Heading into the Panamerican Junior Athletics Championships in Edmonton last weekend, Kelowna resident John Gay was expecting to compete in just the 3,000 metre steeplechase event as one of Canada’s top two junior (18 and 19-year-old) athletes in that event.
But two days before the Junior Panamericans, the OKM graduate and first year UBC student was asked if he would fill in and compete in the 5,000 metre run as well, after Canada’s top finishing junior in the 5,000 suffered an injury.
And Gay answered the bell, competing in both events: Running the 5,000 metre last Friday where he finished seventh, and then his main event the steeplechase on Sunday, finishing in fifth place.
It was the first international competition for the 18-year-old.
“It went pretty well, I’m content with my results,” said Gay this week, back in Kelowna and now preparing for another event, the Western Canada Summer Games this weekend in Fort McMurray. “It was my first international race so it was a really good learning experience for me. It was great competition racing against other countries that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to compete against.”
Gay qualified for the Junior Panamerican Championships by finishing second in steeplechase at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships and third in the 5,000. When the top finishing Canadian junior in the 5,000 suffered an injury before the Panamericans, Gay figured he might get the call and he was not going to pass up the opportunity to race for Canada twice.
“I knew there was a possibility they might call me up to race and I found out two days before the event,” he said. “It gave me some time to prepare. Honestly, it wasn’t my fastest race at that distance but it was a very good learning experience and it was a good opportunity to represent my country twice. It’s not often I get to make teams like this so getting that second opportunity to run for Canada was one I don’t want to pass up.”
At this coming weekend’s Western Canada Summer Games, Gay will again compete in the steeplechase and will also race the 3,000 metres as part of a 19 member Kelowna contingent that will be taking part in the event.
For Gay it will be his last competition before returning to UBC for another year with the Thunderbirds track and field team where he will compete in the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
Getting a taste of running for Canada has given him more motivation to keep pushing.
“My goal is to just keep making national teams,” he said. “Obviously the big goal is the Olympics and World Championships but I just want to keep competing and see progress every year. As long as I am continuing to run faster I want to keep pushing.”
Fellow Kelowna athlete Aaron Stroda also competed in the Junior Panamerican Championships, taking part in the hammer throw. Stroda failed to make the finals in the event.