Defending champion Gryphons look to race their way to repeat success at 2018 championships

Defending champion Gryphons look to race their way to repeat success at 2018 championships

BURLINGTON, Ont. - The province’s best track and field athletes will convene at the University of Windsor this weekend, as athletes will look to run, jump, and throw their way to glory at the 2018 OUA Track & Field Championships.

Details surrounding the upcoming championships can be found in the 2018 Track & Field Championships Fan Guide.

As the No. 1 ranked team in the country, the Guelph Gryphons’ men are looking to defend their banner from a year ago. To go along with their historical OUA and U SPORTS cross country dominance, the Gryphons have been crowned OUA champions three times in program history.

Leading the way for the Gryphs are Sean Cate (Georgetown, Ont.) in the high jump and Mark Bujnowski (Mount Brydges, Ont.) in shot put, both of whom are ranked No. 1 in the country in their respective events. Cate goes into the championship looking for his 4th OUA gold medal, while Bujnowski seeks his first taste of victory in what is turning out to be an exceptional rookie campaign.

Tommy Land (Turkey Point, Ont.) will be sure to wreak havoc on the track, as the reigning Performer of the Meet at the U SPORTS Championship last year will look to defend his OUA title in the 600m. Land comes into the competition ranked No. 2 in the nation in both the 600m and 1000m events, making him a heavy medal favourite once again.

Winners of the Waterloo Trophy in four of the past five years, the Guelph Gryphons women’s team will surely enter the provincial finale with a chip on their shoulder as the No. 2 ranked team in the country.

For the Gryphons, it begins on the track with Shyvonne Roxborough (Ottawa, Ont.), who comes in as the reigning OUA gold medallist in the 60m and 4x200m relay. Roxborough, who is only in her second year of eligibility, leads the nation in the 60m again this year and looks to repeat as champion again. Two years after missing out on the podium, meanwhile, Sarah Hammond (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) found herself out-dipped on the line and settled for second at last year’s OUA championship. This year, the Gryphons’ captain only has her sights set on gold; ranked No. 1 in the nation in the 60m hurdles, Hammond’s time is now.

Equally as strong in the field as they are on the track, Guelph will look to Jordan Bates (Toronto, Ont.) again, who has established herself as the best triple jumper this year. Having gone undefeated in all competitions this season, the No. 1 nationally ranked triple jumper is looking to defend her OUA title from a year ago.

The only team ranked above the Gryphons, meanwhile – the No. 1 nationally ranked Toronto Varsity Blues women’s team – will look to continue to assert their dominance on the track over the weekend, with the hopes of capturing that elusive Waterloo Trophy.

The Blues will do so behind the return of three OUA gold medallists from last season. Sophomore standouts Jazz Shukla (Toronto, Ont.) and Lucia Stafford (Toronto, Ont.) will look to defend their 600m and 1000m titles, respectively, while third-year sprinter Katrina Innanen (Scarborough, Ont.) will be competing for her second straight 300m gold medal.

Sasha Gollish (Toronto, Ont.) returns for her fifth and final year of eligibility and is set to run distance events. The PhD candidate in engineering education last competed at the OUA championship in 2014-15, where she earned Most Valuable Performer honours, so she is no stranger to success on the province’s biggest stage.

The Blues also won both the 4x400 and 4x800 relays last season, with fifth-year standout Madeleine Kelly (Pembrooke, Ont.) leading both teams to victory. All four members of both squads will head to Windsor this weekend, as the Varsity Blues strive to keep their six-year streak intact in the 4x400 event and will be vying for their fifth straight 4x800 gold medal. 

Alexander Lau (Whitby, Ont.) leads the way for the Varsity Blues men’s team, coming into the championship as the fastest ranked 60m specialist in the nation. Lau looks to reach the podium for the first time in his career this weekend, and will have the opportunity to do so in both the sprint event and the pole vault. Jack Berkshire (Fredericton, N.B.) and Charlie Sutton (Guelph, Ont.) – the Blues lone returning gold medallists - round out Toronto’s medal hopes on the track, with the duo serving as half of U of T’s winning 4x400 relay team last season.

In the field, fourth-year veteran Ezana Debalkew (Markham, Ont.) will look to improve upon his 2017 bronze-medal performance in the weight throw. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in the event, and will strive to carry this momentum into the championship season.

The No. 3 nationally ranked Western Mustangs men’s team will head down the 401 hoping to capture their first banner since 1998.

