High school track stars ready to thrive

Ajayi (left) and Costello (right) aim to make St. Patrick's track team a dominating force (Toronto-20110919-00081-1)

St. Patrick’s Catholic Secondary School has two track stars, but they’re not really similar athletes.

Steven Ajayi, 17, is the fast one, burning up the track in the 4×100-metre relay, 100m and 200m sprints.

Andrew Costello, 18, is the resilient one, relentlessly pounding his path in the cross-country 800m and 1500m events.

“I’m not doing cross country,” said Ajayi with a laugh in the St. Patrick’s library. “There’s no way I could run for more than two kilometres.”

Back and hamstring injuries held Ajayi out of the World Youth Championships, but opened the door for him to compete at the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom.

Ajayi ran in the Games earlier this month, finishing eighth in the 200m and third in the 4x100m relay.

Finishing with a time of 41.44 seconds, Ajayi’s relay team set the record for Canadian youth, topping the old mark by a half-second.

His St. Patrick’s teammate has been improving significantly since he started running for a club.

“Grade 11 was really my breakout year,” Costello told the Toronto Observer. “That’s the year where I dropped my time by four seconds over the course of one summer.”

Costello, now in his fifth year of high school, quickly rose to an elite level.

His finest achievement took place in 2010 when he won the 800m race at the Canadian Youth Championships in Ottawa with a time of one minute, 52.99 seconds.

As a recent transfer from Neil McNeil High School, Costello was not allowed to compete in cross-country at OFSAA for St. Patrick’s this year.

Still, re-locating to his new school was beneficial for Costello’s future in track and field.

Moving to St. Patrick’s was a way to find coaches who were willing to accommodate Costello’s membership in a running club outside of school, while also keeping him eligible for OFSAA track and field in the upcoming school year.

In order to represent a school at OFSAA, athletes must participate in 16 school practices, something that was difficult to coordinate for Ajayi and Costello with their commitment to running and track clubs.

“[I] came here and coaches are willing to compromise to help [me] fill in the 16 practices,” said Costello. “Also they have programs specifically for our weight training, and other kinds of training.”

“This school seems to be more willing to help elite athletes,” said Ajayi.  “Our training is pretty vigorous and difficult, and [coaches] here are more understanding of that.”

With the two athletes planning to join forces for the OFSAA championships later in this school year, things are boding well for St. Patrick’s track team.