North Shore training partners finish 1-2 in provincial final

Buddies Aidan Doherty and Cameron Bates duel in 1,500-m final

Two North Shore racers dueled at the B.C. High School Track and Field Provincials held recently in Langley, pulling away from the field to finish 1-2 in one of the meet’s marquee events.

West Vancouver’s Aidan Doherty and Carson Graham’s Cameron Bates are friends and training partners who know each other well from their time with the Hershey Harriers athletic club. Both were expected to be in the mix for medals in the 1,500-m final at the provincial championships, with Bates a slight favourite coming off a win at the North Shore championships just two weeks before provincials. Doherty, battling sickness, finished third at North Shores, not what he was hoping for but good enough to qualify for provincials.

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In the B.C. final the track seemed to tilt farther away from Doherty, who is known more as an endurance runner than a high-speed finisher, when the racers came out at a very slow pace.

“It was pretty much the slowest first two laps in B.C. high school history,” said Colin Dignum, Doherty’s coach with the West Vancouver Highlanders. “I thought it set it up well for Cam to win it, I thought he was probably the best 800-metre runner in that group. And it basically became an 800-m race. Over the last couple of years he has shown more wheels than Aidan, but Aidan’s speed has been coming along in training fairly well.”

The pace finally picked up halfway through the race, and on the bell that runners were flying across the line heading into their final lap. Doherty was back in fifth or sixth place when he finally started to move to the front. With 150 metres to go he was in third, with Bates pushing for gold at the front.

“I just remained super patient,” said Doherty. “I kind of realized that I had to make my move then so I came out into the second or third lane and just went all out there.”

Doherty passed one more racer to make it a straight up sprint duel between the two friends down the home stretch.

“Even with 100 to go I thought Cam was going to win, but Aidan had a great burst there,” said Dignum. With 50 metres to go Doherty finally took the lead and kicked his way to gold in a time of 4:10.96. His buddy Bates was less than a second behind at 4:11.74.

“It was pretty exciting stuff,” said Dignum. “They’re both great kids, they both worked really hard. It’s too bad – obviously only one of them gets to win. It was a great, exciting finish. … There were a lot of North Shore coaches and parents that were pretty excited.”

Doherty was thrilled to win and to be able to share the podium with his Hershey Harriers teammate.

“We’ve been training all the way throughout the year,” he said. “It was just really cool to be able to have both of us have great races. It was just really cool to have him with me on the podium.”

Doherty’s dramatic win was a touching one for those who have followed his racing career through high school, said Dignum. Doherty’s mother Sarah died two years ago following a battle with cancer, and since then the running community has been striding along with him as he has continued his racing career. 

“He’s had a lot of people rooting for him, and he came through,” said Dignum. “I got to say it was a little bit of a surprise. I knew he’d run well, but I didn’t know about him winning.”

Both North Shore runners will head East to test themselves in university programs next year, with Doherty off to St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia and Bates joining the powerhouse program at Guelph.

Bates topped off his provincial championships with another silver medal, placing second place in the 800-m final in a time of 1:58.79.

Gold medals also went to West Van’s Mia Zurkovic who won the junior girls 800 m in a time of 2:17.46 and Handsworth’s Lenny Banduau whose 5.88-m long jump earned him gold in the Grade 8 boys division.

Here are all of the medal winners from North Shore schools:

Gold

- Senior boys 1,500 m, Aidan Doherty, West Van, 4:10.96

- Junior girls 800 m, Mia Zurkovic, West Van, 2:17.46     

- Grade 8 long jump, Lenny Bonduau, Handsworth, 5.88 metres      

Silver

- Senior boys 1,500 m, Cameron Bates, Carson Graham, 4:11.74   

- Senior boys 800 m, Cameron Bates, Carson Graham, 1:58.79 

- Junior boys triple jump, Michael O’ Flynn, STA, 12.93 m      

- Junior girls long jump, Julia Rastad, Collingwood, 5.24 m         

- Junior girls 800 m, Emmajean Neal, Sentinel, 2:17.68

- Ambulatory 100 m, Ges Bushe, West Van, 24.96

- Ambulatory 200 m, Ges Bushe, West Van, 1:48.28    

- Grade 8 boys 100-m hurdles, Bruce Jones, West Van, 15.80  

Bronze

- Senior girls 100-m hurdles, Kristie Elliott, Windsor, 15.97

- Senior girls heptathlon, Ana Parsakish, Handsworth, 3,960 points

- Senior boys decathlon, Ryan Blasak, Howe Sound, 4,600 points

- Junior girls 80-m hurdles, Caleigh O’Flaherty, STA, 12.65 

- Junior girls, 1500 m, Emmajean Neal, Sentinel, 4:50.15  

- Grade 8 girls pentathlon, Emily Millard, Handsworth, 2,416 points

- Grade 8 girls triple jump, Claire Ambrozic, Handsworth, 9.98 m      

- Grade 8 long jump, Nicholas Zaparniuk, Argyle, 5.48 m  

- Special Olympic 100 m, Suraya Pittalwala, STA, 16.69 

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