VICTORIA- The University of Victoria Vikes track team is preparing for a short but busy indoor season against some stiff competition across the western Canada and the entire nation.

With the Golden Bear Open in Edmonton already behind them, the Vikes have three more events scheduled before the Canada West Championships in Edmonton on Feb. 22-23 and then the U SPORTS National Championships in Winnipeg on Mar. 7-9.

“Our team will have a chance to break off some of the holiday rust before heading into our two major meets in the coming weeks,” said head coach Brent Fougner. “We had our first meet of 2019 last week in Edmonton and you can already see the athletes beginning to round into form.”

The Vikes captured a total of eight medals at last year’s Canada West Championships. The 2018 conference championships was highlighted by a pair of Vikes gold medals in both the men’s and women’s 4×800-metre relays, with the women setting a new conference record in 7:34.83. Vikes Alyssa Mousseau and Chloe Hewitt will return to defend the relay gold in 2019, while the men will welcome back three of the four members of last year’s relay team in Tim Longley, Max Serviss and Thomas Oxland.

“Our major focus heading into these meets is the 4×800-metre relay which traditionally we have always done well in this event,” said Fougner. “We have found that if we focus on this event it translates into individual success in other events.”

“It is our goal to have any many of our athletes at their peak for the Canada West championships in hope we can have several athletes ready to compete for a medal at the U SPORTS National Championships in early March,” added assistant coach and former Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff.

With many of the Vikes runners having competed and trained outdoors all fall for the cross-country portion of the schedule, the Vikes will now adjust their training regiment to help bring their athletes to peak performance for this indoor season.

“Most of our athletes are all training during the cross country season regardless of what their speciality races are,” added Stellingwerff. “We begin to get focused on preparing our athletes for their specific track events starting in December.”

“We are at a bit of a disadvantage not having the opportunity to train on an indoor track compared the majority of the prairie school who spend most of their time training inside,” described Fougner, whose team trains outdoors at Centennial Stadium. “There is always an adjustment period as we transition from the cross country into the indoor track season.”

Fourth-year Thomas Oxland is hopeful to defend his U SPORTS gold medal in the 1500-m. Oxland captured a silver medal at the 2018 Canada West to qualify for the national championships, where he won gold in 3:54.90. The humanities student was also part of the 4×800-metre relay team with Serviss, Longley and Tyler Smith that claimed a silver medal at nationals as well. Rookie Vaughn Taylor has shown early promise to post a threat to both medal and qualify for the 400-metre and 600-metre races at the Canada West championships.

Third-year Vike Alyssa Mousseau will be the runner to watch on the women’s side. The Nanaimo native earned a silver medal at the 2018 Canada West championships in the 600-metre event and was a member of the 4×800-metre relay team comprised of Vanessa Sjoberg, Chloe Hewitt and Caroline Harrell who finished fifth at nationals in Windsor, Ont. last year.

“Alyssa had a break through indoor season last year and followed that up with a strong outdoor season this fall,” noted Fougner of the women’s talents. “Chloe Hewitt had a strong performance in the 1500-metre over the summer as well. We have several strong middle distance women who will make up a strong relay team if we can get them all healthy at the same time.”

The Vikes will travel to Winnipeg as a team for the Bison Classic on Feb.1-2 for the final big meet to ready themselves for the conference and national competitions. The team will wrap up preparations when they compete in Kamloops at the Gary Reed Open, Feb. 8-9.

The Vikes will travel to Winnipeg as a team for the Bison Classic on Feb.1-2 and to Kamloops for the Gary Reed open, Feb. 8-9 to wrap up their preparations for the conference and national championships.