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.

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Represents Canada in 400m and 4x400m races

TORONTO — The learning curve that Taylor Sharpe is on right now is a huge one

That’s why running at the Pan Am Games was an important stepping stone in the career of the young track star. The exposure and experience is certain to serve her well down the road.

And that’s what the Pickering resident gained in the 400m race at York University, renamed the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletics Stadium for the Games, on Wednesday, July 22. Running in the second of two semifinal heats, she posted a time of 53.82, which left her just outside the top eight who advanced to the medal final on Thursday.

“It felt OK. I didn’t expect to have such a hard wind on the backstretch so I think I could have gone out slower,” she said after the race, still breathing heavily. “I’m going to talk to my coach, but definitely in my opinion, I didn’t run my own race. I felt like I tried to go with the competition rather than focusing on me in lane three and doing my thing.

“It was off my personal best. But it’s kind of motivating because I still have the 4x400m and next year is the Olympics.”

Her personal best is a 52.60, which she hopes to be closer to when she represents Canada in the 4x400m relay that starts with heats on Friday, July 24, with the medal final the following day.

With more than 20 family and friends in attendance, and a decent crowd on hand to cheer on the Canadian contingent competing in track and field, Sharpe received loud cheers when she was introduced before the race and her image appeared on the big screen above the stands. The atmosphere and everything that goes with running at a major international competition is something the 18 year old is still trying to adjust to.

“It makes me more comfortable in some ways when I hear my mom’s voice,” she said of running so close to home. “It reminds me and takes me back to a high school meet. It kind of settles me down a bit. I love running in front of a home crowd. It makes me so happy.

“Definitely, it’s different. I’ve only been in two world championship competitions other than this. I’m still getting used to all of this. It’s very overwhelming. I am the second youngest on the team, so it’s kind of exciting because I know my future is bright.”

Sharpe, a St. Mary graduate, is a product of the Pickering-based Speed Academy, where her dad, Tony, and mom, Colene, operate the club and serve as coaches.

Once the summer season is over, Sharpe will return to George Mason University in Virginia for her sophomore year, where she is on scholarship with twin sister Sommer. Sharpe said her second year will be better than the first and vowed to make no more freshman mistakes. She’s hoping to take on more of a leadership role with the Patriots track team, and expects to be better in all facets of university life now that she’s familiar with the lifestyle.

Metroland Media Group Ltd. is a signature sponsor of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Torch Relay, presented by President’s Choice and OLG.