Bazil Spencer moved away from home last summer to find his future.

It was a tough decision for a 16-year-old whose life was in Quesnel.

The sacrifices, among them time away from parents and moving high schools ahead of his Grade 12 year, paid off last weekend at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Montreal.

Spencer, a 17-year-old Kamloops Track and Field Club athlete competing in the under-20 junior division, leaped 2.03 metres to win gold in high jump, edging Sam Hall of the University of Toronto, who also jumped 2.03m, but needed one more attempt than Spencer to get it done.

“That confirms it,” said Spencer, who will spend the next two months back home in Quesnel, recuperating from an injury-plagued season. “This is what I want to do, pursue track and see how far I can go with it. I knew it was going to be a whole new level going up to U20. It just makes me want to push so much.”

Dylan Armstrong got wind of Spencer’s performance at the 2018 B.C. High School Track and Field Championships in Langley, where he soared 1.90m to a second-place finish, jumping in running shoes.

Spencer was soon convinced to move to Kamloops and train with Armstrong. It was the first time he strapped on spikes and was afforded top-class coaching and facilities.

“Dylan’s like, ‘If you want to do something, you’ve got to come here, where you have the stuff,’” Spencer said. “Quesnel doesn’t even have high jump mats.”

Spencer established a personal-best of 2.01m and won gold in the U18 division at the 2018 National Legion Track and Field Championships last summer in Brandon.

This year has been a grind for Spencer, who graduated from Sa-Hali secondary, lived with a billet family and trained for high jump, but ran into injury problems. He tore a ligament in his right ankle in February, an injury that eventually led to patella tendinitis in his left leg, his jumping leg.

“When I would try to jump, it would just collapse, basically,” said Spencer, who got a job serving in the box suites at Kamloops Blazers’ games and other events. “For the past three weeks leading up to nationals, all it’s been every day is no-impact knee work — physio, swimming, deep-water running, band work. Just a crazy amount of stuff. I was just praying all the physio and training and swimming would pay off and it did.”

Spencer will take a few months off to heal before training ramps up ahead of next season.

Goals for 2020 include improving his personal best to boost his chances of snaring a full-ride scholarship to a Division 1 NCAA school and qualifying for the World Junior Track and Field Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Mainly, it’s to get a full-ride scholarship, to get a great education and set my life up,” Spencer said. “For high jump, you don’t really peak until you’re 29 or 30. It’s a long-term game, pretty much.”

Marty Hastings/ Kamloops This Week

July 29, 2019 05:09 PM

KTW photo