The Airdrie Aces Athletic Club saw seven of its athletes compete in the 40th annual Simplot Games Feb. 15 to 17, representing the city against some of the best high school athletes in the world.
Although none of the seven brought home hardware, the team achieved personal bests for its athletes as well as a sense of growth.
“Every single one of (the athletes) had an indoor personal best,” said Aces president and distance coach Jodie Matsuba-Szucs. “None of them choked – there usually is one or two that does each year, but they didn’t.”
Grade 9 multi-event athletes Sara Zinck and Jasmine Szucs made an immediate impact in the 200 metre (m) sprint, finishing 34th and 52nd respectively out of 202.
At the Simplot Games, the ages are combined into one event, meaning Grade 9 athletes go up against athletes in Grade 12. Zinck and Szucs were third and fourth among Grade 9s and are expected to compete in finals at next year’s event.
In his second time at the Simplot Games, Aiden Good saw major progression – improving 11 seconds on his personal best and finishing 33rd in the 800m, just missing out on finals.
“This is why you take younger athletes like kids in Grade 9,” Matsuba-Szucs said. “You throw them in against the Grade 12s and it’s pretty nerve-wracking.
“Exposing them early to that helps them. It’s good for developing athletes and inspiring them.”
Among the more experienced racers, Grade 12 athlete Alistair Baron finished 40th with 2:09.08 in the 800m, setting a new personal best.
First-year competitor Michael Stewart competed in the mile event, where he finished 95th out of 298 with a time of 4:52.02. The Grade 12 student had his Simplot debut put in doubt after suffering an injury in January, but was determined to return to action.
Grade 11 runner Rudy Buchanan also set an indoor personal best, finishing the 400m run in 56.73 seconds for 73rd place.
Of the seven Aces athletes that traveled to Idaho State University, Grade 12 multi-sport athlete Kurt Schulz was expected to contend in the finals in both the 200m sprint and the long jump.
Unfortunately, Schulz suffered a slight muscle tear during the 200 m preliminaries in the final stretch of the race, placing him 55th and forcing him out of the long jump.
According to Matsuba-Szucs, Schulz was disappointed in the way his final Simplot Games ended, but expects he will be more motivated heading into the outdoor season after he recovers.
“If he went and jumped, he could have torn it more and he would have been out two or three months instead of maybe two or three weeks,” Matsuba-Szucs said. “He’ll be able to rehab and keep his eye on the target of nationals.
“Even though it’s the Simplot Games and you think it means a lot, it doesn’t mean anything – this was just training for nationals.”
The Aces return to the track March 3 and 4 when it takes part in the 2018 Alberta Indoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.