by Duncan Forbes
The Tigers men’s track and field team came into this season with something to prove. After dominating AUS competition for over a decade, they failed to win the AUS championship last year for the first time since 2001.
But to head coach Rich Lehman, losing the championship was almost a wake-up call to a team that had begun to take things for granted.
“Losing last year ended up being one of the best things that could have happened to our men’s program. We had gotten into some bad habits, like looking past our conference championship to nationals,” says Lehman. “The process to reclaim the title started on the bus ride home last year and by the time we got to AU’s this year, the guys were incredibly fired up. Right from the first event you knew nobody was going to beat us that weekend. They were all business the whole meet.”
The first meet of the year was the Tiger Track Classic in November where Josh Lunda, Adam Lewis, Shiloh Johnson, Jordan Bruce and Chas Smith all won their respective events. In January, Lunda, Jordan, Smith, Pookiel McCabe, Matt McNeil and Audley Cummings found the top of the podium at the ANS Open, while Devin Errington and Stephen Belyea had victories at the Moncton Open that same weekend.
At the McGill Team Challenge in late January, the Tigers made their mark, finishing fifth overall, first among AUS competing teams. Jordan Bruce led all Tigers finishers with a first-place in the triple jump.
The Saint Mary’s Open in February was the last meet before the AUS championships. The Tigers had eight first place finishes in the meet and turned their sights on an AUS banner.
The Tigers let the AUS know that they were still a force to be reckoned with, beating the next closest team by more than 50 points. The Tigers found themselves atop the podium in 20 individual events, finishing with 148.5 points.
Jordan Bruce was named the field athlete of the year, while Joshua Lunda was named the AUS rookie of the year. Chas Smith was named the athlete of the meet at the AUS championship, while Lehman was named the AUS coach of the year.
The Tigers broke many AUS records this year, but one of the team’s biggest strengths was their depth and the fact that different athletes were stepping up to the plate.
“We had a few happy surprises this year,” notes Lehman. “Isaac Norman went from being good to very good in a short period of time and ended up winning a medal in the 300m and contributing to a new Dal record in the 4x200m. Shiloh Johnson was another one, a walk-on rookie who was a key member of our AUS record breaking 4x400m relay team. We have big plans for him in the future!”
At the CIS championships in Windsor, the Tigers had their best meet of the year, improving on last year’s 15th place team finish by coming in 12th. Jordan Bruce claimed silver in the triple jump while Chas Smith grabbed the bronze. Devin Errington also came home with a bronze medal in the high jump.
Lehman says the team’s focus and leadership was a key contributing factor to their success this season.
“The men were an extremely focused group all year,” says Lehman. “They knew that they had a job to do and that the title (AUS) wasn’t going to be handed to them. In my admittedly short career as a coach, I’ve never seen a group come together as a team as quickly as this one.”