Ocean Athletics runner Caiden Lee (second from left) set a new U18 record in the mile at the Thunderbirds Track and Field Club Performance Trials earlier this month. (Gordon Kalisch/Fast Track Photography)

Ocean Athletics runner clocks record-breaking mile at Swangard meet

Semiahmoo Secondary's Caiden Lee, 16, bests U18 mark set in 1985

When Caiden Lee crossed the finish line in the mile race at Swangard Stadium-hosted Thunderbird Track and Field Club Performance Trials earlier this month, he knew that he’d clocked a good time – a personal best by four seconds, in fact.

What he had no idea about, however, was that he’d also narrowly broken a record that had stood since 1985 – his time of four minutes, 12.02 seconds beat the nearly-four-decades old U18 mark by 0.28 seconds.

His coach didn’t realize it, either.

“I actually wasn’t paying attention to that record because we don’t often run the mile anymore. It’s rarely run in Canada and is more common in the United States,” explained Ocean Athletics coach Ted de St. Croix, who has coached Lee for the last nine years.

“Basically, he ran the race and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a really good time. I should just go check and see what the record is.'”

The mile is rarely run outside the United States, and in most places, including Canada, it’s replaced with by the 1,500 m, which is about 109 metres shorter.

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Lee, who is headed into his senior year at Semiahmoo Secondary this fall, said the extra 100-or-so metres wasn’t an issue.

“There’s not too much of a difference. I’d say it’s more about your overall pace… when you’re out there, it feels quite similar,” he said. “I specialize in the 1,500 so the mile is pretty relatable, but just because of the rarity of it, it was a big (personal best) for me.”

Though he was unaware in the moment that his pupil had clocked a record-breaking run, de St. Croix said he isn’t surprised at Lee’s recent success. In fact, his improvement has been fairly consistent over the last few track seasons, he said.

“He’s had a lot of PBs this year, and I’m not at all surprised, just because of the amount of work he puts in,” he said.

“He studies the sport, he knows exactly what it takes, and he knows his body and how much training he can handle. At this age, it’s the optimal time for an athlete to improve and develop more strength and speed, but every year he seems to improve.”

As well, de St. Croix noted that in the 1,500 m – or in this case, the mile – young athletes often struggle on the third lap of the track, because the adrenaline and focus they had at the beginning has waned, but they’re not yet locked in for a late-race push.

Lee handles the third-lap lull well, he said.

“Caiden is very good at maintaining his focus. It’s something that you learn by racing, and Caiden, he loves to race.”

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Sanctioned, multi-club races have only returned this summer as B.C. moved into a new phase of its COVID-19 restart plan, and though Lee said he handled last year’s mostly solo training sessions just fine once he got used to it, he’s thrilled to be back racing again.

“I’ve been getting into more meets recently, which I’m thankful for. I hadn’t done it in so long, so it was a nice change,” he said, noting that getting back into a more competitive mindset “was mostly second nature.”

“It was nice to see some of my friends from other cities,” he continued. “(At Swangard) I felt like I was time-travelling actually – back to a couple years ago. I wasn’t used to seeing so many people.”

With no competitions last year, Lee said he spent most of his days on the track running time trials, often with friends pacing him. And though such a mundane schedule might cause motivation to wane for some, Lee said focusing on his future kept him on track.

“It was a little hard to get motivated sometimes, but I was also trying to reach university recruitment standards, so if it weren’t for that, I think it would’ve been harder to stay motivated.”

Next up for Lee and some of his Ocean Athletics teammates is a July 24-25 “challenge” event that will take place in three cities – Langley, Kamloops and Victoria – and will serve as a replacement this year for BC Club Championships.

Lee and a few teammates, as well as de St. Croix, will be in Victoria, which is where the middle-distance races are scheduled to be held.

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