Cindy O’Brien Hugh of Cloverdale has been named the 2021 Masters Track Athlete of the Year.

BC Athletics made the announcement Jan. 26 recognizing O’Brien Hugh of the Surrey Greyhound Masters, David Guss of the Kelowna Running Club and Mark Pinckard of Ocean Athletics.

“It was surprising and quite exciting,” said O’Brien Hugh. “We haven’t had a lot of competitions (in 2021) and a lot of people haven’t been able to compete as much as they normally do. But I was very lucky.”

O’Brien Hugh set a new Canadian record in the women’s over-60 heptathlon in August, breaking the previous record by 1,062 points. The performance also elevated her to third place in the world rankings. It was also O’Brien Hugh’s first heptathlon competition.

She said her club had held two track competitions and she was just grateful she was able to take part. She added that there were many outstanding athletes around the world who, for various reasons, did not have the chance to compete last year.

“It’s a different world right now,” she said. “I felt very lucky to be able to compete and to have some results that were favorable to me.”

O’Brien Hugh said she knew six of the seven heptathlon events.

“The 800 (meters) was a completely new challenge and a bit intrusive,” she said with a laugh. “It’s something I have to work on.”

She added that she was very grateful to be part of the Greyhounds Masters Track and Field Club because they have great coaches and lots of support for the athletes.

“You get great help with your running technique, your jumps, your throws. So again another happy part is all the support we get and all the great coaches we get.

Athletics is in O’Brien Hugh’s blood. In 1976 she was named Lord Tweedsmuir’s Female Athlete of the Year. In 1948 his father, Larry O’Brien, was named Outstanding Athlete of the Year, also at Tweedsmuir.

Larry was a volunteer firefighter at Hall 8 in Cloverdale. He tragically died while en route to calling in 1974.

O’Brien Hugh said her father supported her in all the sports she played growing up. And her father always inspires her when she competes.

“My dad was pretty athletic,” she said. “I lost him when I was barely 16, but there’s hope he’s still watching over me. Sometimes I talk to him minutes before a race and sometimes after the agony of defeat.

“There’s definitely inspiration there and my whole family is very supportive.”

Next up for O’Brien Hugh is a track meet in Kamloops in late February. Later in the year, she will compete at the BC Championships and the Greyhounds will host a multi-event meet in August.
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