Why High School Sports Matter

December 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Canadian Sport Features

Why OFSAA Track Was Life In High School

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Growing up in Ontario as a track athlete (and in some cases, other sports) was all about ending the year with OFSAA track and field! Understand… I made it to the Olympics, World Youth Championships, NCAA Championships, and the best memories in the sport still come from OFSAA.

To some that may be lame but it’s the truth. Not that those other meets were not cool, but there is something crazy nostalgic about the OFSAA championships. I run into random people to this day and they bring up OFSAA moments they remember and it is always a good time. Here are some reasons why…

The Mission — Get to OFSAA By Any Means

For some odd reason, EVERYONE wanted to be at OFSAA. People skipped school just to be at OFSAA. Individuals who were not fans of track and field just wanted to run at OFSAA. Everything was about this meet in June that marked the end of the school year.

If you were a waste man, you were trying to run at OFSAA

If you were a baller, you were trying to run at OFSAA

If you were looking for a man, you had to be at OFSAA looking beautiful

If you wanted to chop a ting, you were at OFSAA looking like a sweeter man

If you were decently fast, you hopped on a relay and prayed y’all made it

This track meet was life!

The culture of OFSAA throughout Ontario was that it was a meet that you don’t miss and because of that, the stands were always full.

Rivalries Mattered

The first glimpse of these tense rivalries came when I was in 8th Grade. I will never forget walking into Centennial Stadium in Toronto. I was not competing, but my brother Justyn was, and it was him vs. Shannon King in the 100m. It was the race of the ages, and it was even sweeter because Justyn had just transferred to Birchmount after going to school in Markham (waste man territory) for two years.

Before the gun went you could feel the tension in the whole crowd. Not one person was sitting, and the stands were packed. I did not understand why everyone cared so much until years later when I was a part of a similar race. Shannon King went on to win, and the crowd was going nuts over it.

OFSAA brings about the craziest rivalries and people have to wait for the big show to see the race. In my time in high school, I went head to head with Dushane Farrier every year and it was something else.

That summer I went to this BBQ and the second I opened the door this one guy said “yoooo this is the yute that cost the man dem beeeeeeeeer money at OFSAA. We were soooooooooooooooo cheesed when Dushane lost!”

Translation = “This is the young gentleman that my friends and I bet against, and he won his race causing us to forfeit our funds. We were not happy to say the least.”

The point is, he was so sure someone else was going to win that he bet on it. We are talking about high school track! I knew more people who bet on OFSAA races than the Olympics.

That White Boy

The one rivalry that defined what OFSAA is all about was when the White Boy from Windsor (Nathan Riva) came through and destroyed us all.

OFSAA in 2007 was in Ottawa and it was the most beautiful day. I remember the 100m final was stacked and it was seven black guys and one white boy that was the defending OFSAA champ from the year before. No one had known him, but he played football, and he upset the establishment and came back to do it again.

When it was my turn to try, he beat me by .01, and I remember finishing the race smiling because that is what OFSAA was about, you just had no idea who was going to do what and though I lost to him I still beat Dushane ahahha.

Monsters are lurking in every corner and that year had one of the realest white boys ever. Not many people can say they won back to back OFSAA titles from grade 11 and 12.

It Was The First Title That Ever Mattered

Before OFSAA, no track and field title in Ontario mattered. Even if you ran club track, those meets were just baby food races. I barely remember any of those club events even though you raced the same people as OFSAA. I know I went to them, but they were just not OFSAA.

OFSAA mattered because being introduced the next year as the OFSAA champion carried weight to it. Teachers knew what it meant to win, classmates knew what that meant, athletes respected it and even the general population had love for you. It was the first time for many kids that they could call themselves a true champion even if they just got a medal.

Everyone Has a Chance to Become Someone

What I loved about OFSAA is that it created confidence. It took kids who did not believe in themselves in an awkward time in life, and it gave them the confidence to succeed.

Assuming it still does (high school sports have changed a lot)…It gives people something to work for because the track is individual and it is so numbers based. You can’t blame others, and you have to take responsibility for what happens on the track. Everyone was attracted to track and field because it gave you a chance to be confident and be someone.

King of The Hill Mindset

Everyone from Toronto took pride in the fact that it is hard to make OFSAA when you were from inner city. Getting to OFSAA felt like the March Madness Tournament. Coming from Birchmount, we had Scarborough’s (east of Toronto), then Metros (all of Toronto), then OFSAA (all of Ontario). Each meet had heats and finals you had to battle your way there. The kids from the outskirts of Ontario were trying to come to OFSAA and food some city kids and they often succeeded. The narrative never got old! I had no love for anyone from….

Just to pick on a few 😉

That’s just how it was and they had no love for the City!

Then you get to OFSAA, and you have athletes from all over the province, and then you have to battle to get to the final to have the moment you were waiting for. If you win, you’re the king of the hill, and no one can take that away from you.

The Comeback Story

The second an OFSAA race was done, the comeback story began for someone. There were injured athletes in the stands that made a choice that next year would be their year. Other individuals that did not perform well decided that next year they would be on top. The meet was breeding grounds for new hopes and dreams.

I remember coming into grade 9 feeling like OFSAA was all mine. I though it would be handed to me because I was the younger brother of Justyn Warner. Little did I know that things did not work out that way.

I got demolished by Dushane, and it started a rivalry and began my comeback story. I remember getting beat by this guy and he was wearing BALL SHORTS. I had the sexy blue speed suit and caught LIXXX from a man in ball shorts straight from “Vern”. It does not get better than that.

There were hundreds of stories like this at every OFSAA. The meet brought out the best of people.

It Was The Way Out

OFSAA was a way out for everyone in one way or another.

Maybe it was the way out of class
Maybe it was the way out of the town/city you were from
Maybe it was a way out of the country because you wanted a scholarship

OFSAA was the meet people got away from something and got closer toward what they wanted. There is beauty in that. After a year of some good reflection, I realize that it’s so easy to always move forward in life and try and forget the past all together.

Don’t forget to take a moment to remember the times that you cherish in life. When you are right in the middle of something good take the time to appreciate it because it could be gone before you know it.

If you have more reasons that I missed, I would love to hear them.

*PS. this article refers to times when most people went to school in Toronto not Ajax, Pickering, Brampton, Oakville and whatever other waste yute suburbs people live in now hahaahaaha. Mind you, we lived in Markham, but we were smart enough to go to school in Toronto 🙂

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