Braedan Willis, Vikes Communications
The University of Victoria Vikes men’s 4×800 relay team will be the lone medal hope for UVic at this year’s U SPORTS Track and Field National Championships being hosted in Winnipeg, Man. on Mar. 8-10.
The five-man team comprised of Mitch Basher, Timothy Longley, Vlad Lyesin, Vaughn Taylor and alternate Matthew Thibodeau will aim to get the Vikes on the podium in the men’s 4×800 relay event for the second consecutive year.
The team of Thibodeau, Taylor, Basher and Derrick Ushko recorded a time of 7:56.25 at the Canada West Championships last month, finishing fourth but in the process qualifying the Vikes for the national championships.
“We didn’t run our strongest team at Canada West but we knew we had the athletes who could still post a time good enough to qualify us for U SPORTS,” said Vikes head coach Brent Fougner. “Pushing Tim (Longley) to run the relay along with his main event wasn’t really worth the risk of over racing him. We definitely made a few mistakes in that race but we have had the opportunity to make some improvements. With the team we have going I believe we can contend for a medal.”
Longley will serve as the only returnee from last year’s silver medal team that included Max Serviss, Tyler Smith and Thomas Oxland who was forced to miss this year’s event due to an injury. In 2018 the Vikes finished just three milliseconds behind the gold medalist team from Guelph University.
“The key at a national championship is to get a consistent performance out of everyone on the team to keep you in the race before you pass the baton off to your anchor, who for us will be Tim (Longley), to try and close out the race and get the team on the podium,” stated Fougner.
The host Manitoba Bisons and Victoria’s Vancouver Island rivals, Trinity Western, are seen as the medal favourites heading into the championship meet along with the reigning gold medalist from Guelph.
“We see Manitoba, Guelph and Trinity as the top contenders this year but we know the team we have put together can run a time to compete with any of those schools.”
The one luxury for the Vikes this year will be the ability to focus on a single event to try and bring home a medal.
“The difference between us and a bigger school like Guelph is that we have the chance to focus on a single event and put our best guys forward. Guelph is forced to be a bit more strategic with where they run their athletes as they are more focused on a championship banner, not individual event results.”
After a delay in training during the month of February due to the snow, the Vikes were able to resume their preparations for nationals outside on the track at Centennial Stadium.
“It was nice to have to opportunity last week to get back out on the track. The guys are obviously focusing now on specific 800-metre related workouts which will be hugely beneficial come race time for rookies like Vaughn, who raced just his second 800-metre event ever at Canada West,” concluded Fougner.
The U SPORTS men’s 4×800 metre event is scheduled for Friday Mar. 8 at 6:30 p.m. and can be watched live at https://usports.live