Distance Runners Impress at the Royal City Inferno Track and Field Festival

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Distance Runners Impress at the Royal City Inferno Track and Field Festival

Nkele Martin

As the CTFL season draws closer to an end, its athletes are beginning to heat up. On June 21, the aptly named Royal City Inferno Track and Field Festival yielded some fiery results. 

Athletes and supporters arrived at the Guelph University Alumni Stadium on the Wednesday, and races began at 6:30 p.m. 85 CTFL athletes from all four teams competed at the festival, the second last of the leagues’ preliminary meets. 

Bears athlete and Olympian Roxroy Cato started the meet strong, winning the first race of the evening with a 49.55 in the men's 400m hurdles. 

Despite many impressive runs from CTFL athletes, the highlight of the day was the finals of women's 800m and men's 1500m which saw Alec Purnell (Huskies) and Jazz Shukla (Spitfires) take first place.

The women's 800m final was arguably the most anticipated race of the meet, featuring Olympians Lucia Stafford and Madeleine Kelly. 20 runners lined up beside Shukla who started in lane six.

During the first lap, Shukla stayed - comfortably - in the middle of the pack, and began to make a push on the outside of her competitors around the 400m mark. During the second lap, the U20 World Championships bronze medalist came to life, moving up on the shoulder and establishing herself in second, just behind Stafford. The crowd erupted as the runners came on to the final straightaway, but Shukla remained in second. With just 50m left, Stafford began to lose ground and the Spitfires athlete crept up behind her. Shukla narrowly edged out a victory over the Olympian, finishing with a time of 2:01.43 to Stafford’s 2:01.63. 

Shukla’s impressive time broke the meet record set by Olympian and Huskies ambassador Melissa Bishop-Nriagu in 2021.

The mens 1500m final began shortly after Shukla’s victory, and excitement was still in the air, but no one could’ve predicted what was to come. 

Purnell - similar to Shukla - began the race around the middle of the pack. Just after the 800m mark, he moved up to fourth place, behind his Huskies teammates Kenya Small and Andrew Peverill. At 1200m, Peverill, Purnell and Santiago Gaitan of Southern Utah University had split off from the rest of the runners. With around 200m to go, Arctics runner Simon Berube emerged from behind and joined the front three runners. Coming out of the final corner, Purnell took the outside and overtook his Peverill in first place. As Purnell pushed past those in front of him and barreled towards the finish line, so did Berube. 

Berube gained on Purnell and with less than 30m to go in the race, the runners were side-by-side. Both athlete’s could not cut loose from the other, as their strides were nearly identical coming up to the finish line. 

The excitement from the crowd was audible as they crossed the finish line. Moments after the two athletes finished, all eyes turned to the timing board, they were too close for the naked eye to tell who won. When the times were displayed, Berube finished with a time of 3:42.75, while Purnell ran 3:42.74. The race ended in true photo-finish style, as 0.01 seconds separated the two. 

Although Purnell did not break the meet record with his run, it was undoubtedly the most exciting race of the evening.

Alongside already mentioned Cato, Purnell and Shukla, four other CTFL athletes placed first in the finals of their events. Michael Roth (Arctics) won the mens 400m with a time of 46.07, Usheoritse Itsekiri (Bears) continued his streak of impressive runs with a 10.05 100m, Liam Mather (Spitfires) took the men's 110m hurdles, running 14.20 and Sarah Mitton (Bears) won the women's shot put with a 19.09m throw.

With one meet to go, the Spitfires continue to sit atop the CTFL standings with 1337 points. The Arctics (1190 points) are in second place, followed by the Huskies (1146 points) and then the Bears (1130).

CTFL athletes will come together to compete in the Ottawa Twilight meet on July 5 with the hopes of qualifying for the championship exactly one month later on Aug. 5.