Trail Track and Field Club athlete Jaxon Kuchar won gold at the Royal Canadian Legion National Youth Track and Field Meet in Cape Breton, N.S. on Sunday.
The J. L. Crowe athlete bested a competitive field of Canada’s top U16 middle-distance runners in the 1,500-m Steeplechase, cruising to first place in a time of 4:29.83. Jaxon finished a full two seconds ahead of Saskatoon native Abraham Makaby, and had six seconds on bronze medalist Micah Landry of New Brunswick.
Kuchar’s coach and J. L. Crowe teacher Colin Adamson had predicted that the 15-year-old athlete would medal and, although Adamson couldn’t attend, he was able to watch the live-feed of Sunday’s steeplechase final.
“It was perfect, obviously,” said Adamson. “He won, but it was perfect in that he ran the race exactly how he needed to. He went out in the front, set the tone right away and that’s his strength – making the race fast.”
Rossland athlete Connor Nagle also competed as an independent, after meeting national qualifying standards. The J. L. Crowe track and field athlete placed seventh in U16 triple jump with a personal best 11.81-m, and finished 12th in the high jump.
Former Trail track athlete, Kylie Lakevold, coach of the J. L. Crowe and Trail Track and Field Club teams, was impressed with their performances at Nationals, but even more so with the hard work both Jaxon and Connor put into athletics the past year.
“I am a little surprised by both Connor and Jaxon’s results,” said Lakevold. “Both kids come from multiple sport backgrounds, but they started into the sport of Track and Field only two years ago when they joined the J.L. Crowe team.
“However, these two boys are also some of the hardest workers in the room. They showed up at every practice, followed their weight training routines and worked very hard to reach their goals. Work in, results out. Natural talent does not win competitions at a National level, hard work does.”
In Sunday’s steeple, Kuchar led from start to finish, setting a brisk pace and stretching the lead up to four seconds at the half-way point. Makaby made a kick, closing the gap and pushing Kuchar with less than a lap to go, but the Trail native held off the Riversdale Athletic Club favourite, and finished strong in the final 200-m.
“We’ve been doing a lot of strength training, so Jaxon – you could see it really paid off,” said Adamson. “He finishes so well, and he had that finish while the other guy didn’t.”
A rigorous training regimen had a lot to do with Kuchar’s success. Adamson helped build Jaxon’s strength and conditioning by taking advantage of the West Kootenay’s natural terrain.
“We did a lot of hill sessions,” said Adamson. “And we created workouts that would be fun and different for him, and we also have the terrain that others wouldn’t have so we might as well use it to our advantage.
“We did some Red Mountain hill repeats and we even did a Granite Mt. repeat session, ran to the top of Granite with three-minute repeats.”
Kuchar just missed a medal in the 1,200-m run on Friday, coming in fourth place just 4/100th of a second behind the bronze medalist. Although he didn’t medal, it was a good start for Jaxon in his first race at Nationals. More important, it was a learning experience, and Kuchar made the necessary adjustments in the final steeple race.
“That (the 1,200-m race) is where I think he learned quickly, that you can’t sit back. There was a guy that went out crazy fast and set the record. As a result, there was six or eight of them just chilling out going slower than they should have.”
Kuchar’s and Nagle’s success at the provincial and national level has been both fast and dramatic. The athletes will move up to the U18 category next year, where the intensity and compete factor ramps up even more.
“In Connors case, he had to master several of the most technically difficult events in the sport in two short years,” explained Lakevold. “He is a gifted basketball player with raw jumping talent, but over the past two years he is showing incredible potential as a vertical and horizontal jumper. I expect that the next few years will be pivotal for him.
“We learned early on, in Jaxon’s Grade-8 year, that he was a very strong distance runner and in his first year with J.L.Crowe he went on to win a gold medal at high-school provincials. Since then, Colin Adamson has been able to train with Jaxon and get him to a National gold medal. This is an incredible accomplishment for both coach and athlete.”
Lakevold says the U18 Legion Nationals will not only feature Canada’s top athletes, but also opportunity for the future as University Athletics scouts vie for potential scholarship candidates.
“If both boys continue to work as hard as they have, they will undoubtedly see the podium at Nationals and have many offers for scholarships after high school.”