LANGLEY, B.C. — The crowd alongside the track leaned over the railing craning their necks for a better view. Everyone in McLeod Athletic Park stadium stood to watch.
While the Canadian track and field championships were dealt a blow when six-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse announced he was sidelined with COVID-19, Aaron Brown and Jerome Blake still put on a show in the men's 100- metre final Saturday night.
Brown, a 30-year-old from Brampton, Ont., won gold in 10.16 seconds, edging Blake by 0.03.
"It's good man, it feels good to get another win," Brown said, after signing a couple dozen autographs. "Anytime I come to the championships, it's all about coming out healthy, getting the wheels turning, and getting ready for world championships. That's exactly what I did — the win is bonus."
Khamica Bingham of Brampton won the women's 100 in 11.44.
Brown, whose young son Kingsley was in the crowd, wasn't thrilled with the winning time. His best is 9.96. But with the sun going down, the temperature had cooled off, and the slight tailwind they'd enjoyed in the semifinals was gone. Edrick Floreal Jr. had also been disqualified due to a false start.
"The wind was kind of dead for the final. And then the false start, but things happen," Brown said. "You've got to be professional about it and go about your business and still execute."
Earlier, Marco Arop passed Brandon McBride down the backstretch en route to victory in the men's 800 metres.
Arop, a 23-year-old from Edmonton, crossed in one minute 44.39 seconds, while McBride, the Canadian record-holder from Windsor, Ont., finished in 1:45.15, dipping under the world championship standard.
Arop slung his arm around McBride after the race and the two did a mini-victory jog down the track, Arop waving his arms up and down to get the crowd cheering.
"And it's a special feeling. It's been so long since our last, I guess full national championships, I just wanted to give the crowd a show and show them how much I appreciate them," Arop said.
McBride credited Arop, who already had the world championship standard, with pulling him to the standard as well.
"I'm very, very happy for Marco, he really put it to me on the back stretch, and I went up to him afterwards and said thanks," said McBride, the Canadian record-holder in the distance. "He definitely could have waited until the last 150 to battle it out. But he definitely did help me out by pushing the pace."
Madeleine Kelly of Pembroke, Ont., won the women's 800 in 2:00.82, edging Lindsey Butterworth by 0.03.
Camryn Rogers of Richmond, B.C., threw 75.33 metres to win the women's hammer throw. Two weeks ago, the 23-year-old Rogers smashed her Canadian and NCAA records with a toss of 77.67, fourth best in the world this season.
Rogers, who attends the University of California, said Saturday was the closest she'd come to competing at home in five years. She threw hammer in McLeod Athletic Park at the B.C. high school championships.
"I'm so happy to be here, and at nationals when it counts," she said. "And it's really cool to see how far not only I've come, but how far so many other of my awesome competitors have come as well. And it makes me excited for the future."
Rogers' mom Shari was in the crowd. She never watches Camryn throw, but turns her head, clutching a necklace that Camryn bought when she was only seven or eight years old.
"It's her little way of supporting me. I appreciate it. She's so funny, but I love her," Rogers said.
She added that her mom, who raised Camryn alone, has been able to be at most of her meets this season, thanks to the lessening of border restrictions.
"It was so hard last year because of COVID and travel with the border, and it was so insane," Rogers said. "But just having her here means so much … even at the meets where she's not here, I feel her love and I feel her support and to have her here and hear her cheering me on before every throw it just, oh my gosh, tingles, you know? Tingles."
Django Lovett of Surrey, B.C., cleared 2.20 metres to win the men's high jump.
The Canadian championships are the final chance for athletes to hit qualifying marks for the world track and field championships July 15-24 in Eugene, Ore.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press