Four teen athletes make London proud at event in France

Four London high school track and field stars saw their meteoric rise continue at last week’s world youth championships in Lille, France.

For hurdlers Christine MacNeill and Nicole Setterington and pole vaulters Alysha Newman and Robin Bone, it was a first taste of representing Canada and while none won a medal, the trip left them hungry for more.

“It was amazing. It felt so cool to put on those clothes and represent Canada,” MacNeill said Tuesday. “This experience has got me so excited to keep going, keep running.”

The youth championships event is for competitors 17-and-under.

MacNeill made it to the semifinals of the girls’ 100-metre hurdles and finished tied for 11th overall with a semifinal time of 14.07 seconds, 0.15 seconds away from qualifying for the final.

“The butterflies were pretty bad the day before the first heat; staying calm and in control was so important because some of those athletes are absolutely unbelievable,” said MacNeill, who competes for London Legion and is heading into Grade 12 at Central. “But it was good to know I can run my race, even at this level. I was very happy, especially with my semifinal. That was a really good race for me.”

Setterington, a London Legion member heading into Grade 11 at Oakridge, ended up 17th in the 100 hurdles after finishing with a 14.23-second time in her semifinal, which was run into a brutal three-metres-per-second headwind.

“I’m happy. I may not have had my best time because of the wind conditions, but it was still really exciting. To know you’re representing your country is huge and just being able to compete at this level is something else.”

Setterington competed as a senior in high school last spring despite being of junior age and the move up helped, she said.

“I wasn’t necessarily going to compete against the other girls, like Christine, but I was more looking to better my time and it obviously helped a lot,” she said.

“I think I need to work on my preparation a bit more,” she said when asked what she learned in France. “I had a really good reaction time in my semifinal, but getting to the first hurdle and being the first person over that hurdle is something I have to improve on.”

Newman, a London Legion member heading into Grade 12 at Mother Teresa, finished 12th in the girls’ pole vault final with a 3.75-metre effort in the final after qualifying at 3.85 in the preliminary round.

“I wasn’t really happy with the final, but I was happy to get in because I had a hard time doing it with my ankle,” she said of a recent injury. “But this gave me a lot of confidence. You come back with so many new goals and so much more dedication because you know you have to put that extra 5% in during your training.”

Newma has battled confidence issues.

“This made me feel like I had a place in life, that it’s where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “It opened my eyes. I may not be the best in the world, but that will still be a goal.”

Bone, a London-Western member heading into Grade 12 at Oakridge, just missed qualifying for the pole vault final as she jumped 3.75 metres in the preliminary round. Not bad considering she lost preparation time recovering from a fractured cheekbone suffered in the high school season.

“It really could have gone either way. It’s all about the experience and I’m glad I got it, but it was definitely disappointing I couldn’t show all of what Canada was made of,” she said. “I was really down for about 20 minutes (after the preliminary round), but then it was, ‘Build a bridge and get over it.’ ”

Bone was elected team captain before the meet, something she said was humbling.

“And the team became like a family.”

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