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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Young runner describes feeling as 'surreal'

PICKERING — Winning a medal, and then actually taking to the podium and having it draped around her neck provided two distinct emotions for Taylor Sharpe.

The Pickering runner came away from the Pan Am Games with a bronze medal as a result of Canada’s third-place finish in the women’s 4x400m relay held at the track at York University on Saturday, July 25.

The emotion of earning the medal differed significantly from the one of having it in her possession.

“It was surreal,” she said of the feeling just after the race. “It’s still a blur to me still. It was pretty emotional. Even though I knew we could get a medal, actually doing it was a completely different feeling than just imagining it or hoping for it.”

The 18 year old ran the second leg of the race for Canada, which set a seasonal best time of 3:27.74 in the medal round, just edged out for silver by Jamaica, while the United States ran away with the gold.

When the medal ceremony was held, in front of a large pro-Canadian crowd, a feeling of satisfaction came over Sharpe.

“That’s when it finally hit me,” she said. “When I finally had the medal around my neck and standing up on the podium with my team. It was like, ‘Wow, we really did this.’

“And all the people that were there to support us. It was a good feeling, It was rewarding.”

Canada qualified for the final after finishing third in its semifinal heat, which served as a preview to the final, with the US finishing first and Jamaica second. That order of finish was the same for the final.

“It was definitely a relief,” said Sharpe of posting a time of 3:30.61 in the semi that was good enough to advance. “I knew it was going to be hard because we had Jamaica and the US in our heat, so it was like a preview of the final.”

Sharpe was motivated and on a mission for the relay. Just a couple of days earlier, July 23, she competed individually in the 400m, but didn’t qualify for one of the eight spots in the starting block for the final. Her time of 53.82 left her just outside the top eight who advanced.

She was disappointed, feeling she got caught up in all of the hype that goes along with running at a major international competition. When it was time for the relay, she was a different runner, drawing on that lone experience from a few days earlier.

“When relay came I had already run a 400 on the track. I felt confident and knew I had a team behind me and I had a lot more fun. I was a lot more comfortable,” she said.

Sharpe, a St. Mary graduate, is a product of the Pickering-based Speed Academy, where her dad, Tony, a former Olympic medallist in the 100m relay, 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.

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.