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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400m runner looking ahead to the future

PICKERING — With an eye toward taking her athletic career to the next level, Taylor Sharpe has made a change now that she envisions will help her in the future.

The Pickering resident has decided to transfer from George Mason University in West Virginia to the University of Florida, where she will begin her sophomore year of eligibility as a member of the Gators track team.

She joins the Gators following a summer that included winning a pair of bronze medals from major international competitions at the Pan Am Games and the Pan Am junior championships.

She’s looking forward to what lies ahead at Florida.

“Florida is more of a school where after you graduate, part of the plan is to becoming a professional athlete,” says Sharpe of one of the reasons behind the transfer. “It’s a different environment. A lot of funding goes into the athletics there.

“I know I’m going to get the attention I need and the program is very elite. I think it’s going to be challenging enough for me and take me to the next level as an Olympic year comes up next year.”

With the departure of George Mason’s track coach, Sharpe decided to ask for a release from her commitment. When a spot opened up at Florida, she took the necessary steps to ensure her inclusion in the program.

Her twin sister, Sommer, who is on a track scholarship at George Mason, is going to remain there.

Sharpe wrapped up a busy track season with a couple of bronze medals to show for her efforts, both coming as part of the Canadian 4x400m relay team.

At the Pan Am Games, Canada finished third behind the United States and Jamaica on Saturday, July 25 on the track at York University. It was the same order of finish at the Pan Am junior championships held in Edmonton on Sunday, Aug. 2.

Individually, Sharpe reached the final at the junior championships, finishing eighth. She just missed out on qualifying for the final at the Pan Ams against some older, more experienced competition.

As for her performance at the Junior Pan Ams, she wasn’t totally satisfied, but accepted the results and the times she posted. It marked the end of a long season, and some fatigue had started to set in.

“It was the last meet of the season and I was so tired,” says the 18 year old. “I wanted to end off on a good note.”

On the bright side, competing at two major international events within just a few days of each other has provided the young sprinter with a new perspective. The Speed Academy member, who trains under the watchful eye of her dad, Tony, and mom, Colene, is more determined than ever to get to the next level.

Her confidence has certainly benefited.

“My mentality has changed from making a team to going there and wanting a medal,” she says of competing on the international stage. “I don’t feel as threatened by the big sprint countries. I feel like I belong there now.

“I’m setting the bar higher.”

The St. Mary graduate leaves for Florida on Aug. 17, just a day before orientation on the 18th.