Mixed results at nationals

The Gaels came back empty-handed from the CIS Track and Field Championship in Sherbrooke even after solid performances from the veteran runners

The track and field team ended their season with some mixed results at the CIS Championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec last weekend. The results may seem underwhelming on paper, but the Gaels produced some strong performances in spite of a very competitive environment.

The men’s team finished 16th overall in the standings. The 4x200m relay team, consisting of Stephen Dunlop, Gord Frenke, Mat Stiver-Balla and Shane Kelly ran a time of 1:36.95, finishing in sixth place. Matt Hulse also ran to a sixth place finish in the men’s 1500m, crossing the line with a time of 3:51.51.

The men’s 4x400m relay team, made up of Frenke, Stiver-Balla, Kelly and Michael Nishiyama, also wound up in sixth. They were ranked first before the weekend but finished in 3:21:09, almost three seconds behind the school-record time.

Hulse said that luck didn’t seem to be with the Gaels in many of the men’s races.

“In the 1500, I ran fairly well, but I didn’t quite have the legs at the end of the race,” he said. I’ve been struggling with injury, so I’ve been set back in training.”

As for the team in general, I thought we were good, but we just didn’t get the bounces today. The 4x200m boys suffered from a strange call from an official, and it just didn’t quite work out for the 4x400m team. Overall, we can’t be upset, but we know we could have done better.” On the women’s side, OUA bronze medallist Leah Larocque finished eighth in the 3000m, with a time of 10:04:55.

Larocque said that she was quite happy with that result.

“It wasn’t a fantastic time, but in terms of how that race went and how I finished, I’m very satisfied,” she said. “I went in ranked ninth, and came out ranked eighth, so I’m really happy.”

Although the team didn’t come back with any record times or medals, Larocque said these results must be understood in the context of the event; surrounded by a higher level of competition, expectations change.

“The team ran very well, but these were all very hard races,” she said. “In these events, you’re running for a place rather than for a fast time. It’s far more strategic, and it’s about getting a good position. Naturally, you’re up against the best of the best.”

This weekend marked the end of Melody Torcalocci’s 23-year reign as head coach of the track and field program. Over her career, Torcalocci oversaw 39 CIS medals and had a lasting impact on hundreds of athletes.

Larocque took some time to discuss her favourite memories of Torcalocci.

“Mel was present at every competition, cheering everybody on, whatever the event,” she said. “She always had a huge black binder, with every athlete’s statistics and personal bests. After every meet, she would send out race summaries, elaborating on every athlete’s performance.”

Hulse and Larocque said they have benefited greatly from her knowledge as a coach, and from her attitude as a friend.

“We are all sad that Mel is leaving,” Larocque said. “But I’m mostly just happy to have spent my four years with her.” Hulse elaborated on the significance that Torcalocci has exerted on the program.

“Mel was a permanent fixture in the program, and she has been the heart and soul of the team,” he said. “She always tried to draw the best out of any athlete, no matter who they were. Not many coaches have that enthusiasm, and that commitment to success. She will definitely be missed.”

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