Sarah Mitton uncoils her powerful five-foot-six frame out of a tight spin and launches the four-kilogram metal ball out of her right hand with a primal scream. Then she turns to the small bleacher crowd with a big smile.
Her throw at the Harry Jerome Track Classic on Friday night is measured at a season-best 19.83 metres, good enough to smash the 1992 meet record by two metres and easily win the shot put competition at Langley’s McLeod Stadium.
The freckle-faced, Brooklyn, N.S. native clearly has an affinity for the launch circle and dirt throwing sector tucked to the north of the grandstand at McLeod. It is where she set her Canadian record of 20.33 metres at last summer’s national championships.
“Very happy,” said Mitton, 27. “Had kind of a rough start to the season. Not for any particular reasons, just some technical changes. And world championships isn’t until August (in Budapest). You don’t want to be throwing too far too early because you want to save it for the end of the season.”
Still, she threw 20 metres for the first time at practice a week ago, so she’s feeling confident about the ability to improve on the agonizingly close fourth-place finish from the 2022 worlds in Eugene, Ore.
“Things are really coming together. I’m starting to see some training numbers come up, so I think we’re trending in the right direction. My body is coming into where it needs to be, so, yeah, I’m hoping to slowly piece the puzzle together. With this season’s best, I feel like I’m a little bit ahead of where I was last season at this time, two weeks before nationals (at McLeod).”
Mitton was part of an assault on the Jerome record book in the 40th edition of meet.
Camryn Rogers of Richmond threw 76.12 in the women’s hammer throw to better the mark of 75.37 set last year by Jannee Kassanavoid of the U.S. Ceili McCabe of Vancouver ran a personal best of nine minutes, 28.67 seconds to win the women’s 3,000 metre steeplechase and top the 2021 mark of 9:31.07. And in the infrequently run women’s 5,000 metres, 33-year-old veteran Briana Scott of Vancouver ran a personal best of 15.19.51 to obliterate the Jerome record by more than a minute.
Mia McCoy of Memphis, Tenn., won the women’s 100 metres in 11.16, bettering the 11.21 by fellow American Jeneba Tarmoh in 2014 and Shakeem Hall-Smith of the Bahamas set a record by winning the 400-metre hurdles in 49.25 (old mark 49.46 from 1988).
In one of the featured events, a young Canadian foursome ran 3:15.20 to set a national record in the 4x400-metre mixed relay, but fell just short of the 3:14.64 needed to qualify for world championships.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet,” said 19-year-old Savannah Sutherland, who ran the anchor leg. “On one hand we got the Canadian record, on the other hand, didn’t quite qualify. But I’m happy for the effort the team put in.
“And it’s definitely hopeful because we’ve got such a young team and I’m excited for what we can do in the upcoming years.”
Sutherland, a native of Borden, Sask., was joined on the Canada Red squad by Alyssa Marsh, 22, of Toronto, Michael Roth, 21, of St. Thomas, Ont., and 29-year-old Nathan George of Coquitlam, B.C. A Canada White squad of Austin Cole, Grace Konrad, Ella Clayton and Tyler Cox-Yestrau finished second in 3:16.10.
It was the only opportunity this season for Canada to run the mixed relay, which was added to the worlds calendar in 2019 and to the Olympics in 2021. And the outcome on Friday might have been different if Myles Misener-Daly of Hamilton, Ont., Canada’s fastest runner in the men’s 400 this season, had been available. But he had to watch from the stands after suffering a concussion after a freak accident in a hotel lobby in Edmonton two weeks ago.
“We had some mishaps, which is all part of relay running,” said Canadian coach Glrenroy Gilbert. “Just roll with the punches.
“Unfortunately, a lot of these athletes (in the 4x400) are collegiate athletes and you don’t have access to them until this time of the year. There’s some fatigue and we’ve got (individual races at) Canadian championships coming up in a couple of weeks, so kudos to them for prioritizing this and coming here and putting forth a 100 per cent effort. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Rogers, the silver medalist at world championships last year and competing in front of an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, uncorked her winning throw on her first of six attempts. It was two metres shy of her season best from May in Los Angeles, but she’s optimistic that she’s on course to finish on the podium again at Budapest.
“We’re in a really good place,” said Rogers, a three-time NCAA champion. “Now, it’s just perfecting the little things. Being able to have meets like this before nationals and worlds is important because it gives you a chance to go back to the drawing board, but also get more in touch with your body, how you’re feeling, how you’re doing.
“Any meet day, you always want to throw as far as you can, but knowing that there’s more to come in the season, keeps us very particular about the work that we’re doing.”
Both Rogers and Mitton were competing for the first time at the Jerome, which was moved to Langley this year while the track is resurfaced at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, the meet’s usual home.
Mitton’s issue for nationals is that the shot put circle is being moved to a field on the other side of the back straightaway.
“I’m not super happy about that,” said Mitton. “I find this (Jerome location) to be the best situation for the people who want to watch the throws. The hammer throw and discuss is right here and the throws fanatics can watch closeup. To go all the way over there . . . If you want to see me throw, get your binoculars out.”
Written by Gary Kingston
July 16, 2023