When Calgary’s Deon Flynn left his role as a coach with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) for an opportunity with a new club, the Calgary Spartans, in 2018, he knew it was a possibility to create something special. In five years, he went from coaching one athlete to 30, and has built one of the top-ranked U18 programs in the country.
Running has always been a significant part of Flynn’s life. He ran for Memorial University in St. Johns, NL, and got into coaching naturally after he graduated and moved to Alberta 20 years ago.
While raising a family in Fort McMurray, he coached at Keyano College for 13 years (2000-2013) before he took on an assistant coaching role at Calgary’s SAIT in 2014. “Running has always given me a sense of freedom, and coaching has presented me the opportunity to share my love and passion for the sport with other athletes,” says Flynn.
A trio of female athletes, Mandeep Sangha, Sorcha Shiu and Charlotte Sinke, led all Canadian U18s from 600m to 1,500m indoors. Shiu has personal bests of 2:08 for the 800m and 2:46 for the 1,000m, which helped her earn a track and field scholarship to the University of Arizona. And Sangha, who has a 1,500m best of 4:26.92, also ran three personal bests over the 2023 indoor season, receiving a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma for Track and XC.
Flynn says he didn’t expect the club to grow this quickly, but now they draw in young middle-distance runners from all over the province.
Shiu joined in August 2022 and was drawn in by Coach Flynn’s ability to foster growth in his athletes. “I appreciate his attention to detail, and how he always has a positive outlook on things,” says Shiu. “I feel I am learning so much from each training session, and enjoying the process.”
Shiu says the combination of hard work and Coach Flynn’s knowledge has helped her challenge herself and improve her mental resilience. “Coach Flynn and I believe that being consistent and focusing on the little things can make a difference over the long term,” says Shiu.
Although Coach Flynn voices that he’s always thinking long-term, Shiu has aspirations of landing on the podium at this summer’s U20 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Langley, BC “Next year is World Juniors, and I would love to get the opportunity to earn a spot and qualify for my first national team,” says Shiu.
After 30+ years in the sport, Flynn still considers himself a lifetime learner and says that coaching allows him to do that–keep learning. “Every athlete has different strengths and weaknesses,” says Flynn. “It’s my job to design specific training around your strengths to develop your weaknesses.”
These women are just three of many standout athletes in the Spartans’ middle-distance program. The group also has many young athletes representing U Sports Track and XC teams across Canada.