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U of R athletes make the transition from cross-country to track and field

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

With the cross-country season coming to a close, University of Regina athletes move indoors as track and field season gets underway.

Although no individual athletes made it to the podium at the CIS cross-country championships in early November, the men’s team placed third and the women’s team fourth, something Cougars cross-country and track and field head coach Bruce McCannel can be proud of.

“I’m very happy. I think they did really good; our guys finished right where they were ranked going in, which was good because it was quite a young team and everyone went to CIS and performed as well as they should have,” McCannel said. “On the girls’ side, they performed really well; they had quite an inexperienced team but they ended up tied for fourth with Manitoba and Alberta, which I was really happy about. It shows that even with a brand new team and being young, they are right there [and] competitive with the rest of CanWest.”

With outdoor running done for another, McCannel looks at the indoor season as another chance at the podium.

“Every year our goal is to be competitive in Canada West. We want to be top one or two in Canada West, be competitive at that level, and then you want to finish top ten at CIS, so that is our goal every season,” McCannel said. “We have a young team this year. We have a couple of veterans that are not competing and we have a lot of new people, so between all the second years and all the rookies that we got, [overall] we have a really young team.”

The track and field season officially got underway on Nov. 26 as the Cougars held an intersquad meet at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport and the Regina Fieldhouse. Although any finishes at the meet were not allowed to be used as CIS qualifiers like in past seasons, the meet served as a guide for what’s to come this season.

“We are just kind of seeing where the team was at,” McCannel said. “The meet started to give me an idea that we are pretty good. There were some really good performances today at the university and [another] really good one in shot put. We have had people doing really well so far.”

One person was noticeably absent from the meet as Kelly Wiebe, who was expected to have standout cross-country and track and field seasons, is still out of contention.

“[Wiebe] is still rehabbing an injury, so we don’t know yet for him,” McCannel said.

Although the star runner may have been sidelined, there were strong performances by numerous other members of the team.

“We have two shot putters right now who are very strong – that’s Chantell Betteridge on the women’s side and Chris Pickering on the men’s side and they are both throwing really well,” said McCannel, who is entering his second full season as head coach. “In the sprint hurdles we have Justin Baker back again this year; he is really important to the team as he won nationals two years ago and he didn’t compete last year due to injury, so to have him back is great. Tait Nystuen, who was right in the mix at CIS in the 600 metres last year, is coming back and he is already running fast in the 300 as he proved at [this meet]. Those guys are really looking good already.”

The men aren’t the only ones putting up good numbers so early in the season, as members of the women’s team also look promising.

“On the women’s side, in the shorter stuff Shalane Haselhan seems like she is in great shape already this year. Her long jump today went fantastic,” McCannel continued. “If we were able to measure all of them – she fouled one – but it would have been a qualifier for nationals today, she jumped so far. In the women’s sprints, Marissa Margett’s is back and she was a medalist at CIS last year, so I expect that she will do very good again this year.”

Of course, no campus team is complete without a little veteran presence, something that the track and field team welcomes with open arms.

“Jeremy Eckert is doing well; he is one of the top in the country. [Many] people are doing really well already and they are sort of veterans,” McCannel said. “Mike Barber is another one who had injured his ankle at the start of the season last year, so he wasn’t able to get as fit as he wanted to. This year he is in really good shape and it showed in long jump today; he had a personal best by just about 30 centimetres, so he is looking really good already and his other events are still strong. Lex Ewen also had some injury problems last year, but he is another jumper who could be really competitive.

“We have a lot of people that I think could do quite well.”

Although most teams rely heavily on veterans to finish at or near the top of the standings, McCannel believes that many of the new members have just as good of a chance to do well this year.

“We have a lot of people that are very strong and then a lot of young people that are pretty new to the team,” McCannel said. “We have a triple jumper who is new to the team. Arthur Ward. He jumped well today. And another [Ahmed Alkabary] who is new to the team jumped very well today and he would have qualified for CIS today as well, but once again little fouls. But right now is the time of year for little fouls.”

While most members of the track and field team have been competing at meets for most of their life, one member of the team has decided to make the transition from the gridiron to the indoor track.

“A new guy from the football team, Tevaughn Campbell, ran quite fast today. He is transferring from football to track for the rest of the season; it will help him with his speed work for football next season,” McCannel said.

The future appears bright for the track and field team. Members are scheduled to begin their quest for CIS titles on Dec. 3, when the Cougars play host to the Friendship games at the Regina Fieldhouse.

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