submitted by Jeff Brownlee
John McGowan can’t believe that darting away from a science test 12 months ago has led to running for his country as a member of Team Canada, competing at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago this August.
“It was a total fluke,” said the Grade 11, St. Mike’s student, who will compete in the 100-metre sprint event at the game to be held August 4-11th in the West Indies nation. “Running had never crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to write that test last year, so at the last minute, I decided to compete at the track meet instead.”
The result? While he eventually wrote the test, he aced the 100-metre event earning a berth in the regional LGSSAA competition where he improved his time to qualify for the Eastern Ontario (EOSSAA) sectionals.
“I was in shock,” added the Kemptville resident. “I had no idea that I could run at a competitive level — and enjoy it.”
His initial success and innate talent led him to the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club where he has been training as much as three times each week at the Club’s Mooney’s Bay facility during the spring and summer. In the winter, the 16-year-old trains twice each week inside in Blackburn Hamlet.
This rigorous schedule has enabled McGowan to shave .80 seconds off his personal best in just 12 months, which has earned the teen the nickname “Turbo.” Entering 2023, the speedster’s best time was 11.55 seconds over 100 metres. This year, he qualified for Team Canada by posting a quick 10.75 at the Eastern Regionals in Ottawa and earned a berth at the provincials OFSAA where he finished 5th.
“We’re so proud of John. What he has accomplished in a short period of time is pretty amazing,” said his mother, Natalie Carriere. “His dedication and hard work are paying off — it’s an absolute honour to wear the maple leaf and represent your country.”
McGowan said he was surprised to learn that he was one of just 17 athletes in Canada named to the Youth Commonwealth Team.
“I was in shock when I found out, but I’m stoked,” he added. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me — to compete on the international stage and I can’t wait to wear the maple leaf and make Canada proud.”
Team Head Coach Christine Laverty believes that the event is both a learning experience and an immense opportunity for the athletes. “The competition itself is something of a learning experience, but a definite opportunity for our athletes to be successful and to medal,” she said.
Laverty expects the 17-member contingent to quickly come together as one team.
“The bonding starts right from the day they get on the plane and head off in their Team Canada gear. They tend to come out and cheer for their teammates,” she added. “What’s always nice is that the first time you hear that Canadian anthem, it kind of motivates everybody else to want to do that too.”
More than 1,000 athletes and para-athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 will participate in seven sports managed by 500-plus officials. The Commonwealth Youth Games can be a valuable springboard for the stars and leaders of tomorrow, contributing to the further development of youth sport throughout Canada and the Commonwealth