LANGLEY — The Subway B.C. High School Track and Field championships is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Canada.
And when it opens another three-day run on June 1 at Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park, the event will be celebrating a landmark 50th birthday.
Varsity Letters caught up with BCHSTF commissioner and provincial championship meet director Andrew Lenton, a teacher at Thomas Haney Secondary in Maple Ridge, to talk about where the meet has come from and where it’s headed.
Varsity Letters: Before we get started, you’re a Centennial Secondary grad from 1986. Have you turned 50 the same year the championships are turning 50?
Andrew Lenton: I’m not 50 until next year.
VL: So what does turning 50 mean for this meet, which is truly one of the marquee events in all of B.C. amateur sports?
AL: We have a lot of pride because 50 is a big number. It’s interesting because high school track and field has been around a lot longer. It dates back to the 1920s. But this particular meet started 50 years ago. We’ve had so many great competitors over the years, so many Olympians. We’ve morphed and we’ve grown, but we’ve always been a great event and I’ve just tried to take the steps to continue what (longtime former meet director) Bill McNulty did before me.
VL: You are now into your fifth year as commissioner. Can you speak to what Bill McNulty represents in terms of this meet holding the level of tradition and excellence that it does across the entire country?
AL: I came in thinking I would help out for one year and now it’s five for me. Really, it’s just an honour to help. I think this event is the flagship event for B.C. high school sports, and the person responsible for that is Bill McNulty. This has always been the one track meet you wanted to come to, and the reason for that was Bill. He served for over three decades and he needs to be commended for it.
VL: What about the growth of this meet? And what about its broader inclusivity?
AL: We’re now the largest (high school) meet in Canada, larger than Ontario. We used to be in the 1,300-to-1,400 (athlete) range, and now it’s around 2,500.
VL: And that’s because there are now senior and junior divisions, as well as an invitational Grade 8 division?
AL: Yes, and part of this has been providing younger athletes with an opportunity to shine at the provincial level. Previously, it was very hard for a 14-to-16-year-old who was provincially competitive at their age level to shine (against Grade 11-12 competition). With the new format, we’re hearing that athletes are keeping in the sport because they are finding success within the new divisions. Now, it’s very rare for athletes to move up to older (age) divisions because it has become so competitive in each of the divisions.
VL: The association is also developing strong relationships which go beyond even the provincial and national level?
AL: This spring, we’ve made connections with the IAAF for coaching development and future grass-roots programs, and we will have a representative of BC High School Track and Field as a delegate at the World Championships this summer in London.
VL: When you turn 50 years old as an event, your alumni becomes huge and I understand that many will re-visit next week during the actual meet. You, in fact, competed here as a high schooler from Centennial?
AL: I won a bronze medal in the 1,500-metres in Grade 10 (1983) but I was injured (for the outdoor season) in Grade 11 and 12.
(Editor’s note-While a Centaurs’ standout in early 1986, Lenton traveled to New Haven, CT., and in a time of 8:26, won the 3,000 metres at the USA High School Indoor Championships. He also won the B.C. high school cross-country championship in 1984, a victory book-ended by second-place finishes in ’83 and ’85. His wife, Alana Kripps, representing Vernon’s Clarence Fulton, won gold at 400 metres in 1985 and later won an NAIA national indoor title for Simon Fraser)
VL: We first met back in 2006 when I was at The Province newspaper and writing a series of articles on first-timers training for the Vancouver International Marathon. You were one of them and you had a very young family back then. Have they become runners?
AL: They are both at Maple Ridge Secondary. Our son Jorrin is in Grade 11 and will be running in the 400 metre hurdles. Our daughter Jade is in Grade 8 and she will be joining the 4×400 relay team.
(The 50th Subway B.C. High School Track and Field championships will run June 1-3 at McLeod Athletic Park in Langley).
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