Men’s track and field roster gets a boost for the 2015-16 season

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Dalhousie University track and field head coach Rich Lehman is pleased to announce the commitment of three Nova Scotians to the Tigers 2015-16 lineup.

Matthew Coolen comes to the Tigers as the number one ranked Canadian junior sprinter in the 60m and 110m hurdles and second in both the 100m and 200m sprints. A gold medallist in the 100m and 110m hurdle events at the 2015 ESPN Disney Showcase in Lake Buena Vista, Florida this past March, Coolen won his first national gold medal at the Athletics Canada Hershey Indoor Meet in the 60m hurdles last February. He struck gold again in the 110m hurdle event at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships in Edmonton, A.B., July 2-5, 2015 and will represent Canada at the 2015 Junior Pan Am Games in Edmonton this August.

A recent Halifax West graduate, Coolen is the reigning Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) provincial champion in the 100m and 200m sprints and the 110m hurdle events and was selected as their male athlete of the year this past June and is a three-time track and field MVP. He has received many other MVP and sportsmanship awards in his junior and senior high careers including the NSSAF Award and holds provincial records in the 110 m hurdles and the 200m sprint.

“Matt was one of the most heavily recruited high school track and field athletes in the country,” says Lehman. “He’s a junior national team member and without question the best sprint hurdler in Nova Scotia history. He will have an immediate impact ‎on our program.”

A member of the Halifast Track and Field Club, Coolen was on the Principal’s List throughout high school and has received an entrance scholarship. The Halifax native is enrolled in Dalhousie’s engineering program.

“I’m very excited to come to Dal for engineering and to be a member of the track and field team,” says Coolen. “I’m looking forward to representing the Tigers at the AUS and CIS level.”

Coolen’s Halifast teammate, Gabriel Stephen, will also be wearing the black and gold for the first time this winter. The current Nova Scotia indoor youth 60m record holder (7.08 seconds), Stephen competes in the 60m, 100m, 200m and 300m sprint events. A standout on the Citadel High School track and field team, Stephen was selected as their MVP this past season.

A well-rounded athlete, the 6’1″ sprinter also played on the Citadel junior varsity basketball team and helped lead them to an NSSAF provincial championship in 2014.

“Gabe is another product of the Halifast Athletics sprints program,” says Lehman. “He has very underrated top-end speed and with the right programming and a bit of patience, he has the ability to be competitive at the national level.”

Currently enrolled in Dalhousie’s kinesiology program, Stephen is from Halifax, N.S.

“I am very excited to compete for Dalhousie,” says Stephen. “We have a strong team this year and it’s going to be great seeing the progress we make.”

Rounding out a very strong group of sprinters is Truro Lions runner, Mike van der Poel.

Competing for the CEC Cougars track and field team, van der Poel started his track and field career in grade 10 and helped lead his school to back-to-back NSSAF Division I banners in 2014 and 2015. He has amassed six gold and six silver NSSAF provincial medals in his three-year high school career. He has also set NSSAF provincial records in the 200m and 400m and as part of the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams.

Standing at 6’2″, van der Poel has had an outstanding career on the soccer pitch as well, leading the Cougars to NSSAF bronze medals in 2013 and 2014. He broke their single-season scoring record in 2014, notching 23 goals in 17 games. Van der Poel was named the Cougars male athlete of the year this past June in addition to receiving the Bryan Scallion and Dianne Powell and Dave Higgins Rising Star awards. He was also recognized as the senior boy’s track and field MVP for the second consecutive year and the Truro Sports Heritage Society Outstanding High School Team Award.

“After seeing Mike dominate the 200m at the 2014 NSSAF championships we knew we would be making a big push to get him in a Dal singlet,’ says Lehman. “Seeing his seamless ‎transition to being a provincial record holder in the 400m just confirms that he’s going to be very hard to beat in the long sprints.”

Originally from Cologne, Germany, the Truro, N.S. resident graduated with distinction and will be pursuing a degree in engineering while at Dalhousie.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with a very skilled and experienced track and field team,” says van der Poel. “I am looking forward to what lies ahead.”

“Bringing these three athletes in will immediately improve our sprints group under Mike Bawol and our new hurdles coach Andrew Conrad,” adds Lehman. “They’ll be joining AUS rookie of the year and 60m champion Josh Lunda to form what could be a lethal 4X200m team. They will have the opportunity to grow together as student-athletes and build the type of team chemistry that only the best relay teams have.”

As the AUS defending champions, the Tigers will look to repeat this season to win their 35th career AUS championship.

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