands had an opportunity to take part in social and educational activities leading up to the competition. These activities included a guided tour of Toronto’s most popular tourist destinations and advice and insight from Canadian Olympic heptathlete Jessica Zelinka. Nike also provided the athletes with running spikes, running shoes, a track suit, shorts and singlets with the colour schemes of their respective high schools.
Stephenville High Level 1 student Tiuri Lomond shared the spotlight by nabbing a bronze medal in high jump despite being sick, while Hannah Stokes just missed the podium with fourth place in the shot put. The Stephenville High contingent participated in a number of events with coaches Rosie Ryan-Forsey and Randy Alexander guiding them along the way, while Stephenville High vice-principal Vern Lewis also made the trip to get an insight into the event from an administrator’s viewpoint.
Lomond had only been training for the high jump for little over a month when he stepped on the track, so he never envisioned a medal. He was sick the whole time he was in Toronto so survival was more on his mind than winning a medal. He was too sick to take the finish line for his race.
“Even though I didn’t jump 175 cm, which I wanted to jump, I still got a bronze medal and I was very pleased with it,” he said.
The action-packed weekend left both athletes feeling good about their performance, but the respect they were shown by organizers and the royal treatment they received was really something they both embraced with open arms.
It’s hard not to get excited when Nike makes a contribution to your athletic wardrobe and organizers provide them with all the comforts of home and more besides.
“It was definitely really exciting to experience all the different stuff they had planned. They had a jam-packed schedule for us,” Forsey said of the busy weekend. “To visit the CN Tower, tour the city and get outfitted with all the Nike gear, was really cool.”
Winning a medal for the first time at a national event was the obvious highlight for Lomond and he ranks the trip as the best sports experience of his young life.
“It was insane all the clothes they gave us and all the free stuff,” he said. “They treated us like kings actually. It was great, except for being sick for pretty well the whole time.”