A pair of reigning gold medallists in Ramzi Abdulahi (Toronto, Ont.) and Jack Sheffar (London, Ont.) will lead the way for the purple and white this weekend. Abdulahi, ranked 2nd in the country in the 300m, hopes to retain his OUA title in that event, while Sheffar – the Most Valuable Performer in 2017 – is looking to complete the double-double gold in the 1500m and 3000m races.

In the field, look no further than Jonathan Balogun (Edmonton, Ont.) to carry the torch for the Mustangs. Ranked 2nd in the country in long jump and 8th in triple jump, the third year jumper looks to improve on a silver medal performance in the triple last year to top the podium in the 2018 edition.

The Mustangs women’s team looks to improve upon a 2nd place finish at last year’s championships to capture their first OUA banner in 15 years. Reigning OUA champion in the 3000m, Kristina Popadich (Toronto, Ont.) should be a key contributor on the track, coming into the championship ranked 3rd in the nation in her event. She’ll also toe the line in the 1500 and 4x800m relay over the weekend.

Veterans Devyn Mackenzie (Oakville, Ont.) and Stephanie Shepard (Woodstock, Ont.) look to make their mark in high jump and shot put, respectively. The former, ranked 4th in her event, will hope to improve upon last year’s finish, as Mackenzie finished 8th overall. The latter, in her final season with the purple ponies, also plans to make this moment count, as the No. 2 ranked thrower looks to leave these championships with her first medal.

The host Windsor Lancers enter the OUA Championship as the No. 3 ranked women’s team in Canada. The Lancers are led by University of Miami transfer Kelsey Balkwill (Woodslee, Ont.), who’s ranked No. 1 in the 300m and 600m, as well as No. 5 in the 60m nationally. Earlier this season, the talented Balkwill qualified for the World Indoor Championships, as well, and will fly out the week following the OUA finale. Teammate Stefanie Smith (London, Ont.) will also be rocking the blue & gold on the track, currently ranked 4th in the nation in both the 1500m & 3000m. The cross-country all-star will look to these championships to capture her second medal on the track.

The Lancers also find themselves in a strong position in the field events, with Sarah Mitton (Brooklyn, NS.) and Rachel Wolfs (Southwold, Ont.) setting a high standard. Mitton looks to repeat as the shot put gold medallist and improve on a fourth place finish in the weight throw event. Despite coming into these championships ranked 1st in the nation in pole vault, meanwhile – with a Lancer record to boot – Wolfs finished 2nd the past two years; undoubtedly looking to take the crown in her final year of eligibility.

The Gryphons and Lancers men’s teams have alternated ownership of the Guthrie Trophy over the past six seasons, and entering the 2018 event, the Lancers will look to keep the pattern going to top the podium on Saturday evening.

With the loss of OUA record-holder Corey Bellemore, the Windsor men will be looking for leadership from fifth year veterans Jaiden Brown (Pickering, Ont.) and Brent Boersma (Camlachie, Ont.). Brown comes into the weekend ranked 3rd nationally in the 60m and hoping to capture his first individual medal, while Boersma will look to improve on a 3rd place finish in shot put from a year ago to capture his first individual OUA gold. Rookie Cole Hannam (Guelph, Ont.) has also been a spark for the Lancers - currently ranked 13th in the 1000m - and his teammates will be expecting big things in his first OUA championship at home. 

The York Lions men’s and women’s teams, who both finished in fifth in 2017, enter this year’s competition with the men ranked No. 5 in the country. The Lions will look to triple jumper Nick Fyffe (Vancouver, Ont.), and pole vaulter Samuel Adams (Glasgow, Scotland) to carry their quest for a podium, as Fyffe is the reigning three-time OUA champion, while Adams reached the podium for the first time in 2017 with a silver medal finish.

Kayden Johnson (Kerrobert, Sask.) will also be donning the red & white and will do so while ranking No. 1 in the country in the 60m hurdles. The football and track star placed second at last year’s championship in the heptathlon, and looks to hone his focus on just the hurdles with the hopes of earning a gold medal this time around.

On the women’s side, look no further than reigning OUA and U SPORTS long jump champion Holly Pitters (Mississauga, Ont.) to lead the pack. Pitters comes into the competition ranked 1st in the country in long jump, and with a personal best of 6.15m, Pitters will surely have her eyes on the OUA record (6.18m) at the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse.

