The best of the best high school track and field athletes from throughout the province are converging on Langley this week.
Langley, and specifically the McLeod Athletic Park (MAP), are a preferred location for the BC High School Track and Field (BCTF) Championships that are happening Thursday through Saturday.
While the local track and most of its competition amenities are pretty standard, it’s the covered stadium and media booth used for staging, as well as the jumbotron that keep organizer Andrew Lenton and the team from the BCTF’s commission coming back to Langley again and again.
“The media tower makes a great staging area for the event, for us, from an organizational perspective,” he said.
“But the feedback we get from the spectators is that the jumbotron is something they’re really wanting to keep, so we’ve come back here.”
He said the Township’s parks and rec staff have been “great to deal with.” And the commission’s long-standing relationship with the Langley Mustangs track and field club has made it possible to facilitate “an event of this magnitude” year after year.
“It’s a really great facility. The Township of Langley is great to work with, their parks and rec. The facilities are great,” said Lenton, who is assistant coach at Maple Ridge Secondary and commissioner for the B.C. High School Track & Field Commission.
In addition to complimenting parks and rec, he said partnering with the Langley Mustangs track and field club to facilitate an event of this magnitude has been key.
“It’s just a massive event,” Lenton said Wednesday afternoon from MAP.
It’s one of the largest high school competitions of any kind in the country, comparable only to the Ontario track and field event, he said.
It will be a full house, added Lenton, noting that once again there will be 2,400 students from 335 high school throughout the province competing.
“We cap out. We limit and restrict who can come into the championships,” he explained. “There’s many thousands and thousands more who have not been as lucky as to qualify or get a berth into the championships.”
In addition to all the athletes expected, there are another 400 coaches, and countless parents and supporters coming to Langley this weekend.
“This is a huge undertaking,” Lenton told the Langley Advance, explaining that these annual championships takes more than a year of prep time to arrange.
Speaking to that, he and the other commission directors started preparing for 2019’s competition last summer.
The championships are primarily held within the Lower Mainland, because of facilities and logistics.
Only on rare occasions does it get moved to the Island or Interior.
It was hosted at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna in 1972, and Nanaimo in 2015, Lenton recalled. But he confirmed it will be back in Kelowna again next year, and he’s already making plans for their return to Langley in 2020.
This is year six for Lenton at the helm.
“I thought I would do it for one year, and somehow I’m finding myself in year six. I don’t know how that happened,” he said.
It’s primarily the calibre of athletes he sees participating year after year, and their insatiable quest to better themselves, that keeps him coming back.
This year’s competition includes 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,500-metre races, long jump, shot put, high jump, javelin, triple jump, steeplechase, race walking, discus, and hammer for students Grade 8 through 12.
“This really is, in terms of high school track and field competition, as good as it gets,” he said.
“In fact, We have some of the best athletes in the world competing,” he added, encouraging sports enthusiasts to watch the performances.
“They’re going to be exciting,” Lenton said of the various showdowns. “For a lot of the kids, this is what they’ve been practicing and training for months and months.”
While Thursday’s action runs from 3 to about 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday are full days. Friday will see meets and competitions running from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m.
That’s long days, Lenton admitted. But to make it more palatable for spectators, most of the finals have been arranged between about 2 and 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.
“We’ve loaded in all the finals in those times,” or at least as many as they could accommodate.
More information: www.bctfa.ca.