Deepal Desphande of the Pearlgate Track and Field Clubs’ made history Saturday when he became the first athlete from this province to win a gold medal at the Hershey Track and Field North American Final in Pennsylvania.
The 12-year-old won the 100-metre final in the boys’ 1-2 age-group final , sprinting to the finish in a time of 12.61 seconds.
“I have to be honest, I was pretty nervous,” Desphande told the Telegram from Hershey.
“They say the other people were really good, and it was evident in their races.”
Desphande says he could have turned in a better time — one closer to his personal best of 12.35 accomplished at the Provincial Legion championships at Pearlgate — if he had been wearing spikes and starting from a block. All races at the Hershey meet are standing starts with the runners wearing regular running shoes.
“You have to get used to not having the same grip and not having the same power off the start,” Desphande says.
“I think I could have ran a 12.30.”
Pearlgate sprint coach Doug Halliday says it’s a “huge accomplishment” for the young athlete to win at an event that brings competitors from eight different regions from across North America.
“To win a sprint, especially the 100m, is absolutely amazing,” saiud Halliday. “ I expected he would be in the mix for a medal, but this is icing on the cake for all the hard work he’s put in the past couple years of training.
“He trains three days a week and when he shows up to practice, he’s always happy and very willing to learn.”
It’s been a busy and successful summer for Desphande. Earlier this month, the Lakecrest Academy student became the 80m and 150m champ for his age group at the Atlantic track and field championships in Moncton.
And as a result of his showing at the provincial Legion meet — a win in the 200m sprint, and a second-place finish to his older brother Harshal in the 100m — Desphande was invited to join the province’s team at this week’s 2013 Canadian Youth Legion championships in Langley, B.C., making him the youngest athlete ever selected to the Newfoundland team.
“I don’t think I’ll have a medal, but I’m hoping to break my personal best, because spikes and blocks are allowed,” Desphande says.
Harshal Desphande is also part of the province’s team headed to B.C.
Deepal Desphande might be Newfoundland’s first gold medallist in Hershey, but it’s not the first time an athlete from the province has won a medal. Stephenville’s Devon Kerfont won a silver in the boys’ 13-14 softball throw in 2011, and Jillian Forsey of Kippens brought home silver from the girls’ 13-14 1,600m event in 2009.
Other Newfoundland results
Deepal Desphande wasn’t the only track and field athlete from this province at the North American Final in Hershey, Pa. this weekend. The others and their results:
Levi Moulton, Paradise
Boys 13-14 1,600m — 5:10.72 (11th)
Camryn Bonia, St. John’s
Girls 11-12 800m — 2:34.71 (9th)
Chantal Barnes, St. John’s
Girls 13-14 800m — 2:33.79 (7th)
Dana Benoit-Chubb, Port au Port
Girls 11-12 Softball Throw — (15th)