VICTORIA- The University of Victoria track teams are set to take on the best from the west this weekend at the Canada West Track and Field Championship hosted on Feb. 22-23 in Edmonton.
A short indoor track season for 2019 has seen the Vikes compete in the Golden Bear Open, the Bison Classic and the Gary Reed Open. These have been the only meets the track team has had to make sure they hit the ground running in time for this weekend’s conference championships and the U SPORTS National championships hosted Mar. 7-9 in Winnipeg.
The Vikes won eight medals at the 2018 Canada West Championships. The championship 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.
“Our major focus heading into these meet leading up to the Canada West competition was the 4×800-metre relay, which traditionally we have always performed well in,” said Fougner. “We have found that if we focus on this event it translates into individual success in other events.”
Tim Longley will be the only Vike to return from either of the relay teams who won gold last year.
“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 Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff.
With many of the Vikes having competed and trained outdoors for the fall cross country season, 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 (track) races are,” added Stellingwerff. “We begin to get focused on preparing our athletes for their specific track events starting in December.”
The Vikes train outdoors year round at Centennial Stadium compared to the majority of the prairie schools who do most of their training indoors.
“We are at a bit of a disadvantage not having the opportunity to train in an indoor facility,” described Fougner.”There is always an adjustment period as we transition from the cross country into the indoor track season.”
The Vikes will be without fourth-year Thomas Oxland as he is recovering from injury in hopes of defending his U SPORTS 1500-m gold medal. Oxland captured a 2018 Canada West silver medal and then went on to win gold in 3:54.90. The humanities student was also part of the 4×800-m relay team with Serviss, Longley and the now graduated Tyler Smith that claimed a silver medal at nationals as well.
Also battling the injury bug is third-year Vike Alyssa Mousseau. The Nanaimo native earned a silver medal at the 2018 Canada West championships in the 600-m event and was a member of the 4×800-m relay team comprised of Vanessa Sjoberg, Chloe Hewitt and Caroline Harrell who finished fifth at nationals in Windsor, Ont. last season.
With two medal hopefuls out of the running the Vikes are looking for strong performances from rookies Vaughn Taylor and Caitlin Mann. Taylor has shown early promise to pose a threat to medal in both the 400-metre and 600-metre races at the Canada West championships while Mann is believed to have a shot at a medal in the women’s 3000-m event.
“We have added a few more rookies to our roster for this weekend to give them a chance to show themselves and gain experience in tactical championship racing, which is quite different from the regular season racing that is more focused on times,” explained Stellingwerff.
Josh Kozelj, Jonny Toombs and Timothy Longley each have shown podium qualities ahead of this weekend. Kozelj earned gold in the 3000-m at the Bison Classic on Feb. 2, while teammate Toombs came in just behind him to capture bronze. At the Vikes’ first indoor event of 2018, the Golden Bear Open, Longley finished third in the men’s 1000-m and also helped the men’s 4×800-m relay team to a third place finish.
The Canada West Track and Field Championships begin Feb. 22 and conclude on Feb. 23. You can watch the event live on canadawest.tv.
Vikes Canada West Roster
Gabe Van Hezewijk
Friday Feb. 22: 1000-m, 3000-m, 300-m, 4×800 Relay
Saturday Feb. 23: 600-m, 60-m, 1500-m, 4×200 Relay, 4×400 Relay