Runner Heppenstall pacing himself – on a record pace

Robert Heppenstall has a lofty goal. Before graduating, the Grade 10 running sensation wants to break all track records Anthony Romaniw set while attending Hamilton’s St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School.

And helping Heppenstall achieve those aspirations is his coach – none other than Romaniw’s father, Gene.

“The sky is the limit for Robert,” said Romaniw, the St. Thomas More Knights distance coach.

St. Thomas More’s Robert Happenstall (1136) clocked a personal best to win the junior 400m at the South Region championships. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Heppenstall, 16, got off on the right foot as a high school athlete last year, winning an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations gold medal in the midget boys’ 400 metres. At that provincial showcase meet in Brockville, he also eclipsed Romaniw’s St. Thomas More midget marks for both the 400m and the 800m.

“Robert already (broke) the midget records,” Romaniw said Thursday (May 30) during Day 1 of the South Region track and field championships in St. Catharines. “Now he’s up to junior. And by Grade 11 and 12 he’ll be within range of senior.”

Under sweltering conditions at the Niagara Olympic Club facilities, Heppenstall again blazed to victory in the junior 400m. He was clocked in a personal best of 49.34 seconds. The top four placings in each category automatically qualify for the 2013 OFSAA championships next weekend in Oshawa.

“Robert is a much different athlete now than he was a year ago as a midget,” Romaniw said. “He’s much more focused. He was good last year, but it was pure strength. This year he’s really working at it.”

Heppenstall, incidentally, will be joining Guelph’s Speed River Track Club – where Anthony Romaniw trains – later this summer.

Romaniw attended Dartmouth in the Ivy League before transferring to University of Guelph. With the Gryphons this past season, he raced to three Ontario University Athletics gold medals, two Canadian Interuniversity Sport golds and was named Guelph’s Male Athlete of Year.

“(Romaniw) is an amazing runner,” Heppenstall said of his coach’s son. “I’m trying to follow in his footsteps. I know I’m on the same pace that he was.”

Heppenstall earlier this season won the Mark Graham Invitational 400m race at Mohawk Sports Complex for a second consecutive year. “When you put this much work into it and see the results, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “Words can’t describe it.”

Heppenstall will compete in Friday’s 800 metres. In addition, he’ll take part in a couple of relay events.

The other bright star from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association also reached the finish line first in her opening event Thursday. Christian Brennan of St. Mary – a multi gold-medal winner at previous OFSAA championships – came first in the senior girls’ 400m. Her time was 55.29. So she’ll be going to OFSAA along with Taysia Radoslav of Cardinal Newman who placed third in the same race (56.90).

Newman’s Taysia Radoslav will join multi gold-medal winner Christian Brennan at the OFSAA senior girls’ 400m. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

“I know how I need to run my race,” Brennan said. “That race didn’t necessarily go according to plan. But if I refocus I think I can get it together for next week. Before the race, I think the sun got to me a little.”

It was originally Brennan’s intention to go for an OFSAA triple — in the 100, 200 and 400m races. However, her lone remaining event will be Friday’s 200 metres.

Brennan said her coach wants her to concentrate on her stronger events (even though she also won the 100m at the recent Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference finals).

In other action Thursday, Cassidy Noonan of St. Jean de Brebeuf won the junior girls’ discus with a toss of 29.84 metres.

Meaghan Rice of St. Mary came second in the junior girls’ triple jump. Her distance was 10.89 metres.

Brebeuf’s Nathan Petrie and Steven McNicoll each finished fourth in their respective events. Petrie’s time was 15.50 in the midget boys’ 100m hurdles, while McNicoll completed the senior boys’ 110 hurdles in 15.69.