St. Bernard strikes gold to lead three-medal haul for Lions

David St. Bernard saved his best for last.

The York Lions triple jumper claimed a gold medal in the final meet of his university career at the 2008 Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) track and field championships, winning in dominating fashion with a top leap of 15.34 metres on Saturday, March 8. 

Right: David St. Bernard

A Scarborough-native, St. Bernard helped raise York’s medal total to five – one gold, two silver and two bronze – for the three-day event. Also on Saturday, the final day of competition, high-jumper Kristen Matthews earned silver and Ryan Finn took bronze in the 600metres.

St. Bernard, who switched to triple jump last year after specializing in long jump and pentathlon, had four jumps of 15 metres or better. He was the only jumper to hit the 15-mark at the event.  

“I knew I could do well (when he made the switch to triple jump), but I didn’t realize it would be at this level,” said St. Bernard, after recording a personal best jump in front of several travelling family members. “I’m just real happy. It’s a great way to end my university career.” 

Just two years ago, St. Bernard suffered through a fatigue-filled season as he had an undiagnosed illness that caused him to lose 20 pounds. About a year after he started feeling poorly, doctors determined he had Addison’s Disease, an endocrine or hormonal disorder. Once he received the proper medication, St. Bernard started to bounce back. 

“It was terrible,” he said. “I couldn’t even finish my warm-ups. I warmed up and then I’d need to take a rest or go to sleep. But after you take medication, you slowly get back to normal.” 

Meanwhile, Matthews just fell short in her quest to win gold in all five years of competition in her event at the nationals. Matthews and eventual winner Michelle Moody both cleared a top height of 1.78 metres, Moody the gold because she had zero misses to the York star’s two in previous jumps. 

“I’m content because I’ve had injuries on and off,” said Matthews, who plans to retire from track and go to teacher’s college after the outdoor season. “I was going for a specific feeling at this meet. I wanted to leave and know I gave it everything. I didn’t want to leave with any regrets, thinking I wished I did this or that. I wanted to leave it all here and I did. I earned this silver medal.” 

Finn ran a gutsy race, fighting off contact and rallying for bronze in a personal best time of 1:18.94. A transfer student from Kentucky, Finn became eligible to compete for York in February. He suited up for the Last Chance Meet at the University of Toronto and then drove to Montreal with his family after that event to compete in a mandatory second meet before the provincial and national championships.

“It takes a very dedicated kid to do that,” Lions distance coach Dave Small said.

The final York entrants had a heartbreaking finish as the 4-by-200metre men’s relay team of Tyrone Halstead, Mat Stiver-Balla, Tayo Morrison and Randolph Fajardo was disqualified after a fumbled exchange between Stiver-Balla and Morrison. Stiver-Balla completed an outstanding leg to put York into second before the drop.

York finishes the meet one medal shy of last year’s total of six.