The final meet of the university calendar is ahead for the University of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s track teams as they are set to battle the best in the nation in Windsor, ON at the U SPORTS National Championships taking place March 8-11.
A contingent of nine Vikes; five men and four women have earned themselves a trip to nationals by putting down times fast enough throughout the season to qualify them for the marquee meet of the U SPORTS schedule.
Fifth-year Vike Tyler Smith will be the workhouse on the team throughout the meet. The native of Wetasikiwin, AB will compete in four events over the three days of competition and appears poised to do well in multiple distances. Recently named the Canada West Outstanding Student-Athlete Community Service Award winner, Smith will compete individually in both the 600 and 1000-metre races in which he claimed gold at the conference championships just two weeks ago.
Thomas Oxland and Timothy Longley will both compete in the 1000-metre race and come into the meet as serious contenders to find their way onto the podium. Oxland is ranked third in the nation at that distance while Longley is fourth.
Rounding out the men’s team are Max Serviss and Vlad Lyesin. Serviss is set to compete on the Canada West Champion, and new conference record holder, 4×800-metre relay team while Lyesin will compete in the 4×400-metre relay.
Second-year Vike Alyssa Mousseau leads the way on the women’s side. Mousseau will compete individually in the 600-metre race, a distance she won silver in at the conference championships and is currently ranked 11th in the nation.
Chloe Hewitt, Caroline Harrell and Vanessa Sjoberg will all join Mousseau in both the 4×400 and 4×800-metre relays. The Vikes relay teams are peaking at the right time as they claimed gold in the 4×800 and just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the 4×400 at the conference championships two weeks ago.
About the Event
The meet in Windsor will take place on a flat 200-metre track, and with more athletes than ever qualifying for nationals, there is sure to be some tight confines on the track.
“There is definitely less space than a 300-metre track but it’s a really nice track, generally it is a fast track,” said Vikes assistant coach Hilary Stellingwerff. “The difference at nationals this year compared to previous years is that they’ve let in more athletes, it used to be capped at 10 and they’ve now moved it to 12. That makes for some messy races, especially in the 4×800 relay.”
For the nine Vikes competing in seven different events throughout the weekend, action will get underway with the women’s 600-metre prelims on Thursday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. Vikes events will be scattered throughout the remaining days of competition with the men’s 4×400-metre relay team running in the final event of the meet on Saturday, March 10 at 1:00 p.m.
Three medals were the haul for the Vikes at last year’s national championships and two of those medallists will be competing again this weekend. Both Smith and Oxland were members of the gold medal-winning 4×800-metre relay team, while Smith also picked up a silver medal in the 600-metre race.
Hilary Stellingwerff, Vikes assistant coach
On whether the team can carry forward the momentum from their strong conference championships.
“For sure. Afterward there is a bit of a downswing where they need a couple of weeks to regroup but to build off of our successful Canada West Championships is important. That success gives them a higher level of confidence ahead of this weekend.”
“Everyone is looking great, we had a bit of a rough time in the middle of the season with sickness but knock on wood that everyone is healthy leading into the championship. Training is coming around at just the right time.”
“We are pretty excited, we have Tyler Smith in his last year competing in four different events and then we have some rookies on the team that will be new to the championships. It will be exciting to see that handoff and that turnover.”
“We have some really good shots at medals and the goal is to get everyone there on a podium.”
On the business-like approach to nationals.
“There is a sense of needing to get it done whereas conference championships are more of a dress rehearsal. They are seeing athletes that they haven’t seen all year, you see their times but you’re not really sure where they are at. The competitive level is a step-up in terms of intensity and I think that we are ready to take on that so it’ll be exciting.”