By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Paul Bates won two races at the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association track and field championships, but perhaps the one he enjoyed the most last week was the one he didn’t win.
“I like the long distance,” he said, “but the (800 metres) was really fun.
“I’ve never really finished neck and neck with someone, right to the finish line. That’s probably going to stick out in my mind for a while.”
Such words are music to the ears of coach Brad Hill.
“Paul has always been a good, competitive runner,” said Hill. “Now he’s starting to smile more.
“I don’t want him to take this too seriously. A saying I have is, ‘Love it and the rest is easy.’ I want him to believe that.”
Bates, of Regiopolis Notre Dame, will be among the Kingston Area athletes at the two-day Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association championships, beginning Thursday at Thousand Islands Secondary School in Brockville.
In that junior 800-metre race a week ago, Bates trailed Kyle Hancock of Holy Cross early, then caught him, and then got passed at the end by Hancock, who won by two-tenths of a second in 2 minutes, 13.3 seconds. “My legs were a bit tired but I was going all out,” Bates said. “He just had a really good kick at the end.”
Bates, who won both the junior 1,500 and 3,000 metres at the KASSAA championships, said the 800 was the most difficult race for him. “It’s midway between a long run and a sprint,” he said. “It’s really hard to focus; the last lap you’re dead.”
Bates plans to keep all three distances in his repertoire this week. He said he likes the 1,500 metres—“not too long, not too short; it’s fun to watch and fun to run”—even though he’s long been drawn to the longer race. “Since I was little, I’ve always run long distances. I like cross-country so I like longer runs.”
That’s not to say he finds the 3,000 metres particularly easy.
“In the 3k you really need all the stars to line up,” he said. “A lot of things can change during the race. You have to stay focused and not lose contact with the other runners. Even though it’s long you can’t let the other runners go away and then realize (too late) you have to go.”
Hill said Bates has benefitted from training with older runners, people in his training group like Regi’s Paul Saigriff and Jonathan Besselink of Holy Cross. “The biggest thing,” Hill said, “is he’s just got to believe in himself, and he’s starting to do that.
“When you get success like he’s had over the last few days, you start to believe in yourself.”
Bates, who has overcome some illness to race this spring, posted times last week—4:29.3 in the 1,500 metres; 10:20.1 in the 3,000 metres—that, while good, were not spectacular. Don’t worry about it, Hill said. At this point in the season, the times are not important.
“Some of these kids time themselves in the middle of race,” Hill said, scoffing at the practice. “All I want them to do is compete. You’ve got to get to the next stage.
“Paul’s dedicated, committed. Not everybody can win, but they can win within themselves.”
Being a volleyball player at a school where that’s a big deal doesn’t necessarily mesh with excelling on the track, Hill said. With the potential Bates exhibits as a runner, he may soon face a difficult decision.
“Sometimes when you get to Grade 10 or 11, in track and field, the kids you’re competing against are running 12 months of the year,” Hill said. “Paul’s got so much talent, somewhere along the line he might have to make a choice.
“That’s a tough one to grasp.”