Heppenstall ready to four-peat 400m at Mark Graham meet

Community Apr 29, 2015 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

Robert Heppenstall could set a record next week that is sure to stand for a long time.

The three-time champion of the Mark Anthony Graham Memorial invitational 400m will be competing May 7 for a fourth win in the annual race that brings together top runners from Hamilton and beyond.

Meet director Dan Clark says a fourth win is a mark that might never be reached again.

“I think it’s virtually impossible that anyone could ever win it four years in a row,” says Clark. “You’ve got to win it in Grade 9 and it’s pretty tough to beat the seniors.”

Heppenstall, who had competed and won in middle school track competitions, burst onto the high school track scene with that win in 2012.

At the time, the St. Thomas More student wanted to run 400m and 1500m.

He won the 400m gold that year at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) and in the following two years finished second and fourth.

But Heppenstall has won gold in the 800m the past two years at OFSAA.

“Ironically enough I never ran 800s in middle school,” says the former R.A. Riddell student.

It was Gene Romaniw, his coach at STM, who saw the young runner’s style and pegged him as a natural for the 800m.

Romaniw’s son Anthony is one of Canada’s top 800m runners. Heppenstall fought the idea at first and didn’t think he was any good when he started, but has since found that the 800m is indeed his strong suit.

Heppenstall says in his first year of high school he had no idea what OFSAA was and thought the gains he got from running track would help him become a better football and basketball player.

“I thought of it as kind of a workout sport — something to help me with other sports,” he says.

He just took his 400m wins step by step that year — city championship, SOSSA, regional, OFSAA — never expecting too much or putting too much pressure on himself other than making the final at each meet.

“Grade 9 was an eye opener,” said Heppenstall.

He wasn’t a member of a track club, it wasn’t a developmental year, it just made him aware of the potential he had on the track.

He says it was just last year that he started looking at track more seriously than other sports.

Phil Steel, his coach at the Monte Cristo club, calls Heppenstall a “massive talent.”

He said that was made very evident to him last year, as the young runner was basically training himself in the off season yet was able to win his second OFSAA 800m gold.

Steel said he pushed Heppenstall to run a world standard time last summer so he could compete in the 800m at the world junior youth championships.

Because Steel and Heppenstall didn’t connect until well into the season, however, it was more mental training than physical — just affirming he had the ability rather than starting a new regimen in the middle of competition.

Heppenstall ran the world standard time and won the junior nationals to qualify for the worlds, which showed how much raw ability has, said Steel. He didn’t make the final at worlds — he was one of the youngest runners in the 800m — but will have another chance to represent Canada in two years.

His new off-season training program has helped Heppenstall get a running start for this season. He ran a personal best indoor 800m mark over the winter of 1:52.5.

“It definitely takes a person like Phil to give me the extra confidence I need and tell me exactly what they’re seeing,” says Heppenstall.

“He knows more about me than I know about me at this point.”

This year’s goal is to compete at the Pan American Junior Championships in Edmonton.

Earlier this year, Heppenstall accepted a full athletic scholarship from Wake Forest University, an NCAA Division 1 school located in Winston-Salem, N.C.

A few other schools were interested, but he selected the school because of the coach, the small size of the school — and the southern climate that will allow him to train for most of the year.

It was a lifelong dream to be offered an athletic scholarship at a Division 1 school, but he thought it would be for basketball or football.

Heppenstall says he worked hard to bring his grades up over the past year in order to earn the scholarship and appreciates the value of it in reaching his ultimate academic goal of a business degree.

“Just because I got it doesn’t mean it can’t be taken away,” says Heppenstall.

“I’m really thankful for it.”

Heppenstall ready to four-peat 400m at Mark Graham meet

STM track star recently accepted athletic scholarship to NCAA Division 1 school

Community Apr 29, 2015 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

Robert Heppenstall could set a record next week that is sure to stand for a long time.

The three-time champion of the Mark Anthony Graham Memorial invitational 400m will be competing May 7 for a fourth win in the annual race that brings together top runners from Hamilton and beyond.

Meet director Dan Clark says a fourth win is a mark that might never be reached again.

“I think it’s virtually impossible that anyone could ever win it four years in a row,” says Clark. “You’ve got to win it in Grade 9 and it’s pretty tough to beat the seniors.”

I thought of it as kind of a workout sport — something to help me with other sports

Heppenstall, who had competed and won in middle school track competitions, burst onto the high school track scene with that win in 2012.

At the time, the St. Thomas More student wanted to run 400m and 1500m.

He won the 400m gold that year at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) and in the following two years finished second and fourth.

But Heppenstall has won gold in the 800m the past two years at OFSAA.

“Ironically enough I never ran 800s in middle school,” says the former R.A. Riddell student.

It was Gene Romaniw, his coach at STM, who saw the young runner’s style and pegged him as a natural for the 800m.

Romaniw’s son Anthony is one of Canada’s top 800m runners. Heppenstall fought the idea at first and didn’t think he was any good when he started, but has since found that the 800m is indeed his strong suit.

Heppenstall says in his first year of high school he had no idea what OFSAA was and thought the gains he got from running track would help him become a better football and basketball player.

“I thought of it as kind of a workout sport — something to help me with other sports,” he says.

He just took his 400m wins step by step that year — city championship, SOSSA, regional, OFSAA — never expecting too much or putting too much pressure on himself other than making the final at each meet.

“Grade 9 was an eye opener,” said Heppenstall.

He wasn’t a member of a track club, it wasn’t a developmental year, it just made him aware of the potential he had on the track.

