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Apr 23 2020 - NB TRACK AND FIELD HISTORY PART 6 By Roddy MacKenzie

Today, we continue our look back at the history of New Brunswick Track and Field athletes who medalled at the Canadian Senior Outdoor Championships over the last 100 years. This is a continuation of our previous article, which covered 1920-1970. Today, we will reflect on medal winners throughout the last 5 decades, up to the present time. Once again, if you wish to correct, add or discuss any information here, or possibly offer feedback, please contact me:

The early 1970’s saw the emergence of one of the most talented athletes in our history. Middle distance runner Peter Richardson, a Fredericton High student, began to register promising times in the 800m/1500m as a 15 year old, and quickly made his mark at the regional and national level. Following outstanding and remarkable medal performances at National Midgets, National Juvenile/Junior Championships, and the 1973 Canada Games (gold, silver), he showed early season promise in 1974 as a 19 year old grade 12 student. Amazingly, as a Junior aged athlete, he was named to Canada’s National Senior Team in June, which embarked on a tough one-month tour of training and competition in Europe, in preparation for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. During this time, he set several records in the 800m and 1500m, including a new Canadian Junior 1500m record of 3:43.4, which still stands today as the New Brunswick Jr/Sr record. IMAGINE; running a four minute mile as a Junior athlete!  Later that summer, in August at Winnipeg, Richardson captured a Silver in the 1500m at National Seniors, with a 3:49.6, and added a Bronze in the 800m three years later in Sudbury, with a 1:52.2 performance. Also a previous holder of the CDN Senior  Indoor  Mile and 1500m records, he represented Canada in International Indoor competitions in the mid 70’s, and was a contender for a spot on the 1976 Olympic team.

Our next medallist is no stranger to these pages, having represented Canada internationally several times as a Javelin thrower. A Moncton native, and Ottawa trained, John Corazza captured three medals at Canadian Senior Championships over his brilliant career.  He won Bronze in 1976 with a toss of 65.12m, a GOLD in 1979 with a toss of 79.18m, and a 1980 Silver, at an incredible 82.08 metres. Corazza of course represented Canada at the World Cup Trials, the Commonwealth Games, and was named to the boycotted 1980 Olympic Games team. His long time Moncton teammate, 24 year old Roddy MacKenzie, hit his stride in the 110m Hurdles, capturing Silver in 1978 in Montreal with a solid 14.70 time, and narrowly missed making our Commonwealth Games Team the next week in Edmonton. MacKenzie[1], a school teacher, coach, and multi-sport athlete, also medalled twice at National Jrs, once at National Juveniles, was a member of the 1973 National Junior Team in Portugal, and his personal best hurdles time and NB record of 14.70 has rarely been challenged in the province for over forty years.

Next up on our list is the legendary Willy Best, our best ever 800m runner, who arrived on the national scene in the late 1980’s. With speed to burn, Best highlighted many a competition with his trademark come from behind burst over the last 150 metres, and still holds our provincial record with a super 1:46.52, set at Montreal in 1993 when he was 23 years old. Willy represented Canada at the 1991 Pan Am Games in Cuba (800m), and also the ’94 Commonwealth Games in Victoria (800m and 4 x 400 relay). At National Seniors, he captured a total of 8 medals in the 800 metres over a ten year period: GOLD in 1995, Silver in 1993, 1994 & 2000, and a Bronze in 1990, 1996, 1998 and 1999.

Grande-Digue native Joel Bourgeois, a Hall of Fame member and long time national & International contender in 3K Steeplechase, is our most accomplished male medal winner at Canadian Senior Outdoor Championships. A veteran of Olympics, Pan Ams, Commonwealth Games, World Jr and Sr Championships and World University Games, Bourgeois took home an amazing THIRTEEN medals in the Steeple over a seventeen year period. He was National Champion (GOLD) from 1997 to 2002, an incredible SIX years in a row!! Joel also won Silver in 1993, ’94 and ’95, as well as 2003, 2004 & 2007, and a Bronze in 1991. That is a record medal haul that may never be topped by a New Brunswicker. His all time PB, a fantastic 8:20.08, set as a 28-year-old in Sevilla, Spain, might not ever be approached again in this province, and still ranks among the best times ever by a Canadian.

