by Kirk Jessome
It’s hard to picture what a “nearly perfect” season would look like in track and field, but that is how head coach Rich Lehman has described it for the AUS champion men’s team.
After having graduated many of their athletes last season, the roster was small, on the young side, and lacking the national championship experience of previous teams; but it didn’t show over the course of the year.
Coming off of his national bronze medal finish last season, Mike Van Der Poel looked strong in the 300m all season long while holding the top ranking time in the country through much of the season.
Also running well all season long was Matthew Coolen in both the 60m and 60m hurdles, posting fast times early in the season to qualify for nationals.
An early meet in the year made Lehman realize the type of season they would need to keep their winning streak alive.
“We hosted a dual meet to go head to head with StFX, and the combined point total ended in a tie,” explains Lehman. “Even though the meet didn’t have every event, we still knew we would need to be on our game at the conference championships.”
The Tigers were on their game, and then some. With a team of just 16 athletes sent to the conference championship, they came away with 16 individual medals and medals in all three relays to help the Tigers claim their 16th banner in 17 years; nearly doubling the point total of the second place team.
Highlights of the championship included Audley Cummings setting a new AUS record in the heptathlon to go along with his first place finish in long jump. He was named the meet MVP in addition to earning field athlete of the year honours.
Van Der Poel also earned himself a spot at nationals sweeping the 60m and 300m sprints.
Moving on to the U SPORTS nationals, the Tigers once again had a fantastic showing, highlighted by Coolen becoming the national champion in the 60m sprint. Coolen also followed up that performance with fourth-place finish in the 60m hurdles the next day, missing a second medal by 0.01 seconds.
The team also had point contributions from first-year athlete Hudson Grimshaw-Surette in the 600m and 1000m, Van Der Poel in the 300m, and Cummings in the heptathlon which added up to the group coming away with a ninth place finish.
“There weren’t many things that could have gone better for us in that meet,” says Lehman. “We were unranked all season and we were projected to score a third of the points that we actually did, so we couldn’t ask for much more.”
With all of the athletes who scored points at nationals returning next season, and many others finishing just outside point scoring placings, the Tigers look to continue to prove they belong amongst the best programs in the country.