He says it was just last year that he started looking at track more seriously than other sports.

Phil Steel, his coach at the Monte Cristo club, calls Heppenstall a “massive talent.”

He said that was made very evident to him last year, as the young runner was basically training himself in the off season yet was able to win his second OFSAA 800m gold.

Steel said he pushed Heppenstall to run a world standard time last summer so he could compete in the 800m at the world junior youth championships.

Because Steel and Heppenstall didn’t connect until well into the season, however, it was more mental training than physical — just affirming he had the ability rather than starting a new regimen in the middle of competition.

Heppenstall ran the world standard time and won the junior nationals to qualify for the worlds, which showed how much raw ability has, said Steel. He didn’t make the final at worlds — he was one of the youngest runners in the 800m — but will have another chance to represent Canada in two years.

His new off-season training program has helped Heppenstall get a running start for this season. He ran a personal best indoor 800m mark over the winter of 1:52.5.

“It definitely takes a person like Phil to give me the extra confidence I need and tell me exactly what they’re seeing,” says Heppenstall.

“He knows more about me than I know about me at this point.”

This year’s goal is to compete at the Pan American Junior Championships in Edmonton.

Earlier this year, Heppenstall accepted a full athletic scholarship from Wake Forest University, an NCAA Division 1 school located in Winston-Salem, N.C.

A few other schools were interested, but he selected the school because of the coach, the small size of the school — and the southern climate that will allow him to train for most of the year.

It was a lifelong dream to be offered an athletic scholarship at a Division 1 school, but he thought it would be for basketball or football.

Heppenstall says he worked hard to bring his grades up over the past year in order to earn the scholarship and appreciates the value of it in reaching his ultimate academic goal of a business degree.

“Just because I got it doesn’t mean it can’t be taken away,” says Heppenstall.

“I’m really thankful for it.”

Heppenstall ready to four-peat 400m at Mark Graham meet

STM track star recently accepted athletic scholarship to NCAA Division 1 school

Community Apr 29, 2015 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

Robert Heppenstall could set a record next week that is sure to stand for a long time.

The three-time champion of the Mark Anthony Graham Memorial invitational 400m will be competing May 7 for a fourth win in the annual race that brings together top runners from Hamilton and beyond.

Meet director Dan Clark says a fourth win is a mark that might never be reached again.

“I think it’s virtually impossible that anyone could ever win it four years in a row,” says Clark. “You’ve got to win it in Grade 9 and it’s pretty tough to beat the seniors.”

I thought of it as kind of a workout sport — something to help me with other sports

Heppenstall, who had competed and won in middle school track competitions, burst onto the high school track scene with that win in 2012.

At the time, the St. Thomas More student wanted to run 400m and 1500m.

He won the 400m gold that year at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) and in the following two years finished second and fourth.

But Heppenstall has won gold in the 800m the past two years at OFSAA.

“Ironically enough I never ran 800s in middle school,” says the former R.A. Riddell student.

It was Gene Romaniw, his coach at STM, who saw the young runner’s style and pegged him as a natural for the 800m.

Romaniw’s son Anthony is one of Canada’s top 800m runners. Heppenstall fought the idea at first and didn’t think he was any good when he started, but has since found that the 800m is indeed his strong suit.

Heppenstall says in his first year of high school he had no idea what OFSAA was and thought the gains he got from running track would help him become a better football and basketball player.

“I thought of it as kind of a workout sport — something to help me with other sports,” he says.

He just took his 400m wins step by step that year — city championship, SOSSA, regional, OFSAA — never expecting too much or putting too much pressure on himself other than making the final at each meet.

“Grade 9 was an eye opener,” said Heppenstall.

He wasn’t a member of a track club, it wasn’t a developmental year, it just made him aware of the potential he had on the track.

He says it was just last year that he started looking at track more seriously than other sports.

Phil Steel, his coach at the Monte Cristo club, calls Heppenstall a “massive talent.”

He said that was made very evident to him last year, as the young runner was basically training himself in the off season yet was able to win his second OFSAA 800m gold.

Steel said he pushed Heppenstall to run a world standard time last summer so he could compete in the 800m at the world junior youth championships.

Because Steel and Heppenstall didn’t connect until well into the season, however, it was more mental training than physical — just affirming he had the ability rather than starting a new regimen in the middle of competition.

Heppenstall ran the world standard time and won the junior nationals to qualify for the worlds, which showed how much raw ability has, said Steel. He didn’t make the final at worlds — he was one of the youngest runners in the 800m — but will have another chance to represent Canada in two years.

His new off-season training program has helped Heppenstall get a running start for this season. He ran a personal best indoor 800m mark over the winter of 1:52.5.

“It definitely takes a person like Phil to give me the extra confidence I need and tell me exactly what they’re seeing,” says Heppenstall.

“He knows more about me than I know about me at this point.”

This year’s goal is to compete at the Pan American Junior Championships in Edmonton.

Earlier this year, Heppenstall accepted a full athletic scholarship from Wake Forest University, an NCAA Division 1 school located in Winston-Salem, N.C.

A few other schools were interested, but he selected the school because of the coach, the small size of the school — and the southern climate that will allow him to train for most of the year.

It was a lifelong dream to be offered an athletic scholarship at a Division 1 school, but he thought it would be for basketball or football.

Heppenstall says he worked hard to bring his grades up over the past year in order to earn the scholarship and appreciates the value of it in reaching his ultimate academic goal of a business degree.

“Just because I got it doesn’t mean it can’t be taken away,” says Heppenstall.

“I’m really thankful for it.”