As some of his runners lay in exhaustion just off the track, Guelph head coach Dave Scott-Thomas took stock in the Gryphons’ dominant men’s team championship at the 2017 U SPORTS Track and Field Championships, held at the University of Alberta’s Universiade Pavilion.
“They battled hard, man. You look at them and they’re wrecked,” he said surveying his spent fourth-place 4x400m men’s relay team. “It’s been three days of pushing their bodies to the limits. That’s what you want to see. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Guelph opened up an insurmountable lead on Friday and just cruised to the finish on the final day, finishing with 141 points. Windsor (68) and Laval (65.50) rounded out the team podium.
It’s the Gryphons’ sixth national title since 2008 and in that time they’ve only been out of the top three twice for both men and women.
“We were taking a run at the all-time scoring record and just came up short off the back end,” said Scott-Thomas, who was named Men’s U SPORTS Coach of the Year. “It just shows you how good that Windsor team was in 2011 that did that. Superb effort. I couldn’t be happier – (for the) women and the men.”
Guelph was led on Saturday by Thomas Land, who out-sprinted Victoria’s Tyler Smith to the line in a personal best time of 1:17.93 to win the men’s 600 metres.
“It was actually nice because I haven’t (set a personal best) since my first year of university,” said the fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student-athlete who won bronze a year ago.
Land, who also won a silver in the men’s 1000m, was named Male Athlete of the Meet.
Guelph’s women came into the final day just behind Toronto in the team standings, but the Varsity Blues stepped on the gas pedal and rolled to their thirdstraight championship with 119.50 points. Guelph was second with 82.83 and Western third (65).
“As you know, it isn’t just one who wins a team championship,” said Toronto head coach Carl Georgevski, who was named U SPORTS Women’s Coach of the Year. “Across the board, we scored in every area. It was just wonderful. I am so happy for our student-athletes and our coaching staff, who worked so hard to make this thing happen.”
Toronto’s star sisters – Gabriela and Lucia Stafford – combined for six medals to lead the way for the Varsity Blues. On Saturday, Gabriela beat her younger sister to the line in a 1-2 finish in the women’s 1500 metres, before Lucia helped Toronto claim the 4x400m women’s relay crown.
They’re the latest generation in the family to star for the Varsity Blues after dad Jamie Stafford was an OUA crosscountry and 1500m champion, while aunt and uncle Sarah Gardner and John Anthony Gardner also competed for Toronto.
“I’m happy that I rounded into form for the team and to be here with my sister is pretty special,” said Gabriela, who had a triumphant return from injury, also winning the women’s 3000m on Friday. “She definitely keeps me humble. I’m a little bit scared of her, but we’re a great team. I was so happy I was able to come out here and do this for the team.”
Lucia, who left the competition with three golds and a silver, was named Women’s Female Athlete of the Meet.
Toronto also found success on Saturday when Danielle Delage won the women’s high jump at 1.76m, ahead of Calgary’s champion pentathlete Niki Oudenaarden (1.73), who added a bronze to her collection later Saturday as part of the Dinos’ third-placed 4×400 relay team, which also included Jenna Westaway, Natalie McDougall and Megan Kretzer.
Westaway settled for bronze in the women’s 600m, an event she won a year ago, when Sherbrooke’s Maite Bouchard and Toronto’s Madeleine Kelly held court down the back stretch.
“It feels just awesome,” said Bouchard, who ran her fastest 600m ever in 1:29.23. “To have a (personal best) and to win the championship is a big accomplishment for me. I worked really hard this season and it ended up really well for me.”
Victoria’s Cole Peterson was the class of the men’s 1500m, winning in 3:50.86 ahead of Laval’s Antoine Thibeault and Windsor’s Corey Bellemore, who both finished in 3:51.40. For Peterson, who grew up in Edmonton and competed in his very first race at the Pavilion, also known as the Butterdome, it was a special moment.
“On a personal note, coming back to Edmonton is especially meaningful,” he said. “My very first race as a Vike was at this track a few days after my father died (in 2012). It was a really tough first year for me athletically as a result of that loss.”
“To come back here, I wanted to go home with two golds and that’s what I did,” he added after helping Victoria win the men’s 4x800m relay on Friday. “This race was largely for my family and all my teammates who’ve been my primary support system over my entire Vikes career.”
Lethbridge’s Peter Millman wrapped up his thirdstraight men’s shot put title with a final toss of 17.25m to edge out Sherbrooke’s Marc-Antoine Lafrenaye-Dugas (17.14) and then watched roommate and fellow Pronghorn Aaron Hernandez claim the men’s triple jump.
“It’s a nice way to finish off my U SPORTS career,” said Millman, who won two major awards prior to the championships: the U SPORTS Male Field Athlete of the Year and the Student-Athlete Community Service Award. “Marc-Antoine is a big competitor and he’s an amazing guy to throw with because he pushes you every time.”
Hernandez returned to the goldmedal position in men’s triple jump after settling for silver in 2016. He won golds in 2014 and 2015.
“This one is a big one, not only because it’s my third, but because I had something to prove. Coming second last year was the worst feeling ever, so I had that redemption in mind,” said Hernandez, who had patellar tendinitis in his left jumping leg and amazingly won, even after switching to his right in December.
“Watching him do this when he’s had a tough year with injury is just icing on the cake for the weekend,” said Millman, who wrapped his teammate in a bear hug afterward.
Host Alberta added two golds to its collection on the final day as Spencer Allen won the men’s pole vault (5.02m) before Carline Muir made up a ton of ground on the anchor leg to claim victory for the Pandas’ 4x200m relay team.
