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'Really special': Nantyr Shores student makes historic leap at OFSAA

'It’s very exciting that he has so much going for him. We’re obviously so proud of him … he really is such a good person,' coach says of Jayce Hill's gold medal in long jump

If Dennis Iriowen can be called “The Streak from the Creek,” then Kenny Champ can honestly claim the moniker The Champ.

Both Barrie boys shattered records at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track and field championships in London this past week.

And then there’s Jayce Hill, who, after completing Grade 12 at Nantyr Shores Secondary School this year was looking at pursuing hockey as a left winger. But having leaped to a gold medal in long jump at OFSAA, he is now wondering if perhaps he should change tracks.

Champ, a Grade 10 student at St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School in south Barrie, ran the 1,500-metre race at 3:55.17, setting a new OFSAA record for junior boys. He also placed first in the junior boys' 3,000-metre event.

Iriowen, of Bear Creek Secondary School, set a new novice boys' 100-metre dash record of 10.77 as well as the 200-metre record with the time of 21.67, prompting principal Jeremy Oxley to declare him “the Streak from the Creek” on social media.

Eighteen-year-old Hill won the senior boys' long jump, stretching out across 7.18 metres and blowing away his previous best jump of 6.85 metres.

“It feels like these kinds of things are happening all the time, but they don’t … It’s just really special,” explained Jayme Davis, the athletic program lead for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

The accomplishments, she added, require determination combined with dedication to training.

She described Champ, who also won gold in the 1,500- and 3,000-metre races last year, as a special young athlete.

“We’re so proud of him at St. Pete’s, one of the most decorated athletes we’ve ever had. Double gold medals two years in a row ... it’s very impressive and well deserved,” added hospitality, health and nutrition teacher and longtime track and cross-country coach Jennifer Savard.

“He is honestly one of the most dedicated athletes," she added. "He comes to almost every practice at school; he also trains with a club out of school.”

Champ has been running since Grade 4 and joined the South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field Club the following year. But it wasn’t until high school that he really started to take running seriously.

Even though he headed into OFSAA on the heels of last year’s double win, Champ figured he’d do well, but didn’t think he’d do even better.

“I knew I was within grabs of a medal, but I didn’t expect to do this well and come out with a record and two gold medals,” he said.

As for next year at OFSAA, Champ says he’ll have his work cut out for him if he wants to make it a three-peat. As a Grade 11 student, he’ll be competing as a senior, which includes boys from Grade 12.

But he’s keeping a positive mindset.

“Looking back to last year ... I realize how possible it is when you put your mind to it” and combine in the necessary training, nutrition and dedication, he said.

As a long-distance runner, his training now involves covering about 60 kilometres every week, working out six days every week.

And he’s looking at future goals. He hopes to land a scholarship at an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) school and there’s the Olympics. 

“That would be huge; it’s everybody’s dream," Champ said. 

With no specific plans for his post-secondary focus, he’s keeping his doors open by taking all the math and science courses until he figures out what he’d like to do.

Champ and Janell Ineh, who won won bronze in discus and placed fourth in shot put, have been named the Catholic board’s students of the month.

'Streak from the Creek'

Iriowen is a Grade 9 student at Bear Creek who just started running last year with the well-established South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field Club.

History teacher and Bear Creek track coach Christa Culhane, an alum of the club, made sure Iriowen’s training at the school complemented and didn’t overlap what he was doing with the club.

It was clear to her that the Ferndale Woods Elementary School graduate would do well at OFSAA. The trick was to make sure he peaked at the right time.

“We knew early on that he was going to do well. He’s been working hard on the club practices,” said Culhane. “The icing on the cake would be breaking the OFSAA records. He’s quite a talented young man.”

Iriowen, whose family is from Nigeria, was born in Italy and first moved as a youngster to Toronto for seven years and has called Barrie home for the past six years.

“The club training is really what gave me some chances for the record,” he said.

Iriowen may only be 15, but he’s already got his eye on the Olympics and hopes for a spot at the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

Meanwhile, he’s also focusing on academics to ensure the door is open to him to compete at the NCAA at the university level.

His goals, adds coach Culhane, are definitely within reach given his current times at such a young age.

'Shocked himself'

Nantyr Shores’ Hill had no idea a win at OFSAA was in the cards.

“Going into it, I wasn’t expecting too much. Obviously, I wanted to win. I was ranked seven, I believe,” he said. “I’m kind of conflicted what sport to choose for my career now.”

Hill has been in talks with the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and thought he’d take a gap year after graduating high school and head out there in August.

Hill's options have now widened.

His win, though, wasn’t a surprise for coaches Audrey McCormick and Laura Thomson.

“I think he shocked himself, but he didn’t shock us,” said McCormick. “He had all the pieces working. He just needed to put it all together.

“It’s very exciting that he has so much going for him. We’re obviously so proud of him … he really is such a good person. He’s going to excel with whatever he does, wherever he goes.”

Nantyr Shores’ Hudson Ryan also had a good showing at OFSAA. The Grade 9 student at the Innisfil school placed second in the 400-metre race and fourth in the 200-metre novice boys’ event.