‘Quite remarkable;’ Two Sask. athletes make finals in World Junior Championships

Two Saskatchewan track athletes made provincial history last month with strong performances at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

Savannah Sutherland took home the bronze in the 400-metre hurdles in a time of 57.27 seconds and Avery Pearson advanced to the finals in the 800 metres, finishing seventh in a time of 2:06.42. Both athletes set personal bests in their final runs.

Head coach Jason Reindl — who is also the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan track and field and cross country programs — said their performance is particularly remarkable because Saskatchewan has not sent athletes to the U20 Championships in more than a decade and its athletes have never before advanced to the finals in the competition.

“What these two have achieved is quite remarkable,” he said.

The results reaffirm what many in the province already know — that there’s a lot of talent in Saskatchewan and the province has the programs, people and infrastructure to nurture it.

“This is a testament to a lot of individuals and a lot of groups along the way,” Reindl says.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, many countries — including the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Germany — did not send teams to last month’s competition. But Reindl says this does not take away from the Saskatchewan athletes’ performances.

Savannah Sutherland of Borden took the bronze in the 400-metre hurdles at the World Junior U20 Championships.

“The performance trend across the board was lower than in past years, but there was also negative implications and COVID restrictions that (Canadian athletes) were hit with compared with others,” he says.

The World Athletics U20 Championships wrapped up Aug. 22 and then Sutherland and Pearson, who graduated from high school in the spring, returned home to prepare for their first semesters as university freshmen.

Sutherland, 18, is from Borden and now training and studying at the University of Michigan.

Immediately following her bronze medal run she said her legs had felt heavy going into the final, but she “went out there and left it all on the track.”

“It has been a little overwhelming being at my first international competition. It has been a little bit of a crazy experience, but it has been very positive overall,” she said in an Athletics Canada press release.

Avery Pearson of Meadow Lake finished seventh in the 800 metres at the World Junior U20 Championships.

Pearson, also 18, is from Meadow Lake and is training and studying at the University of Saskatchewan.

She told Athletics Canada she was “in shock” to have made it to the finals in the competition and spoke with the organization after her personal best run.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. Just making the final is so exciting. To come away with a personal best, that’s hard to do in a final, so I’m really excited about that,” she said.

Both Sutherland and Pearson are eligible to compete in the 2022 U20 Championships and Reindl is optimistic both will be able to improve on their results.