Men trade snow for silver
By Geoff Robins
When snow squall blanketed London with a foot of white stuff, the Western men's track team left it all behind to travel to balmy Windsor for the CIAU finals and their results were anything but cold.
The team, hot off their win at the OUA championships last weekend, was poised to challenge last year's champion Sherbrooke at the St. Denis Centre in Windsor. Sherbrooke's team was only eight men strong, but they were ranked first coming into this year's championships.
Friday night the distance events took centre stage with, the 1000-metre, 3000-metre and the 4x800-metre relay. Western was looking to pick up some points in these events since Sherbrooke's strength lay in the shorter distances which ran on Saturday afternoon. Veteran Mustang Mike Lander led off the distance team with a silver in the 1000-metre.
An hour later, Guy Shultz pulled out an upset performance over defending champion Jeremy Deere of Calgary in the 3000-metres. The final event saw the 4x800-metre teams take to the track. Western, made up of Craig McFarquhar, Jim Wardle, Shultz and Lander, captured the gold in dramatic fashion, coming from behind to take Windsor by just over a second.
Lander, who just missed the bronze in the 600-metres Saturday afternoon, was pleased with his two-medal performance which concluded his career with Western.
"It was nice this year," Lander said. "I wanted to run the 600-metres as hard as I could but with three races the night before my legs were dead."
Sherbrooke broke away from the field as Alexandre Marchande took the 600-metre title beating Lander by just under two seconds. Marchande and teammate Rova Rabemanjara had come one-two in the 300-metres the previous night and they combined Saturday to win the 4x200 and 4x400-metres to wrap up the team championship. Western fought it out with Windsor for second but they ended up in a dead heat.
"It's been a difficult season," said Sherbrooke's head coach Richard Crevier, whose team has had to battle through injuries this year, but managed to be healthy when it counted.
As coach for back-to-back champions, Crevier said "doing it twice is something else," but he felt this one was more satisfying since it was a tougher competition.
Crevier was also named coach of the year, while his club's star, Marchande, was named top male at the meet after winning three gold medals.
"Sherbrooke was perfect," Western head coach Bob Vigars said. "They deserved to win the nationals."
Coach Vigars was happy with the second-place finish based on their ability to overcome injuries that plagued the team all year.
"In my 30 years here it's been the best year ever," he said. "I think our guys demonstrated great courage. We did the best we could."