Volume 94, Issue 91
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Western suffers loss and heartbreak at CIAU finals
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DRAFTING. The Western track and field team tried to sling past the comptetition at the CIAU championships on the weekend.
By Ryan Dixon & Wes Brown
Sometimes life just isn't fair.
For proof, just ask the Western women's track and field team, who were no more than 600 metres from a national championship when a stunning turn of events took place.
"It happened in an unusual spot," explained head coach Vickie Croley. "Thelma Aykea was running down the backstretch and her arm, on the back swing, hit a girl's arm from Windsor behind her, then [the Windsor runner's] arm hit her leg and the baton popped out. It was just really bizarre."
The botched baton pass cost Western dearly, as all they had to do was finish fifth in the 4x400m relay to clinch first place. When the smoked settled and the baton was found, the best they could muster was ninth The finish allowed the University of Saskatchewan their second straight national crown.
The disappointment was obvious, but Croley tried to keep things in perspective. "It's something that is so totally out of your control that you just have to accept it. All the girls really rallied around [Aykea] and picked her up. She should never feel like she was to blame. I'm really proud of all my girls."
Ironically, Aykea was not the only athlete to suffer a severe setback. Croley said odd happenings defined the end of the meet. "The last hour was a real roller coaster ride. A Saskatchewan girl fell 30m from the end of the 4x200m relay for no reason, she just hit the curb," she said, adding this was the most exciting track meet she had ever attended.
Their were definite positives for the women, namely rookie Jessica Zelinka, who took home three gold medals. She won the 60m hurdles, set a Canadian Intercollegiate Athletics Union record for points in the Pentathlon with 3,887, and was a member of the gold medal winning 4x400m relay team.
Zelinka also added a silver medal in the long jump for good measure. To no one's surprise she was named female athlete of the meet.
The Mustang men lived up to their pre-meet ranking, finishing sixth, Croley said, stating the University of Alberta were the best of the boys. "Our guys had a great meet, we couldn't have done any better. Realistically, maybe we could have finished fifth or possibly fourth, but that was about it. The top six teams on the men's side were stronger than the top six on the women's side."
Croley joined Zelinka in the individual honours category, bringing home coach of the meet. She said the award represented much more than her efforts and was gratifying for the whole team.
"It came at a good time because it was after the disappointment of the end of the meet. I really feel the support of this team and the entire coaching staff and I genuinely feel it was a team reward. I feel the same way about [Zelinka's] award. It was definitely some consolation," Croley said.
Zelinka said coming into the meet she knew the Mustang women had a lot of good rookies and solid veterans and their accomplishments this year are reflective of that depth. "We had some awesome athletes!" she said.
The second place showing at the CIAUs was a little bit of a let down seeing as how the team came into the tournament ranked second already. "It was disappointment because we had the gold, but ended up losing it."
Men's captain Chris Williams said his team did well, placing sixth at the CIAUs considering the men were only a half-point out of the fifth place position held by the University of Sherbrooke.
"A lot of people came through this weekend and really overachieved," Williams said. "I'm very proud of both our women and men's teams, but especially our men."
Looking to the future, Williams said the team will be losing some key athletes, but stated this year's team did their job from day one. "We had goals like the [Ontario University Athletics] and CIs that we focused on right from the beginning," he said.
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