Budding track starts learn from the Island's best

Charles Reid
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Connaughton, McCormack share their knowledge with young athletes

There wasn’t much time, but Kylee Wallace and Mark Dillon took what they could from a two-hour session with two of the Island’s top track athletes.

New Haven sprinter Jared Connaughton, a two-time Olympian, and Souris native Kurt McCormack, the defending Canadian triple-jump champion, landed in Charlottetown on a cold Wednesday night and dished out their knowledge to about 20 eager track athletes at Alumni Canada Games Stadiumin Charlottetown.  And Wallace, a 2013 Canada Games long jumper, and Dillon, a 100- and 200-metre sprinter, were listening.

“I had to work on my starts, and (Connaughton) really helped,” said the 13-year-old Dillon, a Grade 8 student at Queen Charlotte School in Charlottetown.

Dillon impressed Connaughton with one of his starts and the former Canadian 200-metre sprint champ said so, which Dillon admitted with a smile, threw him in a later starting drill.

“I didn’t do as well.”

McCormack, who lives in Charlottetown and works as a personal trainer, and Connaughton, who calls Irving, Tex., home, did the clinic before leaving for the 2014 Canadian track and field championships this weekend in Moncton.

Connaughton races in the 100 metres on Saturday and the 200 metres on Sunday. McCormack won’t defend his triple jump title and instead competes in the long jump on Saturday.

And both are aware of a clinic’s time restraints, so imparting what they can was key, if only in small bits.

They ran a combined clinic during the first half then McCormack peeled off half a dozen athletes bound for the jumps pit. There, he drilled the six on technique and approach, but with caution.

“It can mess with a child’s mind, too. I remember when I was coming up, people would say ‘do this’ and ‘do that’ and I’d think ‘What is this? What do I do?’, ‘Am I still jumping triple jump?’” said McCormack, 26, who won a bronze medal in triple jump at the 2009 Canada Games.

“I can’t change things in 45 minutes, but I take what they know and tweak it, take their technique that little by little with a little help, they can go farther. Practice makes perfect.”

And Wallace, whose best jumps are 5.15 metres in long jump and 10.39 metres in triple jump, said she noticed those small alterations sticking.

“He really helped with my hangs and was really encouraging when you did something right. (He kept you in) good spirits,” said the 17-year-old Cascumpec native, a Grade 12 student at Westisle.

As for Connaughton, who is set to race in his second Commonwealth Games next month in Scotland, nothing good can come without proper warmup.

So, he said, teaching the athletes the basics and showing them how to prime their bodies before an event are his main points at clinics. He has some standing as he’s been a national and international runner for nearly a decade.

“The guys at the (FIFA) World Cup are doing the same drills we did (Wednesday), getting the body in position to do its work effectively,” Connaughton said.

Connaughton is P.E.I.’s first two-time gold medallist at the Canada Games.

He also reached the semifinals of the men’s 200 metres at the 2008 Olympic Games and missed a men’s 4x100-metre relay bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics after Canada was disqualified for a lane violation.  

McCormack has silver and bronze medals from the senior nationals and is a two-time triple jumper winner in the Dakota Athletic Conference while attending Dickinson State University in North Dakota, where he graduated with a fitness and criminal justice degree.



Organizations: Alumni Canada Games Stadiumin Charlottetown, Queen Charlotte School, Commonwealth Games FIFA Canada Games.He Dickinson State University

Geographic location: Charlottetown, New Haven, Irving, Tex. Moncton.Connaughton Scotland Canada North Dakota

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