“It was a pretty deep field and had some strong jumpers, so I’m really happy I was able to keep things together today and jump the second-highest jump I’ve had.” said Allen, who improved from silver in 2016.
Olympian Muir, the women’s 300m champ a day earlier, teamed with Ashley Whiteman, Cassandra Grenke and Grace Werner to win the relay in 1:38.54 ahead of Western (1:38.77) and Laval (1:38.84).
“Relays are always fun for me and anyone,” she said, later adding a silver as part of Alberta’s 4x400m relay team, too. “You find a new form of energy with the atmosphere of the crowd cheering. It was just about running as fast as you can and get to that finish line.”
CHAMPIONSHIP AWARD WINNERS:
Outstanding Athlete of the Meet: Lucia Stafford, Toronto
Coach of the Year: Carl Georgevski, Toronto
Outstanding Athlete of the Meet (George Gemer Award): Thomas Land, Guelph
Coach of the Year (Bob Boucher Award): Dave Scott-Thomas, Guelph
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
1. Toronto, 119.50
2. Guelph, 86.83
3. Western, 73
5. Calgary, 58.33
6. Sherbrooke, 48
7. Windsor, 39
8. Laval, 27
9. Saskatchewan, 21
10. Trinity Western, 18.50
11. Manitoba, 18
11. Regina, 18
13. York, 15
14. Ottawa, 14
15. Queen’s 9
16. Victoria, 6
16. Waterloo, 6
18. Dalhousie, 5.83
19. McGill, 5
20. New Brunswick, 4
20. Carleton, 4
1. Guelph, 141 points
2. Windsor, 68
3. Laval, 65.50
4. Western, 45
5. Toronto, 44
6. Alberta, 36
7. Lethbridge, 29
8. Victoria, 28
9. Sherbrooke, 25
10. Waterloo, 24
11. Dalhousie, 23.50
12. Trinity Western, 21
13. Carleton, 19
14. Manitoba, 18
15. York, 14
16. Saskatchewan, 13
17. Regina, 11
18. McMaster, 10
19. Calgary, 9
20. Ottawa, 8
21. Montreal, 6
22. St. Francis Xavier, 3
INDIVIDUAL MEDALLISTS: DAY 3
Triple Jump (W)
1. Rebekah Eckert, Manitoba, 12.32
2. Jordan Bates, Guelph, 12.00
3. Vanessa Oliver, Guelph, 11.98
Pole Vault (M)
1. Spencer Allen, Alberta, 5.02
2. Chris Waugh, Windsor, 4.92
3. Telvin Tavernier, Carleton, 4.82
600 M (W)
1. Maite Bouchard, Sherbrooke, 1:29.23
2. Madeleine Kelly, Toronto, 1:29.83
3. Jenna Westaway, Calgary, 1:30.13
600 M (M)
1. Thomas Land, Guelph, 1:17.93
2. Tyler Smith, Victoria, 1:18.23
3. Triphon Moodie, Western, 1:18.51
4×200 M (W)
1. Alberta, 1:38.54
(Ashley Whiteman, Cassandra Grenke, Grace Werner, Carline Muir)
2. Western, 1:38.77
(Joy Spear Chief-Morris, Natalie Topp, Caroline Stricelj, Courtney Langille) 3. Laval, 1:38.84
(Marie-Colombe St-Pierre, Andréanne Frigon, Rose-Émilie Carrier, Charlie Dorval)
4×200 M (M)
1. Toronto, 1:28.06
(Rayshaun Franklin, Alexander Lau, Jack Berkshire, Charles Sutton)
2. Guelph, 1:28.16
(Kristian Benjamin, Kyle Thompson, Gregory MacNeill, Brandon Shirk)
3. Alberta, 1:28.34
(Thompson Weegar, Austin Cole, Cam Snider, Jonathan Allan)
High Jump (W)
1. Danielle Delage, Toronto. 1.76
2. Niki Oudenaarden, Calgary, 1.73
3. Geneviève Gagné, Laval, 1.70
Triple Jump (M)
1. Aaron Hernandez, Lethbridge, 15.22
2. Nick Fyffe, York, 15.10
3. Patrick Hanna, Montreal, 14.92
Shot Put 7.26 kg (M)
1. Peter Millman, Lethbridge, 17.25
2. Marc-Antoine Lafrenaye-Dugas, Sherbrooke, 17.14
3. Eli Pawliw, Windsor, 16.74
1500 M (W)
1. Gabriela Stafford, Toronto, 4:24.08
2. Lucia Stafford, Toronto, 4:25.57
3. Aurélie Dubé-Lavoie, Laval, 4:26.13
1500 M (M)
1. Cole Peterson, Victoria, 3:50.86
2. Antoine Thibeault, Laval, 3:51.40
3. Corey Bellemore, Windsor, 3:51.40
4×400 M (W)
1. Toronto, 3:45.03
(Jazz Shukla, Lucia Stafford, Madeleine Kelly, Katrina Innanen)
2. Alberta, 3:45.93
(Ashley Whiteman, Bailey Sallis, Nicole Soderberg, Carline Muir)
3. Calgary, 3:48.26
(Natalie McDougall, Niki Oudenaarden, Megan Kretzer, Jenna Westaway)
4×400 M (M)
1. Western, 3:17.54
(Jordan Mabbott, Mac Campbell, Triphon Moodie, Ramzi Abdulahi)
2. Alberta, 3:17.59
(Cam Snider, Matthew Van Mulligen, Emmanuel Vela, Austin Cole)
3. Toronto, 3:18.26
(Jack Berkshire, Charles Sutton, Rostam Turner, Rayshaun Franklin)