Going out on a high note
Chelsea Valois saved her best for last.
Competing at the Canadian Interuniversity Sports track and field championships in Sherbrooke, Que., last weekend, the final competition of her university career, the University of Regina Cougars athlete finally took home a national gold medal. She finished first in women’s pentathlon with 3,778 points.
“It was really exciting,” said Valois, a 23-year-old science student from Zenon Park. “I couldn’t ask for a better way to end my final year. I am really happy about it. I worked really hard and I knew I had a chance. I wasn’t going to be disappointed if I got silver … well, I would have been a little disappointed.”
In finishing first, Valois also delivered a bit of payback. At the Canada West Championships in Winnipeg in February, she finished second in pentathlon behind Calgary Dinos athlete Rachael McIntosh. Going into the 800-metre event at that meet, the final event of women’s pentathlon, Valois boasted a sizeable lead over McIntosh. However, McIntosh won the 800m and Valois came in fourth, allowing McIntosh to make up the necessary points and win.
Heading into the 800m at national this year, Valois was beating McIntosh by over 150 points. McIntosh finished first in the event, while Valois placed ninth. While McIntosh was able to make up a lot of ground by winning the event, she still had to settle for second with 3,760 points. Luckily, Valois didn’t have to finally master the 800m to win the pentathlon. “Thankfully, I was able to stay ahead,” said Valois with a laugh.
One of the reasons she was able to stay ahead was because of her performance in the other events. She placed first in shot put and earned second-place finishes in the 60m hurdles, high jump and long jump.
“I was confident that I could maintain my lead heading into the final event because I did so well in my other events,” said Valois. “I wasn’t really nervous or stressed out. I was just able to run my race.”
Valois was able to “run [her] race” at nationals largely because she was healthy. She missed the major championships last season due to a right heel injury.
“It was a boost to me not having to worry about injury,” said Valois. “I took maybe a couple Ibuprofens and I was good.”
It was Valois’ only medal of the meet. She placed 11th in long jump. Merissa Margetts was the other Cougar on the women’s side to take home a medal, finishing third in the 300m. She also placed sixth in the 60m. Chantelle Labrecque finished 10th in the shot put and the women’s 4x400m relay team was tenth, while Nicole Breker (triple jump) and Shalane Haselhan (high jump) earned 11th-place finishes. Regina finished 12th with 19 points in the women’s division. The Windsor Lancers won the women’s title with 151.50 points.
“We had only nine girls, so we weren’t expecting to make top five,” said Valois of the women’s team. “Most of the girls improved on their performances from the past. Other teams send 20 or 30 athletes, so they have more potential to medal.
“I’ve seen a couple of rookies on this team who’ve show that they have the potential and the drive to succeed.”
On the men’s side for the Cougars, Jeremy Eckert had a lot to smile about. Eckert was named the CIS field athlete of the year, picked up a silver medal in the pentathlon and finished fourth in high jump.
Eckert’s lone medal of the meet was not easy to come by.
After finishing seventh in the 60m hurdles (the first event in pentathlon), Eckert injured his heel during the long jump (the second event). Yet, he recovered for a second-place finish and proceeded to finish eighth in shot put, first in high jump, and sixth in the 1000m. At 3,618 points, Eckert did not finish too far behind Alberta Golden Bears athlete Stephen McPhee (3,661).
The other medal winners for the Cougar men were David Walford with a silver in triple jump and Connor MacDonald with a bronze in high jump. For Regina, the men’s 4X200m relay team finished third, Mason Foote was fourth in the 60m, Tait Nystuen earned a fourth-place finish in the 600m, Chris Pickering came in fifth in shot put and Michael Barber finished sixth in the pentathlon.
The men’s team finished third. Windsor finished first with 138 points.
“All the coaches are absolutely ecstatic with how the guys did this weekend,” Cougars head coach Bruce McCannel wrote in a statement on reginacougars.com. “To only have eight athletes here and finish as high as we did is a testament to their drive and how hard they’ve worked all season long.”