When Nakai Luyken joined the Yale Secondary track and field team this spring, he viewed it as simply a way to stay in shape for basketball – nothing more, nothing less.
Imagine his surprise, then, to find himself standing on the top step of the podium at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium on Saturday, as the B.C. high school 100-metre sprint champion.
“I didn’t expect it going in, but I’m pretty happy right now,” Luyken marveled. “I’m shocked I won. Halfway through the race, I was in fifth place.”
Anyone who’s watched Luyken play basketball knows he’s got speed to burn – it’s a big part of the reason the UBC Thunderbirds signed him to a hoops scholarship in February.
Yale track and field coach Trevor Wight figured Luyken’s explosiveness would translate pretty well to the track, and prevailed upon him to join the Lions.
Luyken hadn’t participated in a full track season since Grade 6, but he began to buy into the notion that he could contend for a provincial medal after finishing third at the Fraser Valleys two weeks ago. So he borrowed a set of starting blocks from the school, and began putting in a bit of extra work on his own.
On Saturday, Luyken came off the blocks, and when he looked up, there were “four or five guys” ahead of him. But he hit the after-burners and powered his way to the front just before the finish line. He clocked a time of 11.20 seconds, edging Nicholas Ayin of Gleneagle by nine hundredths of a second.
Luyken, who played a key role on Yale’s B.C. AAA champion basketball team in 2010, is quick to note that the province’s top-seeded sprinter – Keefer Joyce of Kelowna – suffered an injury and was unable to race on Saturday.
“I was really mad – I wanted to race the guy,” he said. “Even if I didn’t beat him, I wanted to try against the best.”
Luyken made a bit of history as the first Abbotsford athlete to win the B.C. high school boys 100-metre crown. He’s also the first Yale athlete to win a gold medal at the senior level at track provincials.
“The 100 metres is the most prestigious event in track and field,” Wight pointed out. “I taught him in PE last year, and I knew from the outset that if I could get this kid to see the bigger picture, he could do some great things.”
n To Canadian-ize a classic sports axiom, the triple jump could accurately be referred to as a game of centimetres.
Aisha Klippenstein would be quick to vouch for that. The Abbotsford School of Intergrated Arts senior came close to a gold medal in the senior girls triple jump, but her best attempt of 11.52 metres fell 16 centimetres shy of winner Ayla Alehurst of Carihi.
“It’s always a bit disappointing when it’s so close,” Klippenstein analyzed.
That said, Klippenstein was pleased with her performances at provincials, which included a bronze medal in the 100m hurdles (14.89 seconds). Both performances were close to her personal bests, and she matched her double-medal finish from the 2010 B.C.’s.
n Luyken’s sprint title was just the high point of a big day for Yale. The Lions’ 4x100m senior girls relay team – comprised of Chantal Desch, Katryna Bampton, Keeley Thompson and Hailey Froehler – won bronze, registering their best time of the season (50.92).
“Their handoffs were complete silk,” Wight enthused. “Chantal, on the anchor leg, was an absolute machine.”
n In the Grade 8-9 portion of the meet, the W.J. Mouat Hawks registered a pair of gold medals. Their 4x100m relay team finished in a dead heat with Vancouver College, and shared the top spot on the podium. Hailey Gibson won the Grade 9 girls 100m dash in a time of 12.95.
Mouat coach Cameron Smith noted that the Grade 9 boys team’s effort marked the first time a Hawks relay team had won a B.C. title.
“It’s unexpected,” he enthused. “We’ve had a lot of silvers, but never a gold.”
Mouat’s Alex Siemens narrowly missed the podium on two occasions, finishing fourth in both the seniors girls 1500m and 3000m races. Her performances paced Mouat to a ninth-place finish in the senior girls aggregate standings.
n Aly Cheese of Abbotsford Christian was the highest flyer in her age group, winning the Grade 9 girls high jump after clearing 1.55m on her first attempt.
n MEI’s Paige Bergen climbed the podium in the Grade 9 girls 100m, finishing third.