Vikes track nationals bound

The Vikes track team dominated the middle distances and relays at the Canada West track championships on Feb. 20–22 in Edmonton. After a brisk two-week stay at home, UVic returns in full force to the University of Alberta track. The Vikes look to build off their Can West results and make a splash at nationals.

Vikes CIS All-Canadian Rachel Francois trained through elementary school and high school at the very same track that UVic took to for Can Wests. The St. Albert native was reminded of the hours she spent training alone on that track. Since starting at UVic, Francois has had the chance to train in a group as opposed to alone. An opportunity that she says makes all the difference.

“I love training with a group of competitive girls. We have so much fun, and we feed off of each other’s energy in training,” Francois says.

The team chemistry and support provide a huge lift when it comes to competition. Francois attributes the successful results in Edmonton to the atmosphere the team provides.

“We are all at every race. The team is at every event supporting each other,” Francois says. “I know it is easier to run when you have the support of your teammates.”

Francois raced to a silver medal in the 600-metre run, closely followed by teammate Grace Annear. Annear and Francois teamed up with Nicole Soderberg and Jenica Moore to win gold in the 4×400-metre with a blazing time of 1:41.07.

Francois was happy with her 600-metre time but looking to build off that for the CIS championships. Meanwhile, she was ecstatic when talking about the 4×400-metre relay team.

“I started slow this year. I was hoping for first [in the 600-metre], but I got a personal best, so that’s great,” Francois said. “The relay was amazing though. Everyone raced so well.”

The unit of Soderberg, Francois, Moore and Annear also topped the podium in the 4×800-metre race. Rounding out the notable Vikes women at Canada Wests was Shauna McInnis, who put up an impressive 4:32.44 in the 1500-metre, which was good enough for the silver medal, and Madeline MacDonald’s third-place finish in the 3000-metre.

With the increasingly difficult Canada West division, the Vikes are doing their part to stay competitive. They have kept their bodies healthy and tapered down in anticipation for the CIS championships this weekend.

Thomas Riva headlined a dominant Vikes men’s side in Alberta two weeks ago at Can Wests. Riva was named CIS male track athlete of the year, an honour he is proud to bring home to Victoria.

“It’s pretty special to be given the award,” said the 22-year-old Qualicum Beach native. “The competition is getting better every year, so it’s a nice thing to have.”

Riva echoes the sentiments of teammate Francois in regards to the team atmosphere. Racing indoor allows for more noise, and having supportive teammates can give you just the edge you need.

“Having the team out watching is a huge boost,” said Riva. “You know you have to fight for every point, and you know the team needs you.”

The Vikes men came second overall in points with 67 at Canada West Championships, despite only bringing a 10-man roster. The roster may have been short, but it was packed with talent.

Riva won the 1500-metre and placed second in the 1000-metre. Teammate Oliver Collin got the bronze in the 1000-metre and Kyle Irvine placed third in the 1500, putting more blue and gold on the podium.

Vike Brendon Restall put up a dominating individual performance in the 600-metre, winning the gold with a time of 1:18.76. UVic’s Karl Robertson and Kyle Irvine put up silver and bronze, respectively, in the men’s 3000-metre.

UVic dominated the relays in both the men’s and women’s divisions at Can Wests. The team of John Pratt, Tyler Smith, Riva, and Restall took home gold in the 4×400-metre. Restall and Smith were headlined in the 4×800-metre gold medal performance along with teammates Cole Peterson and Oliver Collin.

The focus now turns to the CIS championships. After an impressive display of indoor running two weeks ago, it’s time for the Vikes to prove it again at the exact same facility.

Riva is hoping for impressive results from himself and the team at CIS.

“I’m really looking forward to [CIS Championships],” Riva says. “Both events are pretty deep and I’m excited for the challenge. We also have great relay teams and we are going to try to win those events.”

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