De Lange Finds His Redemption Narrative

Written by Matt Scace

Heading into the final 50 metres of the OUA men’s 1500m Championships, Mitch de Lange got an idea.

“I was like oh, I can win this thing,” de Lange says. “So I just kicked and yeah. Its history.”

In reality, the story of the race is much longer than his depiction of its final moments. Starting the race ranked ninth in the province, de Lange finished the first lap near the back of the 11-man heat. With the top time in the second heat running 3:53.24, de Lange sensed the pack running slower than he expected—and preferred.

“I could just tell we were slow,” he says. He was right; the first half-lap came in just over 16 seconds, and the first full lap clocked in at 32.400 seconds for de Lange. The leaders of the previous heat had run a cumulative three seconds faster at the same point.

“I wanted to put the pressure on the boys and see how the field responded. It responded accordingly.”

Since arriving in Kingston during the fall of 2017, teammates and coaches have known there was something special not just about de Lange’s talent, but his mindset.

“Hes someone whos on one hand so driven and talented, but simultaneously so chill and laid back. Its pretty amazing how he can have both of those things at the same time,” teammate Miles Brackenbury says. “He does his best to let things roll off his back, and I think that helped him a lot at OUAs.”

Since using his first year of eligibility in 2018, the results have come—but not in the form of an outright win. At the 2018 U Sports Cross Country Championships, de Lange placed 12th and came 10th in 2019, though there was a wide sentiment that a podium finish was in the cards in the latter. During the 2019 cross country season, he earned a second-place finish at RSEQ Interlock and, despite leading for the majority of the OUA Championships, placed ninth. Consequently, going into the 1500m, his last win had been at OFSAA in 2014 where he won gold in the midget boys 3,000m.

Through the middle laps, de Lange inched up the pace; his third and fourth nudged to the lower end of 32 seconds, and the fifth came in just under 31 seconds. By the sixth lap, he was jostling for the lead and put down a 29.833 second lap. Now in competition for second place and automatic entry into the U Sports Championships, de Lange took the lead.

“I was just relaxing out there, just remaining calm and let the field carry me for a bit, and decided that nows the time to go if I want to go top two,” he says.

On a normal day, de Lange’s teammates could’ve predicted him to pull it out in the final two laps. But after placing fourth in the men’s 3,000m the previous night—a race he entered ranked first—nobody imposed their expectations on him. Having gone through a week where running had been the last thing on his mind, de Lange told his teammates that the 3,000m championship was the worst run of his life.

“I was just not in the right space. I didnt prepare, didnt think about the race going into it. I didnt picture what I was going to do, what I wanted from it and I got in the race,” he recalls.

“We were cooling down and he was telling the guys that its the saddest hes ever run in his life,” Brackenbury says. “From a guy whos really steady, it was hard to see. But on Saturday when he rolled up to the place, you knew he was there to do something special. He didnt have that sad look anymore—he was just determined.”

In the second-last lap, de Lange fell a step behind the leader and appeared to be losing steam. But as the bell rang for the final lap, something clicked.

“I was on the corner of the homestretch just screaming my lungs out […] and it was right on that corner where he said,lets f***** go boys!” Brackenbury says. “He found that extra gear.”

Stuck at the hip with the co-leader, a strangely obvious idea floated into his head as he rounded the final corner.

“I didnt really think about winning until later in the last 50 metres,” he says. Coming down the final straight de Lange kicked into his last gear, crossing the finish line .22 seconds ahead of second place in 3:52.91 with his arms outstretched and a will-bending fight in his eyes.

“I wanted it to happen—I wanted it to happen so bad,” Brackenbury says. “I was going ballistic the whole way—I havent been that hyped about a race in a long time. I was extra, extra hyped.”

In what could be considered his collegiate breakthrough race, the win held significance for numerous reasons. His gold medal was the first for Queen’s men’s track since 2009, made all the more impressive given the size of the school’s program. On a personal level, it was de Lange’s first win since tenth grade. Yet, he says his motivation came from a more simple, intrinsic place.

“I was going in seeded ninth so I was just like,' Im going to have fun today.’"

“Its why I do it.”

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