Vikes charge toward CIS Championships

Sports | Lifestyle

In a weekend full of highlights and heartbreaks, coach Brent Fougner still insists the Feb. 22-23 Canada West Championships were “very successful” for the University of Victoria’s track team.

“Overall, [there were] some big ups and some big downs,” says fourth-year captain Kendra Pomfret, who was beaten in a photo finish for second in the 1000m event.

University of Calgary’s Jenna Westaway, who out-leaned Pomfret to take silver in the 1000m also played spoiler in the women’s 600m race, beating Vikes second-year Rachel Francois by one one-hundredth of a second for gold. The positive from the race was Francois’s personal best time of 1:30.01, catapulting her into second in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) standings.

“Obviously it would have been really nice to come out with all golds and be in perfect standings,” says Pomfret, “but some of the races that put a bunch of us in second or just off podium, or in Rachel or my case in a photo finish, is getting us a lot more prepared for how we’re going to be racing at [CIS Championships], which is a lot bigger outcome.”

The standout in the women’s individual events was fifth-year Vike Brittany Therrien, who snatched an upset gold in the 1500m with a time of 4:34.32. Fourth-year Maddy MacDonald also earned the Vikes bronze in the 3000m, clocking 10:05.66.

In men’s competition, Vikes third-year Thomas Riva dominated the meet, winning gold in the 1000m and taking silver in the 1500m. This success comes just two weeks after breaking the 24-year-old UVic record in the 800m at the Feb. 9 Husky Classic meet in Washington. It seems Riva will be the Vike to watch at CIS Championships as he has hit scorching form in the medal months.

Other Vikes to medal included third-year Adam Gaudes, who captured gold in the men’s 600m with a time of 1:20.30, followed by third-year teammate John Pratt who earned bronze in 1:21.47. In the men’s 300m sprint, rookie Brendon Restall took bronze with a 35.60. In the 1500m, fourth-year Karl Robertson earned bronze in 3:57.69, while Cody Therrien also secured bronze for the Vikes in the 3000m in 8:28.56.

Vikes who were just left off the podium included fourth-year Stephanie Trenholm, who finished fourth in the women’s 1500m, and second-year Ryan Cassidy, placing fourth in the men’s 3000m.

While Pomfret and Riva both secured individual medals, the hardware that meant most came in the relays. The men’s 4x800m team of Riva, Gaudes, Robertson and Pratt ran 7:40.39 to win by three seconds and defend their 2012 gold. The 4x400m team of Gaudes, Pratt, Restall and Cole Peterson seized silver in 3:22.60, beating out the University of Manitoba by one one-hundredth of a second.

It was Pomfret’s teams of female Vikes that topped the tournament, though, with the 4x400m team of Pomfret, Francois, Grace Annear and Jenica Moore taking silver and setting a new UVic record of 3:48.10. This came the day after the same team of speedsters blitzed the 25-year-old Canada West 4x800m record held by the 1988 UVic Vikettes. The Vikes time of 8:46.94 earned them gold in the event by a whopping 14 seconds over silver medalists Saskatchewan.

“Because we are only [in] middle distance [events],” says coach Fougner of the Vikes program, “our opportunities to win the championships are pretty slight. So when we focus on the relays, we bring that excitement, and it’s like we’ve won a championship because it’s a team effort.”

“We’ve got a few people that are medal hopefuls at [CIS Championships] and a couple of people that have a pretty good chance of winning,” says Riva looking forward to Edmonton’s March 7-9 CIS Championships hosted by the University of Alberta.

“Our coaches have done an amazing job at enabling us to peak when it is most important,” says Pomfret. “I’m more excited this year than ever heading into nationals.”