By CLAUDE SCILLEY
BROCKVILLE — One boy was never really that active, athletically. The other loves track, but never seriously trained for it until several weeks ago.
As different as their backgrounds may be, Emmett Bravakis and Max Taylor have a few things in common. Teammates at Holy Cross, they both spent the East region track and field meet establishing personal-best times, and as a result they’re each going to contest the midget boys 200 and 400 metres at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field championships next week.
Oh, yeah. There’s one other thing.
They agree the most satisfying part of the day Friday had nothing to do with their individual success.
“Beating Frontenac in the relay,” Bravakis said, as Taylor nodded in agreement. “They beat us every time.”
Not Friday, however, and the Crusaders did it the hard way, coming out of the first section, where the teams with the slowest seed times are placed and from where teams seldom go anywhere. Holy Cross, however, posted the second-best time of the day, 47.74 seconds, 13 one-hundredths of a second better than what Frontenac did in finishing second in the so-called fast section.
“Our handoffs were perfect,” Taylor said.
Not so last week, where one pass of the baton was botched so badly it almost cost the Crusaders a chance to advance. It was only because it was EOSSAA’s turn to host the regional meet—and therefore qualified six teams, instead of the usual five—that Holy Cross was still alive Friday.
“It was messy,” Holy Cross coach Joanna Besselink said, “but it did the job to get them another week.
“We knew that they had much better times in them. They’re four fast boys.”
Connell Pelow, the first man, gave the baton to Taylor in good shape. “Max beat everybody” on the backstretch, Bravakis said, and Christian Ibanez was in the lead when he passed to Bravakis for the final leg.
“We knew we had to kill this heat to win,” Bravakis said. The team’s best time this year was 49.3 seconds and the belief was it would take a time in the neighbourhood of 47 seconds to beat Frontenac. “I’m looking at the clock as I’m coming down (the straightaway),” Bravakis said, and he knew 47 seconds was within his grasp. “The clock was right there and I’m, like, ‘Yes!’”
After both runners qualified for OFSAA in the 200 metres Thursday, finishing 2-3 in the final—each with a personal-best time—they both had spectacular performances in the 400 metres Friday. Taylor, who won the event at 52.71 seconds, took more than a second off his previous best time; Bravakis, second in 53.68 seconds, took almost two seconds off his.
“Hard work has paid off,” Besselink said. “They’re very competitive boys. Each one feeds off the other one and that seems to be working, helping them to crank out fast times.
“It’s a happy competition. They’re good friends, very supportive of each other, and happy when the other one does well. Their competitive spirit and their nature helps create a really great environment for training, and then when they come here and they’re teammates, it pushes them that much harder.”
Competing against each other is fun, Bravakis said. “It’s less stressful if you lose, because the team still wins.”
Unless, of course, Cole Horsman, the record-wrecking sprinter from Frontenac who’s been unbeatable this season, happens to be in the race.
“I don’t mind losing to Max,” Bravakis said with a smile, “but I lose to Cole Horsman every time, and that’s a bit more annoying than losing to Max.”
Hill, a Hall of Fame coach, says he’s never coached anyone who was faster in Grade 9 than these two.
“They’ve really progressed,” he said. “I’m so excited for them that they’re going to go to OFSAA.”
After initially being unable to beat his teammate in the 400 metres, Taylor has won the event three weeks in a row. “Max started to get better and better, stronger and stronger,” Hill said. “He started to get confidence that he can run 400 (metres).”
For Bravakis, the process was more prolonged. He began training seriously more than a year ago, at the behest of his cousin, OFSAA-bound middle-distance runner Jonathan Besselink.
“I think he played some recreational soccer but he didn’t really do any sports,” Hill recalled. “We started on a road north of Collins Bay, because we couldn’t get on a track. He hasn’t missed a workout yet.”
That includes working on his start in his living room, with a five-pound weight in each hand.
“I want them to go through the motion, so it becomes automatic,” Hill explained. “Keen? He’s a sprinter and he gets together with another young guy that I coach every Sunday morning and runs for 40 minutes.”
That’s a bit of training that came in handy this week, after Bravakis hurt his foot Saturday during a session at Lake Ontario Park.
“What a time to get hurt,” Hill said. “I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to have lots of energy; you’re really fit (from) those 40-minute runs,’ and last night he came out and did that incredible 200. Today’s 400? Incredible. Beautiful.
“He’s gone from a guy who really didn’t play any sports and now he’s going to OFSAA.”
Taylor and Bravakis are two of 68 athletes from 14 Kingston-area schools who finished in the top four of their respective events and qualified at the two-day meet, one of five held across the province to determine who would compete at the 66th annual OFSAA meet.
Local competitors will contest 53 of 99 individual events and four of eight relays at the three-day provincial championships, beginning Thursday at the University of Toronto's Varsity Centre.
Kingston Collegiate will have the largest contingent, 13 athletes, while Holy Cross is sending 12 athletes and Regiopolis Notre Dame 10. Sydenham, typically the largest local team at OFSAA, will be represented this year by nine competitors.
Three local athletes each won two events at the regional meet:
• Frontenac's Horsman added the 100 metres to his victory in the 200 Thursday, and he did so in impressive fashion, taking six one-hundredths of a second off the meet record in the morning heat, and then breaking his own record in the afternoon final, where he won in 11.15 seconds.
• Regiopolis Notre Dame midget Brogan MacDougall added the 800 metres title to her 1,500 metres victory Thursday night.
• Shirley Hughes-Ryan of Sydenham won both the 100 and 800 metres for ambulatory girls, breaking the two-year-old recod in the latter by almost 32 seconds.
Other event winners from Kingston-area schools Friday were:
• Sydenham’s Merik Wilcock, in junior boys 100-metre hurdles;
• Ben Workman of KC, who successfully defended his region title in senior boys 3,000 metres;
• Mary Baker of Regiopolis Notre Dame, who won midget girls javelin for the second week in a row, with a best attempt, 31.42 metres, that was six and a half metres better than her best at the Kingston Area meet just two weeks ago;
• Regi’s Hailey Wolfgram, who will seek her third consecutive OFSAA medal next week after winning senior girls shot put;
• Chelsea Hiemstra of La Salle, who has quietly put together a four-week winning streak in midget girls shot put.