Rookies shine again as track and field continues dominant early season

Record breaking Cougars. /Tyler Meadows

The Cougars qualify two squads for nationals

The Cougar’s track and field team is off to their best start in recent memory. After putting up numerous U Sports top 25 performances at the Sanderson Classic in Saskatoon, on Jan. 17 and 18 the Cougars struck again in Edmonton at the Golden Bear Open. The team was led by their middle-distance athletes once again. This group opened up their competition with both 4×800 teams making automatic qualifying times for U Sports. The women’s team of Robyn Ham, Michaela Allen, Kelsey Haczkewicz, and Natalia McCullough ran 9:05.02 to shave a substantial five seconds off of their school record. McCullough is another rookie who has already contributed for the Cougars in multiple sports. She is also a member of the U of R soccer team.

The women also got wins courtesy of Amou Madol, Kaila Neighum and Erika Stockhorst. Madol was victorious in the women’s high jump. The Regina local jumped 1.71m, which is also a U Sports qualifying standard. Neighum won the women’s 3000m run in 10:04.50, and Stockhorst won the women’s triple jump with a mark of 11.71 meters. Another standout performance came from multi-event phenom Joely Welburn who excelled in her first ever pentathlon. The second-year Cougar broke a nine-year-old team record with her score of 3905 points and finished second only to University of Calgary post-grad Niki Oudenaarden.

On the men’s side the 4×800 was a big highlight for the team. The quartet of T.J. McBride, Brayden Mytopher, Ret Brailsford, and Ron MacLean put together a winning mark of 7:40.30. This was not only good enough for automatic U Sports qualification, it is the fastest mark in the country this season. The Cougar men have been targeting this relay since their Bronze medal performance at Canada West last season, and for rookie superstar Ron Maclean, the sky is the limit for this group.

“The team is looking fit and we had to run a lot of the legs solo, so we definitely have more in the tank.”

Another dominant rookie, Scott Joseph, helped lead the men’s meet with two second-place finishes in the long jump and triple jump. The Swift Current native had already met U Sports automatic qualifying in his specialty long jump event but has continued to improve his versatility in advance of the Canada West championships.

“Sometimes success is dependent on time and circumstance. My goals at the beginning of season were to make the standards. Now that I have achieved that, the goal changes. Moving forward, I want to be more competitive on a higher level bearing in mind that is even hard to maintained current standards.”

Joseph has had great success in his first season as a Cougar, which is not always easy, especially when coming from a smaller city like Swift Current.

“The transition has been very complex and challenging. Exams and assignment deadlines are two big ones. Handling academic expectations while trying to adjust to life in U of R without family and friends back at Swift Current was another challenge I had to deal with.”

Despite these challenges, Joseph is taking them in stride, which is something that the track and field team has helped him with.

“However, everything is being done to address these challenges. Athlete-wise, things have been going smoothly. I have all the support I needed from the coaching staff and the team.”

The highlight of the meet for Joseph was his teammate’s 4x800m relays.

“Watching the men’s 4×800 relay race was really amazing and watching the women’s 4×800 relay break the cougar record was incredible. The men’s team (overall) was very impressive.”

For Joseph, the team’s success was largely due to the hard work they have put in early in the season.

“The team is well-coached and competition ready. Everyone is doing and their best at every meet. Many athletes have been successful including athletes getting personal bests in their events.”

The team’s action-packed season continues Jan. 31 in Winnipeg at the Bison Open.

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