Douglas – Opeongo High School (OHS) is sending 11 athletes to the East Regional track and field championship this week after posting top-six performances at the Eastern Ontario Secondary School Athletic Association (EOSSAA) meet in Brockville last week.

Opeongo placed 15th out of the 58 schools participating and was third among the Renfrew County schools attending. 

Junior Girl Quinn Coughlin continued to make a name for herself, winning all three events, the 300 metre hurdles (44.67) and 400 (57.65) and 800 (2:21.74) metre runs. What is even more impressive is the fact she not only broke the EOSSAA record in the 300 metre hurdles, she also broke OHS alumni and Eganville Olympian, Mellissa Bishop’s EOSSAA record in the 400-metre event set when she was in Grade 10 in 2004.

Quinn also qualified as a member of the junior girls 4 x 100 relay team.

“I was very excited,” the Grade 10 student told the Leader

“I had a few time goals and obviously I saw that Melissa Bishop’s records were within reach of something I could accomplish.

“So I’m hoping to get the school record as well,” she added.

Quinn said Ms. Bishop has been a huge inspiration for her, noting she was a student at Cobden Public School when Ms. Bishop-Nriagu paid a visit after the 2016 Olympics in Rio where she finished fourth in the 1500 meter.

“She was a huge role model. She spoke at our school and I wanted to be like her ever since.”

She said the Ottawa Lions had posted her record-setting achievement on Instagram and tagged Ms. Bishop, a former member of the club and Ms. Coughlin.

“And she (Bishop) reposted it and added ‘Making the Valley proud’, and stuff like that,” she said. “I was shocked and screamed whenever I saw it.

“It’s so cool to know that she has heard of me,” she added.    

What makes her success even more remarkable is that she just started running the 300-metre hurdles this spring and now has an EOSSAA record.

“My legs are pretty long, so I have an easier time getting over the hurdles,” she said of her early success. “I really like it.”

She said of the three events she has qualified in she prefers the 300-metre hurdles and the 400 over the 800.  

Senior boys Liam Davis and Jack Egan have advanced in two events each, Davis qualifying fifth in the javelin (41.72m) and second in the shot put (13.01m) and Quinn was sixth in the long (5.75m) and  third in the triple (12.05m) jumps. Other OHS athletes to advance in field events included junior girl Katie Demmons, sixth place finish in the shot put (9.23m), junior girl Aliah Nizaha, fifth in the javelin (26.89m), and senior girl Keysha Two-Axe, fifth in the javelin (28.82m).

On the track, siblings Andy and Liam Copeland qualified in fifth  and fourth, respectively, in the junior boys 800 metre (2:17.60) and the senior boys 400 (54.17). The junior girls 4×100 relay team of Quinn Coughlin, Rowan Coleman, Charley Keefe and Cadence Davis also qualified for this week’s meet with their third-place finish in a time of 54.33 seconds.

“It’s quite a thing,” said coach Dennis Brash of the fact 11 athletes are advancing. “These kids always seem to amaze me.”

Brash said when one considers other larger schools in the county are sending only one or two athletes and OHS has 11, it is pretty special.

“We have eight, plus a relay team,” he said. “I’m really pleased with what they’ve accomplished.”

He said he saw Quinn had great potential when she started her OHS career last year, similar to what he saw in Bishop when she was getting started in the sport.

“There definitely are similarities,” he noted.

Brash said Opeongo has five different Opeongo athletes have EOSSAA records which is very impressive considering the small enrollment compared to other schools in that category.