Despite going into the meet 23 points behind the leading University of Manitoba Bisons, the University of Calgary Dinos men's track and field team put in a strong performance and closed the gap to only three points to place second at the Canada West championships in Saskatoon on Feb. 23.
The meet was extremely close, coming down to the final race--the 4x800 metre relay--to decide the victor. Unfortunately for the Dinos, they came second to Victoria with Manitoba placing third. Had they won the race and Manitoba finished third, they would have won the meet.
"Really good [team performance] actually," said head coach Doug Lamont. "We fought hard."
The last event grasp for gold was set up in part by strong performances throughout the competition. Both Sam Effah and Trent Ratzlaf won individual gold, in the 60 metre and 300 metre, and the 600 metre, respectively. Mike Saizew garnered silver in the 600 metre and Geoff Kerr took the bronze in the 3,000 metre. The 4x200 metre relay and the 4x400 metre relay also won gold. The 4x800 metre got silver. Effah was named the Canada West male track athlete of the year.
"It wasn't my best race, but I was happy to win all three titles," said Effah. "It was an improvement over last year. I'm going in [to CIS] as number one in the 60 metre. Last year I went in as seventh, so I am excited."
The Dinos will likely take 24 athletes to compete in the CIS championships in Montreal Mar. 6-8. They are ranked third entering the competition, the top seed from Canada West.
"The CIS is a different kettle of fish because the points are spread over more schools," said Lamont. "Obviously, we need our top performers to turn in good performances."
For the fourth consecutive year, the Dino women's track and field team brought back the gold from the Canada West track and field championships, held in Saskatoon Feb. 22-23. Led by a trio of triple-gold medallists, the Dinos triumphed over the second-place University of Saskatchewan Huskies by 38.5 points, a greater margin than expected.
Second-year Amonn Nelson, who earned the title of female track athlete of the year, raced her way to first place in the 60 metre and the 300 metre competitions and scored another gold as a member of the 4x200 metre relay team. Holly Ratzlaff pulled in points for the team with gold in the 600 metre race and gold again in the 200 and 400 metre relays. Heather Sim, a veteran on the team, placed first in the 1000 metre and 1500 metre individually and was a member of the gold-medallist 4x800 metre relay team.
"I felt confident going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised with my results," says Sim, who has also been training for the upcoming International University Sports Federation world university championships in Paris. "Everyone [on the team] did what they needed to do, they did what they had been doing and many exceeded expectations."
Head coach Doug Lamont, who won the title of women's coach of the year, was pleased with the results.
"Basically, all the girls performed at their best or better," he said. "As for CIS, they don't have to do anything special. They just have to do the same thing as what got them there."
In terms of the depth of the group, Coach Mike Van Tighem was also pleased.
"Any time you get five out of six relay teams winning gold medals, that really builds the energy of the whole team," he said.
The upcoming week for the CIS-bound women involves a program of recovery, light training through the weekend and tapering for the competition in Montreal.