Three Sask. track and field athletes named to Olympic team

Three Saskatchewan athletes have been named to the national athletics team headed to the Paris Olympics later this month.

100-m hurdler Michelle Harrison of Saskatoon and 400-m hurdler Savannah Sutherland of Borden will make their Olympic debuts while pole vaulter Anicka Newell, a dual Canadian-American citizen who trains in the U.S. but calls Saskatoon a “home away from home,” will compete at her third Games.

Here’s a bit more about the athletes and when they will be competing. The Olympic Games begin July 26, with athletics events starting Aug. 1. You can stream the Games on the CBC Gem website or through the CBC Gem app.

Michelle Harrison

Harrison started her competitive track career in high school with the Saskatoon Track and Field Club and ran with the Huskies while completing her Bachelor of Arts and Science degree at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2022, the year she made her first national team, Harrison told the Brainsport Times that her recent success was the result of consistency after a string of setbacks. In her early 20s, she fell out of love with the sport after suffering from Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), which occurs when a person doesn’t consume enough calories relative to the amount of training being done. Harrison took a break from the sport and then, just as she returned and things started to click, COVID-19 made it impossible to train and compete. When the world opened up in late 2020, she tore ligaments in her ankle. Months later, she suffered nerve damage in her arm after routine bloodwork.

Michelle Harrison competes at the La Classique d'athlétisme de Montréal.
Michelle Harrison competes at the La Classique d’athlétisme de Montréal.

Following team selection on Tuesday, Harrison posted a photo of her younger self on the track on Instagram and wrote about her Olympic dream coming true.

“When I first stepped onto that track, I had no idea the road ahead would be so tough. My journey has been filled with more downs than ups, people telling me to quit/asking why I was still running, and years spent with undiagnosed RED-S which almost ended my career.

“But every obstacle I faced made me stronger, and every setback has taught me resilience. Even though my goal took longer than expected, it was all part of my journey and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Follow her: @michellerharrison

When: The women’s 100-m hurdle event is run over four days from Wed. Aug. 7 to Sat. Aug. 10. The first round takes place Aug. 7 at 2:15 a.m. CT, followed by a repechage round on Aug. 8 at 2:35 a.m. for athletes who did not finish in the automatic qualifying positions the previous day. The semis are Aug. 9 at 4:05 a.m. and the finals run Aug. 10 at 11:45 a.m.

Anicka Newell

Newell was born in Texas and still calls the state home, but is a dual Canadian-American citizen and her mother’s family is from Saskatoon.

Newell started her athletic career as a gymnast and discovered pole vaulting in high school when the track and field coach asked her to try the sport to flesh out the women’s team. Newell didn’t enjoy pole vaulting when she first tried it, but the more she practiced, the better she got and she eventually earned a track and field scholarship to Texas State University.

Anicka Newell competes in the pole vault.

The 2016 Rio Olympics were not only Newell’s Olympic debut, but also marked her first time on a national team and she is upfront about the fact that she choked in those games. She jumped only the opening height of 4.15m and finished tied for 29th in a 34-woman field. In Tokyo five years later she had a strong showing in the qualifying round before failing to register a mark in the final.

Follow her: @flygirl93

When: Women’s pole vault qualification starts Mon. Aug. 5 at 2:40 a.m. CT. The finals are Wed. Aug. 7 at 11 a.m.

Savannah Sutherland

Sutherland made her first provincial team at age 12 after a standout performance at a legion track camp and went on to train with the Saskatoon Track and Field Club.

After graduating high school in 2021, she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to study and train at the University of Michigan. Last month she ran the Olympic standard and lowered the Canadian record twice in the 400-m hurdles at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, where she finished second. She is the 2023 NCAA champion in the 400-m hurdles and Canadian record holder in the indoor 400m.

Follow her: @sav.sutherland

When: The first round of women’s 400-m hurdles takes place Sun. Aug. 4 at 4:35 a.m. CT. The repechage round for athletes who did not finish in the automatic qualifying positions is the following day (Aug. 5) at 2:50 a.m. The semis are Aug. 6 at 12:07 p.m. and the finals are Aug. 8 at 1:25 p.m.