Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Island track stars are focused

Island track stars are focused

Charles Red

Redemption time

for McCormack, Connaughton at the nationals

Yes, those are chips on the shoulders of Kurt McCormack and Jared Connaughton this week at the 2010 Canadian track and field championships in Toronto.

The reason? The Islanders are itching for redemption.

Connaughton, a New Haven native, finishing second in the 200 metres at the nationals last year and third in the 100 metres — placings that irked the Olympic sprinter.

McCormack of Souris, had a strong triple-jumping season in the United States university circuit go awry with a sixth-place non-medal finish at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics outdoor nationals earlier this year.

McCormack goes straight to the men's triple jump final Friday at 7 p.m. because meet organizers scrapped field event qualifying.

Connaughton begins 100-metre qualifying today at 1:40 p.m., then 200-metre heats at 6:45 p.m., and he’s aiming at different result than last summer.

“No, I think (the pressure) is a little bit less. That was a major faux pas last year at the championship,” said Connaughton in a cell phone interview as he boarded an airplane for Toronto. “I kind of underachieved.”

So far this season, Connaughton, 25, has picked up two wins in 200 metres and pair of wins in 100 metres, three second-place finishes in 200 metres and a third in the 200 — much of those results in a recent swing through Finland, Ireland, Crete and Belgium.

The pace has agreed with him as he has the top 200 time (20:61) and second best 100 time (10:28) in Canada and ranked first in 200 metres in Toronto.

He’s been used to indoor, which enjoys about a month between races. Outdoors, it’s a tour, a new stop every week or so. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing, he said, because too much time can play on the mind.

“It’s definitely something I haven't done enough over my career,” said Connaughton, who ran in the 200-metre semifinals at the 2008 Olympic

Games in China and finished sixth at the Games with the 4x100- metre men’s relay team.

McCormack is adjusting to a new style. Always a right-footed jumper, he switched earlier this summer to leaping off the left foot — a change prompted by his less-than stellar NAIA outdoor nationals result. McCormack, 22, finished up his junior year at Dickinson State University in North Dakota in May.

“It was definitely a disappointment to come in sixth. Indoors, I was ranked second in 2010. I had great conditioning,” he said. “I just never got it together. I was probably my most depressing time in triple jump.”

McCormack had four firsts, including a personal best 15.54 metres, and two seconds in triple jump this season at Dickinson State, plus a second in the 4x200-metre men’s relay and the 4x100-metre relay.

But the NAIA result meant something had to change.

So McCormack returned to P.E.I. and worked with James Buhlman, Athletics P.E.I. technical director, on the new approach.

Now, McCormack said, he hopes to even out his speed, have better control of the triple jumps phases and balance his leaps.

“I came home and learned how to run (calmer) on on the runway. It’s a challenge, but I’m a athlete and I like the challenge,” said McCormack, who recently was named Sport P.E.I.’s intercollegiate male athlete of the year.

After the nationals, Connaughton hopes to compete the Atlantic championships next month in Charlottetown, then he’s off to more racing in Europe, starting with a Diamond League event Aug. 19 in Zurich, Switzerland.

McCormack said he will return for his senior season at Dickinson State and plans to add the long jump to his repertoire.

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