Pickering Speed Academy's Tony Sharpe, Xahria Santiago honoured by Athletics Canada

Former club member Andre De Grasse recognized for Olympic performance

AJAX — The Speed Academy in Pickering has been rewarded for another excellent year, dominating the annual awards given out by Athletics Canada.

Head coach Tony Sharpe, a former Olympic medallist, has been named the development coach of the year for the second time in three years, while one of his current athletes, Xahria Santiago of Ajax, has been honoured as the youth athlete of the year.

Read more...

Silver and bronze for track duo

DURHAM -- A couple of prize prospects at the Speed Academy Athletics Club ran away with medals at the Canadian Youth Track and Field championships. Wesley Best of Ajax came up with a silver-medal-winning performance in the 200m, while Keith Cyrus Jr. of Pickering won bronze in the 110m hurdles. Both athletes reached the podium in the U18 division.

"I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work with talented athletes like Keith and Wesley," said Tony Sharpe, head coach at the Speed Academy. "Both boys are gifted athletes and serve as role models to the younger athletes in the club."

Best, who played soccer when he was younger but turned to track last September, was just hoping to get to the medal podium at the national championships. At just 16 years of age, he was one of the youngest competitors to get into the starting blocks, with most of the runners a year older.

"Just to get on the podium would have been nice," he said of the goal going into the competition. "I know a lot of the guys were older and already got to go once last year and had more experience. So it was just great to at least get silver."

As a member of the J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate track team, an injury prevented Best from competing in Grade 9, but in Grade 10 he made up for it, winning silver in both the 100m and 200m at OFSAA against the best in Ontario.

"Wesley is a coach's dream," praised Sharpe. "He comes to every training session prepared to work. His year-over-year improvement is evidence of that hard work. Wesley reached the podium at every major competition this summer, including two bronze medals at the Ontario Junior Championships, racing against boys that are three years older. He knows how to compete. Now he has to learn how to win."

Best acknowledges that the mental side of competing is something he needs to work on.

"I am just going to have to get that mentality to fight for it next year," he said of going for gold at nationals.

Cyrus Jr. has made huge strides in a very short time, shifting his focus to training full time for track just three months ago. Previously, football was at the top of the list and he suited up for St. Mary Catholic Secondary School and the Ajax-Pickering Dolphins club program.

In grades nine and 10 he won OFSAA in the 110m hurdles, proving he was the best in the province at the high school level. But this past year the results weren't there and he realized he needed to dedicate himself to get to the next level.

"I finally realized that I definitely needed more training if I want to go somewhere," he said. "I can't rely on just natural talent anymore. I have to work harder.

"I really wanted to win nationals, but I didn't have that great of a race. I was all over the place. But I was expecting to medal at least."

Sharpe expects that Cyrus Jr. will soon reap the benefits of his dedication to track.

"Keith won OFSAA in his midget and junior year but struggled last year as a first year senior. This is typical of multi-sport athletes when it comes to competing at the senior level in high school track," said the coach.

"Keith needs to spend more time getting into track-shape. Football fitness is not the same as track fitness and I think Keith now realizes that. He has the potential to earn an athletic scholarship with a bit of hard work next season."

Listing the University of Miami, USC and Oregon as schools he would like to run for on a scholarship, he looked back on his performance at nationals with a high level of satisfaction.

"I was definitely happy because I have had only about three months of training, so to be able to accomplish third in Canada is pretty big," he said. "Even though I wanted to win, I was pretty excited about what I accomplished."

Cyrus Jr. hopes that by being a double-sport athlete in his senior year at St. Mary, playing football and running track, it will impress recruiters enough to offer an athletic scholarship to an NCAA school in the U.S.