Runner aims high at OFSAA
Time is running out on the high school running career of Santiago Gaitan.
The Grade 12 student at Welland Notre Dame competed at the Zone 3 track and field meet Tuesday at the Niagara Olympic Club and will have three more high school meets before he is done.
The 17-year-old is trying to soak up every moment of his final days at Notre Dame.
“The last four years have been awesome, competing against some of the best in Ontario and some of the best in Canada as well,” he said. “It has been a great opportunity to not only represent my school, but my province and go to an international competition in Jamaica.”
The Athletics Niagara member ended up winning a silver medal in the 3,000 metres at the Jamaican Invitational. Last fall, the two-time Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association senior boys cross country champion won a bronze medal at the Ontario Federation of Secondary Schools Association championships after placing 80th the year before.
He is also hoping to improve his standing at OFSAA in the 1,500 and 3,000 metres. Last year as a Grade 11 runner competing against older competitors, he placed eighth in the 1,500 metres at OFSAA and sixth in the 3,000 metres; His best-ever provincial result was a fourth in the 3,000 metres in Grade 9.
“Every race I go in I hope to win, but it’s going to be great competition,” Gaitan said. “My goal is top two.”
But it won’t be easy.
“This year is going to be one of the toughest competitions for OFSAA,” he said. “We have the Canadian record holder, the top ranked under-18 runner in Canada and it’s going to be a really stacked race.
“Hopefully it is going to be fast. I am going to go with the flow and see how it goes.”
He is confident, but not overconfident.
“Workouts have been going really well and training with Nick Young has pushed me hard. I think I am in good shape.”
Gaitan committed to Southern Utah University in December and won’t have that added pressure of trying to impress recruiters at OFSAA.
“In Grade 11, you stress times a lot so you can show the universities what you are capable of, but now it’s just about placing,” he said.
Gaitan also made an official visit to Boston University, an unofficial visit to Lasalle and spoke to several other schools before choosing Utah as his home for the next four or five years.
“They have a really rich business program as well as a really good track team,” he said. “They placed 23rd at NCAAs last year in cross country and they red-shirted their first two guys. They have a lot of potential.”
It also didn’t hurt that Cam Levins attended Southern Utah. Levins is the Canadian record holder in the marathon.
Geography was also a factor.
“What really spoke to me was training at altitude,” he said.
His official visit gave him a taste of what being a scholarship runner was going to be like.
“I felt a little but homesick, but I feel that is just one of the risks of going away,” he said. “Hopefully I can adjust well and I am looking forward to it.”
He hasn’t set any goals for his first year of university running.
“In cross country, hopefully I can scores some points for the team,” he said. “If not, I will probably be red shirted my first year so they can save my eligibility.”
In addition to primary high school sponsors. Johnny Rocco’s and Mick and Angelo’s, BPSN’s coverage of the track and field season is made possible with the support of the Niagara Olympic Club (https://nocrunners.com)
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