By Darren Lum
Ryan Manning is one Grade 11 student athlete at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School who will be competing in an event no one else has attempted in close to 27 years.
He is entered to run the 2000 metre steeple chase at the upcoming Kawartha Track and Field Championship on May 12 at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough.
His desire to compete in this event came from seeing it first-hand and how it combines the two track events he likes the most: the 1500-metre race and the 300-metre hurdles.
Seeing it live and in the Olympics is completely different from doing it he has learned.
“I saw it on the Olympics … I thought it looked easy and then I kind of tried it out and it was harder than I thought. It’s a challenge I have to work for. I definitely think I’m ready to try it out” he said.
He expects to be part of the top eight at Kawartha who will advance to the Central Ontario Secondary School Athletics championship. From there he’ll need to finish in the top five to advance the East Regionals and the top four will advance to the all-provincials.
“I’m definitely nervous for the first race but it should be a lot easier [than when I first started] and I’ll be able to get the feel for it and then get better at it as the season goes on” he said.
The challenge with the race isn’t so much about the distance as the immovable hurdles or steeples with water crossings after them and the cumulative effect.
“They don’t move so if I hit my leg on it it’s going to hurt. I have to get comfortable with the height so it’s the same height as the hurdles so it’s pretty simple” he said.
One technique to over the hurdles is to step on them. Manning has been training to clear them in the air and will only step on them when he tires.
He has been preparing for the event by running laps and adding hurdles after each successive lap which will develop his endurance he said.
Manning welcomes the challenge and without anyone around who has done it to give him first-hand knowledge he has turned to YouTube to see what he is getting himself into.
Griffith remembers Manning asking about competing in the event on the bus ride home from a competition last year. The Grade 11 athlete asked again at the start of this season and it prompted Griffith to make a hurdle that he could use for practice. He also went to the Internet to see video to learn more and help his athlete but admits his expertise is lacking.
“He’s pretty much been training himself. I just say ‘run.’ You got to put in the miles too” he said.
The last Hawks’ competitor was Jerry Cooper said Griffith who helped the team out that year when the school’s track had steeples.
This event is a showcase event like no other.
There is a mass field start of upwards of 20 runners from Grades 9 to 12 and provides spectators with plenty of entertainment.
Griffith confirmed the description from the online Encyclopedia Britannica: Runners of the standard course face a total of seven water jumps and 28 hurdlng jumps. Hurdles are 91.4 cm (36 inches) high and one of them which has a top bar of 12.7 cm is placed immediately in front of the water jump which is 3.66 metres long.
All this jumping and leaping over a grueling 2000 metres has the potential for falls and crashes.
Griffith is confident in Manning’s abilities to adjust to the event that leads off the Kawartha meet.
“It’ll be fun to watch. It’s always the first event at the meet. A lot of people enjoy because there’s water and there’s guys wiping out and it’s 2000 so it’s pretty quick” he said. “He’s in excellent shape so he’ll do well.”