Where are they now?

With various provincial high school track championships taking place across the country these past couple of weekends, it seemed an appropriate time to consider how we are doing in terms of developing these youngsters into senior level talent. Steve Weiler from London Runner compiled a list of the top 5 midget boys and girls from the 2003 OFSAA (Ontario high school) championships in the distance (800,1500,3000), so athletes born in 1987 or 1988. From this list, he searched to see where they ranked in the 2013 rankings. I’ve elaborated a bit on this idea, and taken names from Quebec and BC for comparison. I’ve also used 2012 provincial and national rankings, to get a full season, instead of the partially completed 2013 year.

Here are the lists:

OFSAA Midget 2003 (YOB 1987-88)
Men
1 Geoff Millard Thousand Isl 4:16.20
2 Allan Brett Hillcrest HS 4:16.30
3 David Moore St Christoph 4:16.74
4 Geoff Dailey Forest Heigh 4:17.23
5 Rob Brown McLaughlin, 4:17.63
3 Dustin Eldridge Lindsay Cvi 2:03.07 2:02.57 6
4 Guillaume Fauteux-Brault Hawkesbury E 2:03.60 2:04.14 5
5 Chris Foster North Park C 2:04.29 2:06.97 4
2 Sam Gouett Regiopolis 9:31.66 9:19.57 8
3 Marcus Dillon McLaughlin, 9:33.80 9:22.17 6
4 Kemal Kapetanovic A.Y. Jackson 9:32.50 9:25.64 5
5 Robert Koziarski John Fraser 9:37.91 9:28.98 4

Women
1 Shannon Gribbons Saugeen Dss- 4:47.03
2 Marie-Louise Asselin Northern Civ 4:47.13
3 Kaitlyn Tallman Manitoulin S 4:47.21
4 Kara Wark Northern Civ 4:47.24
5 Jessica Driscoll Birchmount P 4:48.14
1 Carley Dart Austin, Fr. 2:24.93 2:16.34 10
4 Tess Acton South Carlet 2:22.44 2:20.42 5
5 Geneva Winterink Dwyer, Paul- 2:25.14 2:20.83 4
1 Amber Cushnie Pine Ridge S 10:52.70 10:29.33 10
3 Rachelle Malette Holy Names H 10:48.50 10:32.69 6
4 Meaghan Coker Our Lady of 11:00.57 10:33.61 5

Of these 23 athletes, the only one currently ranked is Allan Brett (12th in the 1500). There are no women from the top 5 at OFSAA midget who seem to be still running. Asselin went to West Virginia and topped out at 4th at the Canadian championships in 2009. Rachelle Malette also went to the NCAA (Wayne State).

In Quebec, there are rankings that combine club and school performances. Here are the top names for Quebec 14-15 year olds in 2003. (Note that this is different from what Steve did as it is an overall ranking, not results from one meet. Also note that 14-15 year olds ran 1200m and 2000m as well as 1500m and 3000m in Quebec at that time.)

Quebec 14-15 year old rankings 2003 (YOB 1988-89)
Justine L’Heureux 2:20.32
Amanda Ottoni 2:22.87
Charlotte Jacquemin 2:25.54
Marie-Michele Lafontaine 2:26.35
Monika Beaulieu-Bernard 2:26.93
Francis Langevin 2:04.61
David Rouleau 2:05.05
Olivier Lavoie 2:05.45
Nathanel Lapierre 2:08.20
Alexandre Ricard 2:08.62
Marjorie Cote 3:51.67 (1200m)
Natahsa Bonenberg 3:59.50 (1200m)
Philippe Soucy 3:22.88 (1200m)
Annie-Claude Laberge 5:27.32 (1500m)
Stephanie Stevenson 5:31.52 (1500m)
Stephanie Pichet-M 5:47.90 (1500m)
Vicky Fauteux-Lachance 5:47.90 (1500m)
Jean-Claude Nduwinguma 3:58.11 (1500m)
Kevin Landry 4:31.55 (1500m)
Matthew Wongkee 4:32.37 (1500m)
Veronique Bilodeau 6:51.21 (2000m)
Meghan Turnbull 1302.83 (3000m)
Sebastien Monette 10:59.84 (3000m)
Michel Mallette 11:13.35 (3000m)
Sean Michael McCaffey 11:14.21 (3000m)

Of these names, no women appear in the rankings, though I know Charlotte Jacquemin ran for University of Montreal, which was not an affiliated club in 2012. On the men’s side Philippe Soucy was ranked 30th in the 800m with a time of 2:04.76, and 13th in the 1500 in 3:57.12. Olivier Lavoie was 20th in the 1500m last year with a 4:00.26. He’s currently in Europe, we expect to see him return in the fall. Monette was 9th in the 5000m with a time of 15:32.21, though we know he’s moved on to the lucrative call of the Spartan Race. Alexandre Ricard was 10th in the 5000m in 15:52.29 and 6th in the 10000m (33:01.08).

