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Never was a big hurdler.

Never was a big hurdler.

Cougars athletes finish strong in CIS championships

Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer

The U of R track and field team headed to Edmonton for the CIS championships Mar. 6-8, and after their successful showing at the Canada West championships two weeks prior the team had big expectations.

In his final year as a Cougar, Jeremy Eckert was looking to continue on his high from his Canada West performance.

His competition going into CIS did not look too steep, but Eckert admitted in the last couple weeks a lot of the men were starting to climb the ranks.

However, breaking the 1979 Canada West record with a 2.16 jump and securing himself his fifth-consecutive Canada West gold in high jump, Eckert was feeling confident going into his final CIS meet.

“It’s bittersweet for sure,” he said. “But it’s exciting I had some really good jumps at Canada West.”

Teammate Connor MacDonald was sitting at third in high jump going into the CIS championships, and Eckert was tied in first place with Branden Wilhelm from University of Windsor.

“I am always a nervous jumper,” admitted Eckert. “Me and Branden have taken turns beating each other out at different meets. So it’ll be fun.”

In the end, Eckert was able to take his second consecutive gold medal with a 2.10 metre jump. Wilhelm placed second while MacDonald came in third with 2.07.

This year the men’s track and field team won their third Canada West banner in school’s program history.

Fellow Cougar Tait Nystuen also had a stellar Canada West performance during the 4×400 relay. With his team sitting in fourth place going into the anchor leg of the run, Nystuen admitted it was a nervous feeling.

“When you get the baton and the closest athlete in front of you is still quite a ways away its kind of hard not to panic,” he said.

But instead of overreacting Nystuen played it smart and used his speed to bring his team up two spots and secure them the silver.

The fourth-year athlete made his fourth-consecutive appearance at the CIS championships. He knows for some of the rookies and first-time CIS competitors it may be intimidating going and competing.

“People sometimes want to try harder but you just got to stick to your guns,” offered the former CIS bronze medalist.

Before the team headed off to Edmonton for the championships, Nystuen said a top six or seven place finish would be a good performance for the team.

“We’re going to play upset,” said Nystuen.

The men’s team ended with a sixth place finish.

On the women’s side, Joy Becker topped the U of R squad with a second place finish in the long jump and obtaining her first ever CIS medal. Merissa Margetts placed eighth in the 60-metre hurdles, after falling in the Canada West finals.

Despite the fall, Margetts had a personal best at Canada West in the 60-metre dash with a time of 7.65 seconds, which captured her the bronze.

“It was kind of upsetting because I could have medaled there,” admitted Margetts, but she has kept a positive outlook on the experience. “I didn’t get hurt or anything. I did what I was suppose to do so I couldn’t be upset.”

At her fourth appearance in the CIS championships, Margetts had another successful individual showing, beating her school record with a 8.60 second run in the hurdle preliminaries.

Both Margetts and Nystuen were excited about going to Edmonton for the championships.

“It feels like a hometown advantage. The atmosphere is great, it’s a really nice track,” said Margetts. “All of our athletes are totally comfortable with that track…its nice to go somewhere where you are comfortable with,” added Nystuen.

Head Coach Bruce McCannel was also excited for the Edmonton advantage.

“I think that is a really comforting thing going into a meet knowing you shouldn’t have any surprises, facility wise,” he said. “Edmonton has a very fast track and it’s an excellent facility to compete at. It has been responsible for some really great performances from our team.”

McCannel was impressed with the level of excitement from his team going into the championship.

“When all the athletes are excited like that it’s great from my perspective as a coach because I want to see them excited and see them ready to go and then I look forward to them producing results,” McCannel said.

Fifth-year athlete Chris Pickering added a silver medal in his final competition as a Cougar with a 17.60 metre throw in the shot put. Both Ahmed Alkabary in long jump and Tevaughn Campbell in the 60-metre dashed placed fifth. And Nystuen and the 4×200 metre relay team placed seventh.

And with that, the Cougars will hang up their cleats as their summer begins now.

Image: Arthur Ward

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