Sports High School Sports

Barrie runners Rowland bound

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

From left, at an event earlier this season, are South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field coach Bob Greig, Ryan Tyrell, Unity Christian’s Isaiah Frielink, Eastview’s Ethan Loucks, Sam Cumming, Bear Creek’s Matthew Courtenay and Justin Tyrell. SUBMITTED

From left, at an event earlier this season, are South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field coach Bob Greig, Ryan Tyrell, Unity Christian’s Isaiah Frielink, Eastview’s Ethan Loucks, Sam Cumming, Bear Creek’s Matthew Courtenay and Justin Tyrell. SUBMITTED

As the outdoor track season opens up, a few local athletes are looking to start things off with a bang.

A trio of runners from Barrie have been selected to run in today’s Nike Invitational 3,000-kilometre race at the Rowland Games in Etobicoke.

Bear Creek’s Matthew Courtenay, Unity Christian’s Isaiah Freilink and Eastview’s Ethan Loucks are getting the chance to take part in the prestigious event.

“It’s pretty special,” said Bob Greig, who coaches all three boys for the South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field Club. “It’s one of the older meets that’s been going on in the province for a number of years, so to get the opportunity to run in this race only comes along once or twice during their high-school careers.

“To be picked out of a group of young men in the entire province is pretty special.”

A fourth runner, Unity Christian’s Mitch de Lange, had also been invited, but declined because he is taking part in a different track meet this weekend.

The boys had a strong past few months that helped lead them towards Saturday.

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching Matthew, Isaiah and Ethan through the 2017 indoor season,” Greig said. “Matthew joined us in 2015 and Isaiah has been with the club a year longer than that. Ethan I’ve known for a few years and I’ve been able to keep tabs on him for the past few years.

“It’s been quite a successful ride for them this winter, based on a couple of the meets they’ve been involved in at York University,” Greig added. “All three have run the equivalent of personal best times over the past winter, so it’s been a real positive for all of them for sure.”

The Barrie runners have been working hard as they look to enter their outdoor season.

“They’re always thinking about things and how to get themselves better,” Greig said. “There seems to be a bigger fire, or drive, inside these distance kids over maybe some of the kids that are doing field events.

“A lot of the stuff they do, they’re doing basically alone and they have time to think about it.”

As much as distance running can be an individual affair, having other athletes at a similar ability has done wonders to help the trio grow.

“Even practices, as much as we’re doing stuff in a group, there’s still that inner push, and the one nice thing we’ve seen with these young men is that they have such good training partners in one another,” Greig said. “They have that ability to push one another in practice and even in races when they’re in the same ones.

“It’s not like it’s a predestined order from one race to the next,” Greig added. “Guys are pushing each other and the other guy trying to make up the gap.

“It’s nice to see the development come to a full circle over the last few years that I’ve been working with these young men.”

Their hard work paid off at OFSAA’s cross-country event in the fall, where Courtenay received a silver medal, while Freilink finished 10th and Loucks wound up 24th in the province.

“The one nice thing that we do see with these guys coming to practices is the regularity that they come,” Greig said. “It’s what drives them and keeps them going, and that little bit of inner rivalry that they bring to the practice every day really helps them to get through it, knowing there’s benefit coming at the end of the day.”

With the top runners in the province taking part on Saturday, there will be plenty of eyes on the kids, as schools from north and south of the border usually take in the event.

“Although this is early in the track season for many of these high-school athletes, universities will still be keeping an eye on many of these runners,” Greig said. “A lot of the athletes that have been chosen for this event have come from the last OFSAA, so schools already have an eye on these kids a bit.

“They’re looking to see where these kids are at during an early-season part of the track season, building towards early June,” Greig added. “They want to see if there’s development coming along, and seeing steady improvement over the past couple of years.”

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