VANCOUVER — It might not be a once-in-a-lifetime recruiting class, but if you want to call it that, it’s not hard to find the numbers to make your argument.
We’re talking about the top-end talent set to populate the roster of the UBC Thunderbirds track and field program next season.
And the reason it’s all so germane is that just over a week after the ‘Birds won the NAIA men’s national title, UBC welcomes a class of incoming athletes this fall, which at its top end, had about as historic a weekend as was possible at the 50th Subway B.C. High School championship meet which wrapped up Saturday in Langley.
All tolled, 12 medalists between the girls and boys ranks, seven of them gold, and perhaps most significant, three new meet records set, including two athletes who have run the two fastest times this season in North America in the 3,000 metres.
And it’s the longevity of those records in the annals of B.C. high school boys running history which makes the addition of Vancouver College’s Anastas Eliopoulos, Handsworth’s Charlie Dannatt and Oak Bay’s Tyler Dozzi so impressive.
Eliopoulos ran the anchor leg of an Irish team which broke a 22-year old meet record in the 4×100 relay (42.14 seconds) in Thursday heats.
He also won the 100m sprint in a time of 10.81.
Dannatt (8:15.93) and Dozzi (8:16.22) each obliterated the 42-year-old record in the 3,000 metres (8:21.27) set in 1975, and those times are the two fastest run by North American high schoolers this season.
That’s 64 years of combined records broken between the 400m relay and the 3,000 metres. Eliopoulos was picked the meet’s Most Inspirational Athlete and Dannatt its Top Male Athlete.
And although the heights of the hurdles in the 110m event were lowered three inches this season, thus preventing Eliopoulos from officially breaking a 35-year record (14.2 seconds), he still ran the fastest race in B.C. schoolboy history at the distance, finishing with gold in 13.61 seconds.
Dannatt (3:57.52) and Dozzi (3:59.02) also finished 1-2 respectively in the 1,500 metres.
Consider the breadth of the domination, from the sprints, through sprint hurdles, through sprint relay, through middle distance.
And if you take a look at the average times of incoming NCAA Div. 1 recruiting classes in the aforementioned events, UBC has more than held its own. Eliopoulos’ personal-best time of 13.75 seconds at the higher 39-inch hurdle height in the 110m event was top 15 in North America, further complimenting the historic race which Dannatt and Dozzi would contest at 3,000 metres.
“I pride myself on early identification of talent,” says Laurier Primeau, who competed in the B.C. meet in the 1980s while at Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth, coached at it during the century’s early turn at Vancouver’s St. George’s, and now recruits it as UBC’s head coach.
“Not so much with Tyler (Dozzi, already on the radar having decided on Oklahoma State before switching to UBC), but we signed Charlie in late October. So it’s an exercise in prediction.
“But the one thing I will always stand by, is that we are also recruiting quality individuals. So while those records speak volumes about the talent we’re bringing in, before we put an offer in front of anyone, the most challenging piece of this is getting to know them as people. We nailed it with these three.”
But it goes even deeper.
Primeau’s female recruits also shone, led by Nanaimo-Wellington’s Hassy Fashina Bombata, who won the senior girls 100m final in a time of 12.07 seconds, then finished third in the 200m final at 24.99. Her 200m finish was the best among B.C.’s high school graduating class of 2017, as Queen Elizabeth 10th grader Jasneet Nijjar and Grade 11 hurdles specialist Katarina Vlahovic of Fraser Heights, took gold and silver respectively.
As well, senior Jessica Williams of Semiahmoo Secondary, took silver in the 400m final (55.46)
Two medalists from Maple Ridge are also UBC bound in Ramblers’ senior Jamie Hennessey, a member of the 4x400m relay team which won gold (4:03.13) and the helped the school to the overall girls senior team title, and Madelyn Huston, who took bronze in the 800 metres (2:16.82) for crosstown rival Thomas Haney.
“The last two weekends in a row have been highlights for us,” admitted Primeau of UBC’s men’s team becoming the first non-U.S. school to win a national collegiate track and field team title, followed by a number of his rising freshmen turning in record-setting performances to end their high school careers.
“We are extremely happy with how our elder statesmen performed at the NAIA’s and confident that we have younger athletes ready to take the reins as they prepare to graduate.”
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