Even as Evan Ratzlaff burst across the finish line at the provincial high school track championships, he felt he'd run the race of his life.
Still, it would be long minutes before the Mennonite Collegiate Institute senior knew he had won.
'It was so close. I thought I won, but the guy beside me was also leaning, so I didn't really know'
With the top finishers in the varsity boys' thrilling 100-metre sprint bunched up so tight, it took a photo finish to decide. In the end, Ratzlaff clinched first with a time of 11.03, just one one-hundredth of a second over the silver medallist, Fort Richmond Collegiate runner Luxon Glor. Hot on their heels was Garden Valley Collegiate sprinter Daniel Rempel, who claimed bronze with a time of 11.08.
"I don't think anyone knew that they'd won the race when we finished," said Ratzlaff, who set a personal best in the race. "Guys were talking, we were thinking about who leaned most... it was so close. I thought I won, but the guy beside me was also leaning, so I didn't really know."
This is the final year of track and field for Ratzlaff, who is planning to study business at Canadian Mennonite University next year. So what a way to cap off a high-school athletic career, by clinching the top spot in the closest race he's ever competed in. "It's good to finish off with a bang," he said.
That varsity boys' sprint was the tightest final on Friday, the second day of competition at the championships. It wasn't the only final result to turn heads, however, as one runner challenged the meet's most enduring record.
In 1966, Glenlawn's Cheryl Cringan blazed to a 12-second finish in the junior varsity girls' 100, though categories were classified differently back then and timing methods have changed. Still, while other records have fallen since, that explosive time has stood for almost 50 years.
But on Friday, Sisler sprinter Brianna Tynes came as close to snapping it as anyone ever has. Tynes, who is in Grade 9, took off to an explosive start and broke the plane in just 12.01, a fraction of a second off of Cringan's record. "It's amazing, it feels really good to know how I'm doing," Tynes said a couple of hours later, after cruising to a win in her 200 semifinal.
A breeze at her back likely helped her gold-medal dash, longtime Sisler track coach John Iwanski said, but there's no doubt the young runner is one to watch. For comparison, Nelson McIntyre sprinter Tegan Turner -- one of the top young runners in Canada -- claimed the varsity 100-metre gold on Friday with a time of 11.91. With time and training, Iwanski mused, 14-year-old Tynes could reach similar heights.
"She's a real talent," Iwanski said. "In my time at Sisler, she has the potential to be the best 100 runner we've ever had. We haven't had anybody run 12.01 in Grade 9, that's never happened. The good thing is, she's still having fun... when you get a talent like that, sometimes they try to do everything, or train too hard."
Whatever Tynes accomplishes, she won't be doing it alone. On Friday, she was joined on the podium by another talented Sisler sprinter. Ashley Victoria claimed silver in the 100m with a fantastic 12.46 finish, and was second only to Tynes amongst all 200m semifinal runners. Not only are the two among the most promising young runners in the province, but they're also close friends.
"She pushes me a lot," Tynes said of Victoria. "She's really encouraging and helpful, and it's really good to be teammates with her."
Today, the pair will compete in the junior varsity 200m final, and then lead the Sisler junior varsity girls' relay 4x100 relay team in a hunt for gold. But already, Tynes is dreaming of what could be years down the road. "I want to make it really big, like Olympics if I could," she said. "I hope I can do it."
The championship continues today at the University of Manitoba Stadium. Over 1,500 athletes from across the province are competing.