by Kirk Jessome
With the SMU Open in the books, the stage is set for the men’s and women’s track and field teams to defend their incredible run of AUS championship winning seasons next weekend.
The men’s roster is highlighted by a core group of home-grown sprinters, three of which currently have top five times in the country.
Matthew Coolen currently has the best time in Canada in the 60m dash after running 6.80s at the McGill Team Challenge in January. Close behind him in the same heat was Josh Lunda, who ran a 6.87, which is ranked third in the country. Rounding out the trio of national auto-qualifiers is Mike van der Poel, who’s 33.71s time in the 300m was good for the fourth best time in the country going into the conference championship.
Also having a standout performance on the track is sophomore Hudson Grimshaw-Surette, who auto-qualified for the U SPORTS national championship at the SMU Open this past weekend with a time of 2:23.54 in the 1000m.
Rounding out the national rankings for the men’s team is shot putter Andre Hendricks, whose best throw of 15.12m has him ranked ninth in the country going into the conference championship as the only field event athlete from the AUS ranked in the top 10.
The combination of these event groups has left the men’s track and field team ranked in the U SPORTS top 10 all season long with a top ranking of fifth place so far this season. The Tigers have come away with the AUS banner in 16 of the last 17 seasons, and with a very strong group, they look ready to add another to the collection.
The women’s team has talent spread across all event groups, once again led by a 60m runner. Maya Reynolds has been impressive, and consistent for the Tigers this year, running a fifth ranked time between 7.62 and 7.63 four times so far this season.
Coming off of a very strong cross country season, Savanna Jordan has posted top 12 times in both the 1500m and the 3000m events going into the conference championship. Sitting just outside of a point scoring position, a good race from Jordan could make the difference in the national rankings.
Holding the top spot for the Tigers women’s team all season long was weight thrower Temi Toba-Oluboka, who made a statement early in the season with a throw of 16.22m, which was nearly a three-metre improvement from last year. Toba-Oluboka has been ranked in the top five since early January.
There is plenty of top end, individual talent for both Tigers teams, but a championship team requires depth. Looking to make it 30 wins in a row for the women’s team, the Tigers will need contributions from every event group if they are to be successful in a tough AUS conference and continue their winning streak.
The title defence for both teams will get underway on February 22nd, hosted by l‘Université de Moncton.