By Braedan Willis, Vikes Communications
Five University of Victoria Vikes athletes recorded personal best times on the first day of competition at the Canada West Track and Field Championships, hosted by the Alberta Bears and Pandas in Edmonton on Feb. 22. Vikes men Jonny Toombs, Gabe Van Hezewijk and Ross Henderson, as well as Vikes women Caitlin Mann and Georgia Ginther all beat their previous individual best times in the 3000-m event.
“Our 3-km athletes all stepped it up and ran their best races of the season,” said Vikes head coach Brent Fougner. “Everyone improved on their rankings and ran personal bests, which is the main objective of a championship.”
First-year Vike Mann narrowly missed the podium finishing in fourth place with a time of 10:04.33, just four seconds behind the bronze medalist Sophia Nowicki of Lethbridge. Fellow teammate Ginther finished in eighth (10:31.36). In the men’s event, Toombs was also just shy of a medal finish crossing in fourth in a time of 8:45.39. Vikes teammate Van Hezewijk finished on Toombs’ heels in fifth (8:48.39). Rookie Ross Henderson finished in 11thplace (9:08.62).
Unfortunately for Vikes standouts Josh Kozelj and Timothy Longley the first day of the conference championships didn’t go as planned. While in fifth place at the mid way mark of the men’s 1000-m event, Longley fell after taking some contact from other competitors and was unable to finish the race. For Kozelj, the third year was forced out of the men’s 3000 event early due to an injury.
“It was hard to see Tim not be able to finish his race today,” said Fougner. “There can be a lot of contact on an indoor track as the athletes jostle for position. He was in a great position half way through that race to qualify for the nationals next month in the 1000-m. However, Tim still has a great shot to qualify in the 1500-m race if he can put down a strong time tomorrow.”
The men’s 4×800-m relay team, comprised of Matthew Thibodeau, Vaughn Taylor, Derrick Ushko and Mitchell Basher, finished fourth in a collective time of 7:56.25. Just a year previous the 2018 Vikes relay team set a new Canada West record with a gold-medal performance in 7:34.83.
“We entered a young team and they got the job done,” described Fougner, whose 2019 relay team had no returnees from last year’s record-breaking team. “Tonight’s performance qualified the team for nationals next month and they will go in ranked No. 8.”
Third-year Golden Bear Austin Cole broke a 35-year-old Canada West Track and Field Championship record on Friday night at the Universiade Pavilion during Day 1 of the 2019 conference championships at the University of Alberta. Cole won his second consecutive Canada West gold in the 300-m race, and in the process also bested the mark that was set by Canadian Olympian Cyprian Enweani at the 1985 Canada West championships. Enweani, an alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan, competed for Canada at the 1988 Summer Olympics, and previously held three conference records (60m, 200m & 300m).
It is the U SPORTS No. 8-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies, however, who narrowly lead the men’s standings after the opening day, with 52 points, followed closely by the Manitoba Bisons (49) and the Calgary Dinos (46). The Bisons, ranked No.3 in the nation are expected to pick up big points on Day 2 and challenge for the men’s banner.
The Huskies, ranked No. 2 in U SPORTS, also lead the women’s table after accumulating 103 points on Day 1. The Calgary Dinos, ranked No. 7 in Canada, hold down the silver medal spot with 72 points, while the host Alberta Pandas occupy third with 49 points, just six ahead of fourth place Trinity Western. With a smaller competing contingent and no field events, both the Vikes men and women sit in eighth spot in the team standings.
The second and final day of competition starts tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. at the Universaide Pavilion. The first Vikes action will begin at 12:25 in the men’s 600-metre race, followed by the men and women’s 1500-metre races starting at 2:00 p.m. and can be watched live on candawest.tv.
Day 1 Results:
M 1000-m: Timothy Longley (DNF)
M 3000-m: Jonny Toombs (4th– 8:45.39), Gabe Van Hezewijk (5th– 8:48.49), Ross Henderson (11th– 9:08.62), Josh Kozelj (DNF)
W 3000-m: Caitlin Mann (4th– 10:04.33), Georgia Ginther (8th– 10:31.36)
M 4×800-m relay: Matthew Thibodeau, Vaughn Taylor, Derrick Ushko, Mitchell Basher (4th– 7:56.25)
Men/Women Combined Scores:
1. Saskatchewan Huskies (153.50)
2. Calgary Dinos (120)
3. Alberta Golden Bears/Pandas (82)
4. Manitoba Bisons (79)
5. Trinity Western University (63.50)
6. Regina Cougars (60)
7. Lethbridge Pronghorns (38)
8. Victoria Vikes (20)