So a quick list:
Soucy
Lavoie
Monette
Ricard
(Jacquemin)

5 out of 24 still competing.

How about BC? They have a nice archive. I will take the top 5 14 and 15 year olds from the 2003 file.

BC Boys 14 from 2003 (YOB 1989)
Brandon Ritchie 2:09.59
Jordan Mara 2:09.78
Max Marshall 2:11.47
Evan Smith 2:15.39
Brett Wakefield 2:15.93
Cliff Childs 4:35.18
Victor Sologub 4:37.06
Sam Bowman 4:37.73
Cam Levins 10:11.71
Andy Faget 10:30.81

BC Boys 15 from 2003 (YOB 1988)
Ross Wiens 2:00.52
Chris Gordon 2:03.00
Justin Marpole-Bird 2:03.26
Reid Gustavson 2:05.31
Alvin Hew 2:06.50
Jon Kruzeniski 4:23.62
Justin Black 4:26.97
Roberto Philips 9:36.19
Leyland Cecco 10:32.06
Bryce Marcell 10:39.00

BC Girls 14 from 2003 (YOB 1989)
Chantelle Groenewoud 2:21.08
Tamara DePaoli 2:22.49
Angela Shaw 2:25.69
Brittany Imlach 2:27.22
Kelly Forbes 2:30.13
Samantha Lotnick 5:05.58
Laura Carlyle 5:14.83
Laura McIvor 11;59.87
Lauren Youden 12:34.08 (only 4 girls were ranked in the 3k)

BC Girls 15 from 2003 (YOB 1988)
Lisa Egami 2:20.77
Victoria Ershov 2:22.92
Megan Crawley 2:26.11
Anastasia Pearce 2:26.54
Erinn Raison 2:27.52
Amanda Hall 4:58.16
Rachel Hartwick 5:13.41
Lindsay Delayen 5:15.86
Rebecca Quiring 11:24.96
Christina Gaboury 11:46.91
Shalane Carlson 11:57.14

Of these names, those currently ranked:

Levins
Childs
Marpole-Bird
Carlyle
Groenwould (in Ontario)

5 out of 40.

I also thought it would be interesting to do a kind of “reverse look-up.” So here is a list of the top 10 female athletes ranked in 800m in BC in 2012 with their ranking in that event when they would have been 15.

2012 provincial 800m ranking
1. Jessica Smith 1:59.86 1989 #5 in 400m, #7 in 1500m NR in 800m in 2004
2. Diane Cummins 2:00.55 1974 ?? in 1989
3. Helen Crofts 2:05.34 1990 NR in in 2005
4. Kendra Pomfret 2:07.75 1991 #3 in 1500m Racewalk, NR in 800m in 2006
5. Fiona Benson 2:08.53 1992 NR in 2007
6. Brianna Kane 2:08.98 1989 NR in 2004
7. Lindsay Butterworth 2:09.18 1992 NR in 2007
8. Sarah Sawatzky 2:10.79 1991 #8 in 2006 2:27.46
9. Jessica Moore 2:12.86 1991 NR in 2006
10. Shauna Mcinnis 2:12.90 1992 NR in 2007

As you can see, only three women ranked now were in the top 10 in any event when she was 15. Only one was in the top 10 in her event (and it’s not the Olympian). I don’t know what Diane Cummins was doing when she was 15, but even if she was running 800m, I don’t think it changes the data too much.

Conclusions:

In total, 10 out of 88 top ranked high school athletes are still competing 10 years later. What can we make of this? I think it shows that we are doing a poor job of retention. Only one of the athletes who is still competing is an Olympian. The others are still competing, presumably for the love of competition. Why didn’t any of those other 78 kids like track enough to keep running? That’s the question to ask.

I should also note, this should not be construed as a criticism of these named athletes! They have not failed. I believe the system (coaches, teachers, administrators, officials, parents) has failed them! Maybe they went on to become soccer or rugby stars, who knows? But for some reason, while they were the best of their age in distance running at one point, they ended up dropping out, or getting passed later on. It may be that some of them went on to run in university, but the question still remains, why they haven’t surfaced in the primary season of their sport, in Canada. If any one has info on any of these folks, please post a comment so we can answer the question of “where are they now?” It would probably be instructive to hear from the athletes themselves on why they have not continued.

So, while this is by no means an air-tight scientific enquiry, I think we can fairly say that success at distance running at a young age is not a predictor of success at a later age. Nor does success during one’s 20s require success in the teens. Certainly we can argue over the definitions of success, etc. But I do believe that this means when we are coaching young athletes, our primary goal should not be performance, but retention. Do whatever it takes to keep them in the sport. Because if they hang around, they might get good. But even if they don’t, hey, at least they are running.