Students packed the stands at the University of Manitoba Stadium Thursday, looking to beat the heat and the competition on day one of the 2022 Manitoba Provincial High School Track and Field Championships.
It’s the first time the event has taken place since 2019 and the turnout didn’t disappoint. Schools from across the province set up shop with tents bordering nearly every inch of the field and competitors forming a rainbow of colourful singlets.
All skill levels were on display ranging from those who were just looking to have a good time and others with goals of setting personal bests and taking home hardware.
“The last time we did provincials was in Grade 7 or 8,” said Bennett Sarna, a Grade 10 student at Sisler High School. “It’s been a good two or three years since it happened.”
He isn’t just competing with other schools this week, but also against his twin older brother by five minutes, Deighton. The two faced off in the junior varsity boys 100-metre dash Thursday and will run together in the junior varsity boys 4×100 metre relay.
“They say we have twin synergy,” said Deighton. “It will be amazing passing together.”
While the Sarna twins enjoyed their first taste of high school provincials action, it’s the last time their teammate Kiana Pagtakhan will have a chance to compete.
The Grade 12 student is making the most of her final high school track meet by participating in a handful of events, including long jump and the 200-metre dash. She said it’s important to take it all in.
“I’m not going to continue this in university and I’m going to miss this kind of environment,” said Pagtakhan. “I’m also gonna miss competing, just that feeling of adrenaline and not knowing exactly what’s going to happen.”
Pagtakhan also said it’s nice to see everyone gathered on the track again since opportunities have been limited during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m just trying to stay present and be in the moment,” she said. “In the winter time that was a bit hard for me because I sort of forgot what it felt like to be on the track, but now I feel more comfortable here. I’m just trying to enjoy it all.”
Fort Richmond Collegiate’s Hoan Nguyen hopes a collegiate track career is in his future as he prepares to study finance at York University in Toronto.
The Grade 12 student has been in Winnipeg since 2019 after moving from Vietnam and made himself at home with the school’s track team.
“It’s actually really fun because I love competing in different kinds of sports,” he said. “It’s my third year here, so this is one of the first sports I’ve competed in, in Canada.”
Although Nguyen didn’t qualify for his favourite event, the 100-metre dash, he said he’s excited to give it his all in the varsity boys 4×100 metre relay.
“I think the main point is just to have fun and be better and beat your (result) from yesterday,” he said.
Vincent Massey Collegiate’s Alejandro Civetta was touted by the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association as an athlete to watch at this year’s event. Civetta trains outside of school with the Tough Track program and has been preparing for this event for a long time.
The Grade 11 student was dialed in before competing Thursday afternoon, warming up with a pair of AirPods in his ears and listening to Love Sosa by the rapper Chief Keef. Civetta is quiet-natured but looks to make lots of noise on the track.
“I need to run my own race, I know I need to run fast,” he said. “At the end of the day, you just gotta get out there and do your own thing.”
The competitors at the meet are looking ahead to day two, which begins Friday morning. Whether they’re teammates, rivals or twins, it’s been a long time coming for the young athletes and they want to make it a worthwhile experience.
“I want to try and win some events, but if I can’t I just want to beat my own records,” said Bennett Sarna. “I just want to get better.”