A Steeplechase rival, teammate and friend of Bourgeois, Rorri Currie of Saint John, ran to a Bronze medal behind Bourgeois at the 1994 Canadian Seniors, in 8:40.06, his Personal Best time of a long and successful career. Currie was 24 then, and a Silver medallist from the 1993 Canada Games in Kamloops, BC. He also medalled at National Legions and Canadian Juniors multiple times, competed as a member of the Canadian Junior team on several occasions, and in 1988, he finished 10th in the 3000m Steeplechase Final at the IAAF World Juniors in Sudbury, Ont., which was the host team’s best track finish of the competition. Rorri is our provincial 3000m record holder, and a former holder of the 5000m record also.

A pair of Racewalkers brought glory to the province in the late 90’s and early 2000’s over the 20 Km distance. Fredericton’s Gord Mosher, a 1997 Canada Games Bronze medallist, captured seven medals at National Seniors in the Racewalk:  Silver in 2004, and Bronze in 1997, ’98, ’99, 2003, 2005 and 2006. He still holds our NB records at distances of 5 km, 10 km, 20 km and 50km. Jocelyn Ruest of Edmundston, four years younger than Mosher, won 4 medals at National Seniors: three Bronze (2001, 2004, 2007), and a Silver in 2006. Gord’s PB over 20 kms is 1:29.18, while Jocelyn’s is 1:32.56. Both outstanding !

New Brunswick had two medal winners in the 2010 National Championships:  Mike LeBlanc, a standout sprinter attending Syracuse University, took home the Bronze over 100 metres, in 10.37 (+1.5), while Caleb Jones, a Javelin thrower from Saint John, captured Silver with a toss of 73.25 metres. LeBlanc, with an extraordinary PB of 10.17 (+1.8) at the 2007 NCAA Championships, was a Bronze medallist at the 2006 Canadian Junior Championships in Sherbrooke, and was named to the 2007 Pan Am Games team in the 100 and 4 x 100 relay, but was unable to compete due to injury. He also competed in the 2012 IAAF World Indoors, placing 4th in his 60m semi, and is our NB record holder in the 100 and 200 metres, at 21.14. Jones, a gold medallist at both National Legions and Canadian Jrs, competed in the IAAF World Juniors here in Moncton in 2010 and placed 10th in the Finals. He went on to medal three more times at CDN SRS, a Silver in 2014, a Bronze in 2013, & National Championship GOLD in 2015. His PB & provincial record throw is 76.66m (2014).

Moncton’s own Gen Lalonde, a veteran of  World Youth, World Jrs, World Srs, World University Games, Olympics, Pan Ams, Commonwealth Games and World Indoors, has now captured a total of 3 Bronze (2011, 2014, 2016), one Silver (2015), and three consecutive GOLD (2017-19) in the 3000m Steeplechase at National Seniors. She is presently the holder of the Canadian Sr Women’s Record at 9:29.82, set last May at the Shanghai Grand Prix, and also holds or has held, numerous provincial records in the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. A former medallist at CDN Legions, CDN Jrs and Canada Games, she continues to prepare for the now postponed 2020 outdoor season and the eventual Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Finally on our list, we have two athletes who both came up big at National Seniors just in the last two seasons. Veteran Decathlete Chris Robertson, a Moncton native training out of London and the University of Western Ontario area, and now living in Oakville, reached the pinnacle of his event in Canada by capturing the GOLD in 2018 at Ottawa with a huge PB of 7040 pts.  Fantastic performance !  A former Bronze medallist at CDN Juniors in 2011, he followed up 2018 with a Silver at Canadian Seniors Decathlon last year in Montreal.  Victoria LeBlanc of Saint John, a 22 year old veteran jumper and hurdler, pulled off an unexpected Bronze medal performance in Triple Jump at the 2019 CDN Srs in Montreal, with a superb PB leap of 11.74m. A former provincial record holder in both 100m and 400m Hurdles, LeBlanc previously captured a Silver medal at the 2012 CDN Legions in the Pole Vault.

There you have it . . .  All of our medallists at Canadian Senior Outdoor Championships. Please send me your comments, and we look forward to our next two segments covering (a) our longest standing Senior records and (b) all Canada Games medallists in history from New Brunswick. As we deal with these challenging times, please be optimistic, and stay safe, smart and healthy !

[1] ANB Note: … and the generous author of all NB Track & Field History articles including this version.

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2020-04-23 - NB TRACK AND FIELD HISTORY PART 6 By Roddy MacKenzie

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