By Kirk Jessome
After claiming their 17th AUS championship banner in the last 18 seasons last year, the men’s track and field team’s goal was to continue their winning streak straight through to the U SPORTS national championship.
A core group of local sprinters, three of whom posted top-five times in the country, led the way for the Tigers.
Matthew Coolen went undefeated all season long, running the best 60m dash time in Canada clocking in at 6.80s at the McGill Team Challenge. Teammate Josh Lunda was close behind, posting a time of 6.87s to earn a third-place ranking heading into the championship season. Rounding out the trio of sprint national auto-qualifiers was Mike van der Poel, whose time of 33.71s in the 300m was the fourth-best time in the country ahead of the Atlantic conference championship.
Second-year middle-distance runner Hudson Grimshaw-Surette also had an outstanding season, auto-qualifying for the national championships at the SMU Open with a very fast time of 2:23.54 in the 1000m.
The final national qualifier for the men’s team was shot putter Andre Hendricks, whose throw of 15.12m seeded him ninth in the country in that event.
Their performances helped keep the men’s team in the U SPORTS Top 10 all season long, ranking as high as fifth nationally.
The Tigers continued to dominate in the sprints at the AUS championships, highlighted by a Coolen-led podium-sweep in the 60m. Great performances by jumpers Anthony Cormier and Kaelan Schmidt added to the Tigers point totals, but second-place finishes in all three relays made winning the team’s 18th championship banner more difficult than anticipated.
It came down to the 4x400m relay, with the Tigers needing a win over UNB to maintain their lead. A gritty second-place finish by the team of Lunda, van der Poel, Grimshaw-Surette and Noah James did just that, securing their fifth-consecutive AUS championship title.
Coolen continued his outstanding season at the U SPORTS championships, posting an incredible time of 6.75s to successfully defend his national title in the 60m. In the same final, Lunda earned points for the Tigers with a seventh-place finish.
“What he (Coolen) did at that meet was special,” says head coach Rich Lehman. “To win one championship is impressive, but to come back and defend it the next year is a much more impressive accomplishment.”
The next day, Coolen earned his second medal of the meet in the 60m hurdles, posting a personal-best time of 8.04s to earn a silver medal.
Van der Poel also had a great race in the 300m, finishing sixth in the fastest final in Canadian history. Finishing just outside of point scoring positions were Andre Hendricks (shot put) and Hudson Grimshaw-Surette (1000m), who finished in 11th and 12th respectively, helping the Tigers finish 10th at the national championship.
With most of the roster returning next season, and some talented recruits set to join the, the Tigers will are primed to continue to shine on the national stage.