At 9:27 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 18, opening night of the University of Edmonton's Golden Bear Open track meet, the relay batons were missing. Dinos head coach Doug Lamont was confident that, once the batons turned up, the relay teams would put in strong performances. His confidence translated into domination by all four Dinos relay teams over the next 22 hours.
Following a number of individual events on opening night and the hunt for the batons, the women's 4x400 metre team demonstrated that their talent is not only on paper with a victory that elevated them to first place in the country. Tessa Gray, track and field co-captain and member of both the women's 4x400 metre and 4x200 metre teams felt that Fri. evening's race went well, but mused that it might have gone a little faster. She is confident about the team achieving their end goals.
"I think our 4x400 will be very competitive at CIS," said Gray. "To make the finals with our 4x200 and then medal with the 4x400, those would be our big goals."
The men's 4x400 metre team took to the track immediately after the women's race and proved that they too will be pushing for a strong placing at CIS finals come Mar. Team member Trent Ratzlaff felt that their win marked the strongest opener in that event in Dino's team history.
"Although we wanted to get the CIS standard, we were one second off," said Ratzlaff. "[I'm] pretty confident that we'll get standard and get a medal at CIS. We got silver last year and [are] hoping to improve on that."
Unlike the women's relay teams, which are both comprised of the same four athletes, only two of the men compete on both teams. The shorter length of the 4x200 metre not only pushes the athletes to run faster, but also makes the race much more technical.
"The handoffs make or break the performance," said relay team member Mike Saizew.
In the 4x400 metre event, the baton exchange is "open," meaning that the runner is watching their teammate as they pass the baton. In the much quicker 4x200 metre, though, it is a blind exchange, requiring the athletes to count steps to determine where to place themselves for a smooth exchange.
"The idea is that you count out how far away the person needs to be from you," said Ratzlaff. "Based on how fast the runner is going, you need to gauge when you start accelerating so that, by the time the other runner gets to you, you're going at full speed to make the exchange."
There is also a 4x800 metre team which, like its siblings, is projected to be a strong candidate to medal, but it will likely not compete until the CW conference final.
Relays typically take place at the end of the day, so team members have inevitably competed in individual events before it is time for the relay. This presents a challenge as the athletes must try their best to recuperate from earlier races. The late time of these races is an advantage because the rest of the track and field team is finished competing, allowing them to assemble and cheer on at the relays. Providing good motivation for the athletes, this certainly makes for a more electric spectacle.
The relays were not the only area in which Dinos excelled at the GBO.
"The way I was looking at it was that this was the first big test for the team," said Lamont. "The athletes are stepping up and we're getting some solid performances. We know that better is yet to come. I think that we have the potential of winning both men's and women's conference titles."