Also familiar to the podium is Christy Ihunaegbo (East York, Ont.), who enters the championship ranked No. 2 nationally in the 300m. A former OUA bronze medallist in that event, Ihunaegbo will also be looking to break the 4x400 record of 3:42.21 that was set in 2013. Along with her teammates Courtney Dwyer (Ottawa, Ont.), Marvelous Agbonwanten (Windsor, Ont.), and Nicolette Witherspoon (Pickering, Ont.), they come in with a seed time of 3:43.88; just one second off the record-setting mark.

The Waterloo Warriors men’s team will be buoyed by Joerg Ahne (Merseburg, Germany) in the long jump after he finished 2nd in 2016 and 4th at last year’s championship. Ahne comes in as the top ranked U SPORTS athlete in the event and will look to translate that into his first individual gold. Paulo Miguel (Montréal, Que.) will also be a medal threat for the Warriors, and after a flurry of gold medal performances throughout the season, he currently sits at 4th in the national rankings in the 60m hurdles.

On the women’s side, Tegan Sauer (Kitchener, Ont.) may be the most likely the Waterloo to find the podium this weekend. After narrowly missing the podium last year with a 4th place finish in both the 60m and 4x200m relay races, Sauer looks to make her opportunities count this time around coming in ranked 3rd in the country in the 60m, racers will need to keep their eyes on the fifth-year sprinter looking to capitalize on her past experiences.

Stephen Evans (Ottawa, Ont.) has had a very strong season for the Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s team, improving his personal bests each week to now rank 6th nationally in the 600m with a time of 1:19.15. Evans was fifth in the 600m at the 2017 OUA Championship. On the women’s side, meanwhile, Gee-Gees sophomore Madison Clarke (St. Catharines, Ont.) faces a tough top three in the women’s 600m, but slots in 5th nationally in the 600m and will surely be within striking distance of the podium.

Rookie sensation Keira Christie-Galloway (Ottawa, Ont.) will be running in the women’s 60m hurdles. The Ottawa, Ont. native has established herself as a national up-and-comer after winning OFSAA and breaking high school records held by Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. She competed at the 2016 IAAF World Under-20 Championships, was a member of Canada’s bronze medal-winning 4x100m relay team at the Pan American Junior Championships in 2017, and will undoubtedly be one to watch this weekend.

With the loss of distance standout Jeff Tweedle, the McMaster Marauders will be fielding a smaller, but just as experienced team at this year’s provincial finale. On the men’s side, Sergio Raez Villanueva (Mississauga, Ont.), an All-Canadian in cross country in the fall, will be a point of focus for the Marauders. He’s currently ranked 7th in the country in the 3000m and 9th in the 1500m.

For the women, meanwhile, it will be the veteran duo of Emily Nowak (Mississauga, Ont.) and Erin Mawhinney (Burlington, Ont.) leading the way, with the former sitting 22nd in the country in the 1000m and the later ranking 28th in the 3000m.

Also stepping up to the start line will be the Laurier Golden Hawks, hoping to soar to new heights on the track. After finishing 2nd in the 1000m at the Don Wright Meet with a personal best time (2:59.60), Sydney Pattison (Rockwood, Ont.) should be a top performer once again in the distance, with a chance at a top ten finish. On the men’s side, Dan Hilbers (Port Elgin, Ont.) will be looking to move past his injury-riddled season and run to his impressive potential in both the 1500m and 3000m distances. Hilbers already showcased his ability when he took home top spot in the 1500m at the Sharon Anderson Meet, and he’ll look to mimic that success on the championship stage.

For the Lakehead Thunderwolves, OUA cross country female Rookie of the Year Rebekkah Pyle (Burlington, Ont.) – ranked 10th in the OUA in the 300m – continues to stand out, and will be looking to move up the rankings to make her mark this weekend. Derek Patterson (Thunder Bay, Ont.) is also a strong contender for the men’s team in the 3000m, having previously finished second at the Bison Classic.

Other teams competing this weekend are the Brock Badgers, Laurentian Voyageurs, Ryerson Rams, and Queen’s Gaels.

Kicking off the championships on Friday, February 23 will be the men’s weight throw event at 10:00am, with the men’s 4x400m closing the weekend out on Saturday, February 24 at 3:15 pm. Individual medal presentations and recognition of OUA All-Star achievements for all events will take place throughout the meet, while team trophies, banners, and championship medals will be presented following the final events on Saturday.