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Legion meet beckons PGTFC runners

As Legion veterans, Shelby Jansen and Ryan Gaiesky know the drill. Last year at the Legion National youth track and field championships in Langley they came within a split-second of the medal podium.
Hurdler Ryan Gaiesky, right, and short-distance running specialist Shelby Jansen, both 16, will represent the Prince George Track and Field Club at the Legion Canadian youth track and field championship in Sainte-Therese, Que., Aug. 7-9.

As Legion veterans, Shelby Jansen and Ryan Gaiesky know the drill.

Last year at the Legion National youth track and field championships in Langley they came within a split-second of the medal podium.

Jansen, a short-distance runner, missed a Legion medal by one-tenth of a second when she finished fourth in the 300-metre run and Gaiesky was a ninth-place finisher in the 300m hurdles, just two-tenths of a second from making the final.

Now the Prince George Track and Field Club members are bigger, stronger, faster, and with another year of racing behind them, are better prepared to take a run at national titles when they hit the track Aug. 7-9 in Sante-Therese, Que.

Each has qualified for two events this year.

Jansen made the cut in late June at the Jack Brow meet in Kelowna, where she clocked 25.62 seconds in the 200m and 59.64 seconds in the 400m. The national youth standards are 26.50 and 60 seconds respectively.

"I think it's a pretty big accomplishment being able to go and even just to make the national standard to go," said Jansen, who turns 17 in March. "I just want to try to get noticed by some university scouts for next year and make PBs in my 200 and 400."

"I'm hoping to get top-eight in my 200, and my 400 I have no idea what everyone else is like right now."

At the B.C. Athletics Track Jamboree in Nanaimo earlier this month, Gaiesky matched the B.C. team standard of 56.50 seconds while winning the 400m hurdles event and also claimed silver in the 110m hurdles in 14.97 seconds. His best 110m time (14.7), set last month in Kelowna, is just one-tenth of a second off the B.C. standard, an average of the third-place national times posted for his age group over the last three seasons.

Gaiesky is now about three seconds off the club-record 400m time of Josh Guggenheimer, who won the Legion meet in 2000.

"I want to medal in my 110-metre and make finals in the 400 - I'm third (in Canada) going into my 110 and ninth in the 400 and I just want to make the top eight," said Gaiesky, who turns 17 in November.

"I made Team B.C. this year and that's a little more motivation to do better. I just have to run fast to make it worth it for my parents."

His spot on the provincial team also helps lessen the financial load for his family. Parents Judy and Bruce still have to pay a team fee, but after that all costs of Gaiesky's trip will be covered.

Jansen and Gaiesky will be in Quebec for the start of the Legion camp on Aug. 5 and are due to return to Prince George Aug. 11.

"Ryan has run pretty well this year - Team B.C. standards are tough," said PGTFC coach Bill Masich. "At the Jamboree he was well on his way to going 14.6 or faster in his sprint hurdles and he clipped the sixth hurdle, which turned him a bit sideways and that broke his rhythm and he ended up running 14.9.

"He's looking at using his athletics to get an education and that's exciting to see."

Jansen was always fast for her age and joined the club six years ago after she won her races for Pinewood school at the elementary relays at Masich Place Stadium. She's had some issues with shin splints that are holding her back a bit in her five-days-a-week practice sessions, but figures that injury will be behind her by the time she leaves for Quebec. She said it helps having Gaiesky to run with as a training partner.

"Shelby has a really strong stride and her cadence is really fast, so she can chew up a lot of ground," said Masich. "You don't see that very often and it's really showing up this year. Her speed is really good and where it needs to be. She's just flying."

The four Gaiesky brothers - Kris, Kevin, Sean and Ryan - have been fixtures in the PGTFC for 19 years and Ryan is the only one still competing in track. Masich remembers being taken by surprise when a nine-year-old Kris, now 25, showed his speed trying to tag him during a game of British Bulldog.

The Gaiesky clan all excelled in track and field at the provincial level and were Legion national qualifiers. Kevin, 22, took over from Kris as a race walking specialist and won gold at the Legion meet in 2009. Kris got into coaching track while Sean was an exceptional 800m and 1,500m runner. The 19-year-old now plays varsity soccer at the University of Lethbridge.

"I've always wanted to try to be faster than all of my brothers and I think I am now," Ryan said. "They brought me into this sport."

Four other PGTFC club athletes achieved youth national standards this year but won't be making the trip to Quebec, including Lauren Matheson (100m), Lindsay King (80m hurdles, 200m), Omar Medina (long jump, 100m) and Cole Dinsdale (800m).