Trail track and field athlete, Jaxon Kuchar, is headed to nationals after topping the podium at the 2019 BC Athletics Championship Jamboree in Kamloops last week.
The 15-year-old middle-distance runner was one of 15 athletes named to the U16 Team BC on Thursday, and will compete in the Royal Canadian Legion National Youth Track and Field Championship in Cape Breton, N.B. from Aug. 9-11.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Kuchar. “I can’t wait to go to Nova Scotia and compete on the national stage against the best people in our country.”
Three athletes from J.L. Crowe and the Trail Track and Field Club (TTFC) medalled at the provincials. Kuchar captured gold in the 1,500-m Steeplechase, silver in the 1,200-m run, and bronze in the 800-m run, Connor Nagle came second in the Triple Jump, and Sadie Joyce earned a bronze in the High Jump.
“The J. L. Crowe Track and Field team really came together with parent-coach Kylie Lakevold and enabled them to do really well, “said teacher-sponsor and distance-running coach Colin Adamson. “It’s really exciting, and to have such a great depth of students, we had seven athletes go to provincials for high school, which is huge.”
To qualify for nationals, athletes must meet or beat the national standard time or measurements set by Athletics Canada. For Kuchar, it was the second meet in a row that he beat the national steeple standard, also winning gold in the Steeplechase at the Jack Brow Memorial in Kelowna the week before.
“The standard was 4:32.81 and I beat it by two seconds, so I thought there would be a pretty high chance of making Team BC,” said Jaxon.
Kuchar, who enters Grade 10 at Crowe this year, began competing in Track just two years ago, and didn’t start training for the Steeplechase until this year. The 1,500-m Steeple is one of the most challenging events in sports, and requires athletes to hurdle barriers and water-jumps while running at maximum speed.
Adamson, who once trained under Olympic steeple runner Graeme Fell in Vancouver, introduced the event to Jaxon and even built a homemade steeple for him to workout with at Haley Park.
“It’s all new, it’s all a whirlwind, being in Grade 9 it’s an early start,” said Adamson. “Typically, you have to be a stronger runner. So for a 1,500 steeple compared to a 1,500-m runner, a steepler is just innately stronger. They have a little bit less speed, but they have a lot more strength-endurance, so there is a difference in the athlete and this suits him (Jaxon) really well because he definitely has that.”
For Jaxon, it is also a lot more interesting and enjoyable.
“It’s really fun, it’s way different than just a regular running race, you have to hurdle and jump over obstacles,” said Kuchar. “I think steeple you have to be pretty tall, and I’m pretty tall compared to some of the other runners.”
Jaxon also credits Adamson for his improved times. At the 2018 BC High School Track and Field Championships, Jaxon won gold in the 800-m run with a time of 2:13.65 – he knocked more than eight seconds off his time at the provincials last week, with a 2:05.17.
Jaxon’s latest results in the Steeplechase rank right up there with the best U16 times in Canada and Adamson is confident that the young Trail athlete will do very well at nationals.
“I think he has a ridiculously good chance to medal,” said Adamson. “He has a phenomenal chance to win at the rate he’s going. That’s why they have such high standards, because if you make it, then you’re a medal hopeful … He just has to run his race. He needs to set the tone right away and make it a fast race, and he’ll be faster than the 4:27, 4:28 I think.
“It will start to sink in once he’s there and realizes that these are the best athletes (his age) in Canada, and he’s one of them.”
Kuchar looks forward to joining Team BC and participating, along with 800 elite athletes, in the only nationwide athletics competition for youth 17 and under.
“I’m just excited to meet the other people on the team,” said Jaxon. “It’s going to be an awesome experience.”
Jaxon’s race goes on Sunday at 10:20 a.m. P.T. and can be streamed live at www.LegionNationals.ca.