If this year in sports at the University of Regina gives us any indication of what’s in store for the track and field team, then we should probably have high expectations.
Talk to head coach Bruce McCannel, it is easy to see that he has lofty expectations as well.
Not only does he have several strong new recruits on the team, he also has the likes of veterans Kelly Wiebe, Karissa LePage, Avery Westberg and newcomer, Adam Strueby, all of whom just capped off a spectacular cross country season.
With the Friendship Games – the first meet of the season – held this past weekend at the Regina Fieldhouse, McCannel was excited for many athletes on his team, especially the rookies, to just participate and gain some good experience.
McCannel’s number one goal for the weekend: “Everyone making it through without injury.”
Although he said that no event is more important than the other, the Friendship Games also serves as a morale boost to start off the season.
With athletes competing in hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put weight throws, pentathlon and more, the Friendship Games were a great way to kick off track and field season.
Two female athletes on the team have been training to compete in the pentathlon.
Sophomore Megan Rumpel – who last year achieved a bronze medal in Canada West – is looking to further develop her skills this season.
“She wants to improve, and based on all of her training so far, she already has improved,” McCannel said. “She has set herself up to have a very successful season and I would define success as improving.”
Third-year Kelsey Bohachewski is a returning member who is focusing on the pentathlon as well this year.
It was her interest in the combined events that took her in this new direction, and McCannel couldn’t be more excited.
“I think it gives her an opportunity to contribute to the team in a different way in individual events, while maintaining the excellent contribution she has made as a relay athlete,” he said.
The Friendship Games also gave some new names on the team – Joy Becker, Tendayi Chikukwa, Preston Liebrecht, Liam Nystuen, Kaishan Aravinthan and Elisabeth Fortier – their first taste of what university track and field competitions are like.
“They present the banner at the end of the year for the best team, they don't present you with an individual banner, it’s for the team." – Bruce McCannel
“Right now they are three months up on training from where they’ve ever been before,” explained McCannel. “So I know that some of them are really excited to see where they are at and see where they are compared to the rest of our team, because we have a really strong group of returning athletes.”
As mentioned before, Wiebe, who dominated in his final cross country season with the Cougars, will now transition to indoor competitions. But will his record-setting performance in cross country foreshadow his upcoming season with the Cougars on the indoor track?
“It's hard to say,” said McCannel. “He’s at the highest level he’s ever been at before, and he’s already won Canada West … he’s at an extraordinarily high level. He’s one of the best runners in Canada, not only in university, but in Canada. He’s one of the top ones against guys competing to go to the Olympics.”
Tait Nystuen, Jeremy Eckert, Ethan Gardner, Connor McDonald, Ahmed Alkabary, Wyatt Baiton and Lex Ewen are just some of returning male names on the roster who McCannel expressed eagerness and high hopes for their season.
As for the ladies, LePage, Westberg, Bohachewski, Rumpel, and Merissa Margetts are sure to put up some good showings for the team as well.
As far as goals go for this season, it’s all about the team.
“They present the banner at the end of the year for the best team, they don't present you with an individual banner, it’s for the team,” said McCannel, who is looking forward to the team staying healthy, keeping an over 70 per cent average, and to score as many point as they can in Canada West this season.
With three Cougars records already slashed during the Friendship Games, the Cougars look to have a promising season ahead of them.
The next chance to see the Cougars in action will be the Intrasquad Meet at the Centre of Kinesiology, Health & Sport on Dec. 22.
Photo courtesy Arthur Ward