Track on podium seven times

“Clearly the best team since the 1980s,” head coach says

Queen’s track and field had great expectations for medals going into last weekend’s OUA championships in Windsor, with a star-studded roster that included many medal hopefuls. However, Queen’s knew it was in for some intense competition, since the Gaels were expected to battle for the number three through six spots.

This prediction proved to be correct, since at one point, there were only 1.5 points separating Toronto, Queen’s, Waterloo and York. Going into the final event, the 4×400 metre relay, the Queen’s men were tied with Toronto at 53 points.

However, Toronto got the bronze and Queen’s followed with a fourth-place finish, a one-point difference that resulted in Queen’s finishing behind Toronto in fifth place overall.

Team members said that even though it was heartbreaking to come so close to overtaking Toronto, they are still happy with their fifth-place standing in both the men’s and women’s categories. While the men finished in the same spot last season, the women improved, jumping one spot from sixth.

The team also brought seven medals (three silver and four bronze), seven top-10 performances and 25 personal bests back to Kingston.

The silver medal performances include Bill Woods, who jumped 14.50 metres in triple jump. Woods’ second place finish earned him OUA All-Star honours, which automatically qualifies him for the CIS championships March 9-11 in Saskatoon. With a stellar season under his belt, Bill will be entering the CIS championships ranked fourth in Canada. The other silver medal performances include the women’s 4×400-metre relay, who raced to second place with a 3:54.24 finish. The team includes Jan Stirling, Celia Peters, Calla Humphries and Joanna Stanisz. Their great effort has given them four tickets to the CIS meet.

The other silver medal was awarded to the men’s 4×800-metre relay, which included runners Scott Nelms, Kevin Dunbar, Justin Hall and Braden Novakowski.

Bronze-medal performances included long-jumper Jon Martin, who jumped an impressive 7.09 metres. In the 600-metre sprints, Celia Peters raced to third in 1:34:84. Finally, Lance Mukoru took the bronze with a 1.97-metre leap in high jump, while Novakowski took the 1,500 metres in 3:52.90.

Sprinter Dupe Oyewumi claimed one of Queen’s seven top-10 performances in Windsor with a personal-best time of 8.03 seconds in the 60-metre event. That time put her in the semifinals, where she tied a York runner and wound up in a run-off for the last spot in the final. Oyewumi lost the runoff, missing the final by 0.01 seconds. Still, she said it was a great experience.

Coach Melody Torcolacci told the Journal the team was very upbeat after its performance in Windsor.

“Our team came out with outstanding performances, really producing,” Torcolacci said. “With regards to our relay teams, the women’s 4×400-metre ran extremely well and the men’s 4×800-metre team ended it off with a big bang.” She added she was also optimistic about Saskatoon, and with 20 athletes going into the competition, she knows her athletes will give it their all.

“I know we will give our best in Saskatoon, and I just have to keep the athletes sharp for [the CIS championships]. I’m very proud of this team, and I don’t think people can appreciate how good we are historically—clearly the best team since the 1980s”.

Humphries, of the women’s 4×400-metre relay, said she was very enthusiastic about the outcome at Windsor.

“There was so much heart on the track, and we battled all the way to the line,” she said.

Looking ahead to Saskatoon, Humphries said she was well aware of the high calibre of athletes that would be attending the meet from all across Canada. However, despite the pressure of competing in such a tough meet, she was quick to credit her coach for keeping the team relaxed.

“[Torcolacci] has always told us to enjoy the experience, showing how she can be a very empowering coach.”

Stanisz also said she was pleased with Windsor.

“I think that overall we as a team were successful in what we set out to do. There were some upsets and injuries, but for the most part I think that people were satisfied with their performances.” Stanisz said she was excited about representing Queen’s in Saskatoon.

“The CIS meet in Saskatoon should be intense. The competition will be tough, but because the times are so close, anything can happen,” she said. “Hopefully, we can turn in some more [personal-best] performances. Either way, I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

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