By Larry Moko
One of the most accomplished young female sprinters in Hamilton’s history is fast approaching the finish line of her brilliant high school track and field career.
Grade 12 student Christian Brennan of St. Mary Catholic Secondary School heads into the outdoor competitive season already having won eight medals in three years at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations level. Seven of those provincial awards were gold while the other was silver. Her times also set records along the way – including a Canadian interscholastic mark -- in the midget and junior age categories.
The 18-year-old Waterdown resident, who has captured three straight OFSAA golds in the 400 metres, will take part in Thursday’s Mark Graham Memorial meet at Mohawk Sports Park. It’s going to be one of the last opportunities for local fans to watch the 2011 Canadian Track Athlete of the Year in action before she travels to Eugene, Oregon in September to begin a full-ride athletics scholarship at the University of Oregon.
“We’ve got some pretty ambitious things planned for her in the high school season,” Brennan’s club coach George Kerr said after a recent HEAT (Hamilton Elite Athletics Team) session at the St. Mary track. “She wants to try and compete in the 100, 200 and 400m again. The goal is for her to beat the OFSAA girls’ senior record (in the 400) which is 51.70.”
Wearing her red Team Canada top during Monday evening’s workout, Brennan said she took a weight training course at school this year and is ready for the high school campaign. It culminates with the OFSAA championships in Oshawa next month.
“I think I’ll be running in the 100, 200 and 400 and hopefully I’ll get gold in all of them,” she said. “Maybe records, too. I’ll try.”
Injuries slowed Brennan’s progress last summer and fall. She suffered through shin splints which led to a stress fracture on the bottom of her right foot. That put her in an air cast for six weeks.
“It’s been stressful,” Brennan said of the setback. “It’s been a long process. I tried coming back to practice in the indoor season and my leg started hurting again. But we recently got an MRI and it was clear. That’s reassuring.”
Brennan ran in the 100m and a relay event at McMaster’s Ray Lewis Invitational meet last week.
“Of course I’m excited to be going to the University of Oregon,” she said. “I chose it for a bunch of reasons.”
Along with her father, stepmother and Kerr, Brennan travelled all the way to Barcelona for the World Junior Championships in Athletics last July. Unfortunately, the injury prevented her from competing for Canada. The year before, she raced to a pair of silver medals in the 200m and 400m plus a bronze in the medley relay at the World Youth Championships in Lille, France (setting new Canadian Youth records).
“Everyone around me is competing and I can’t … it was frustrating,” Brennan said of her 10-day World Junior trip to Spain. “Before I went, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about my leg. It was still an awesome experience, though. I got to support my team.”
Brennan – under the care of an Athletics Canada doctor in Mississauga -- felt confident enough to test the leg at indoor meets in Guelph and York last winter. There, she chalked up two firsts and an eighth.
“The injury was something we were long in trying to get diagnosed,” Kerr said. “Once the diagnosis came through, we put in a recovery plan. It’s been more or less just trying to make sure everything is in place before she gets back on the track.”
Kerr estimates that Brennan is physically “probably 80-85 per cent” at the moment.
“It’s not the Christian Brennan of two years ago,” the former Hamilton Olympic Club coach said, “but we’re getting there.”
Brennan’s father, Chris, says the scholarship is probably worth about $250,000 and Oregon officials “fully understand” the injuries that happened.
As a 15-year-old, Brennan awed the running scene by winning a bronze medal in the 200m against the country’s fastest senior women at national championships in Toronto. She also captured a silver in the 400m at the Canadian championships last June in Calgary.
This year’s senior nationals are June 20-23 in Moncton, while the Canadian juniors are July 12-14 in Sainte-Therese, Que.
Kerr likes the choice of universities Brennan made for pursuing track and field. “It’s one of the schools I had hoped for,” he said. “It’s good training weather all year. And there will be good athletes for her to train with. She’ll be there with people who are pretty much the same speed and can push her at practice.”
The Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference championships for track and field athletes from the Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic associations is scheduled for May 22-23 at Mohawk Sports Park.