It was particularly cold on the track of Centennial Stadium on Thursday, Jan. 10 as the UVic Vikes track team went through its paces.
Some athletes, such as 2012 Vikes rookie of the year Rachel Francois, took the cerebral approach and wore runners’ leggings. Others, such as Thomas Riva, toughed it out in a true runners’ outfit, as a wee pair of shorts exposed his long legs to the biting zero degree weather.
National team athlete turned Vikes assistant coach Andrew Ellerton wasn’t above wearing gloves with his Vikes fleece sweater. Keeping his head somewhat warm was a Hockey Canada hat, a nod to his past and other passion, which he left behind as a teenager in Ontario to focus on running. Ellerton’s appointment with the Vikes began on Sept. 1, and already he’s helped the team to fourth at the CIS national cross country championships in November.
January marks his first indoor season with the team, a place the 800-metre specialist, who would likely have represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics if not for an achilles heel injury, can share some insight.
On Saturday (Jan. 13) the Vikes competed in the University of Washington Indoor Preview track meet. It was the first of many as the Vikes ramp up for the Canada West championships in late February and CIS championships in early March.
“Individually, with the upcoming indoor (track) season, really, it’s great to win but the whole point is to run your fastest in the summer, whether you’re going to the World University Games, under-20 world juniors or the (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association) under-23 championships,” Ellerton said.
Team wise, the Vikes have high hopes, as always. Last week Ellerton and head coach Brent Fougner landed ace recruit Tyler Smith. The 800-metre specialist from Wetaskiwin, Alta., will join the Vikes next year.
“It’s a huge signing. We look at ourselves as a leading team in the CIS and to have Smith coming this year shows that. He’s probably the fastest high schooler in the country, close to it.”
Still 18 and already with one of Canada’s top 800m times of one minute 47.9 seconds, Smith is a lock for the Vikes 4×800 relay team.
Until then, the vaunted men’s relay team, which last year missed winning gold for the fifth straight year, isn’t set in stone.
Second-year Riva and third-year Adam Gaudes will return to the team, both with sub 1:50 times in the 800m, along with Karl Robertson, who won gold with the relay team in his rookie season of 2009. Rookie Brendan Restall (Oak Bay High) is in the mix as a candidate to make the team.
“The final spot(s) will be figured out as we go,” Ellerton said.
Ellerton says he’d love to see the men’s 4x800m relay team return to the top of the CIS podium this year after its four-year gold run ended with silver this year, but is just one of many things on the Vikes’ hit list.
Riva, however, would love to get it back.
“It was pretty disappointing letting the streak break last year, especially for Darren Mazzei, who would have ended his university career by winning (the 4x800m relay) five straight times,” Riva said.
The Vikes men’s and women’s 4x800m relay teams started well at the UW Indoor Preview, with the men coming first and women second. Gaudes, Cole Peterson, Robertson and Riva teamed up for the men and ran a 7:39.38, ahead of second-place Washington’s 7:41.98.
Francois, Emma Bibault, Jenica Moore (Oak Bay High) and Kendra Pomfret ran to second with a time of 9:14.31.
Francois ran to third in the 600m in 1:32.39, while Gaudes was fourth among the men in the 600m in a time of 1:19.67, and Restall crossed the line at 1:21.03.
“Overall, it was a great start to our season,” Fougner said.
“It gives the athletes a good idea of what they need to work on and it was nice to get the first race out of the way fairly early.”
The University of Victoria men’s and women’s track teams will compete again in Seattle in two weeks’ time at the UW’s Invitational on Jan. 25.
Ex-Vike wins Pioneer 8K
Former UVic Vikes track athlete Geoff Martinson won the first Frontrunners Island Race Series event of the season, the Harriers Pioneer 8K at the Saanich Fairgrounds on Sunday.
Martinson won in 23 minutes and 49 seconds. Natasha Fraser set a new course record to win the women’s in 25:28.