Volume 96, Issue 88
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

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Heffernan gains redemption

By Ryan Hickman
Gazette Staff

Lennie Kwan/Gazette
 

As he crossed the finish line first in the final race of the day, Christian Heffernan found his redemption.

The Western men's 4 x 400 metre relay team, anchored by Heffernan, capped off the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Track and Field Championships in Windsor with a gold medal in the meet's final event.

Heffernan, who had been disappointed in himself after a fourth place finish the day before in the 300m, carried the baton to a full second lead over Sherbrooke, as the Mustangs set a season's best time of 3:18.75.

"I wish I had an excuse," Heffernan said about the 300m, where he came into the weekend ranked second in the country and primed to win the event. "I pride myself on doing well under pressure; I just didn't run as fast."

Western's Bob Westman finished second in the 300m and Mustang Deon Crawley snagged the bronze in the event, just ahead of Heffernan. The three Western speed merchants entered the event ranked in the top 5 in the country, and knowing some of the stiffest competition would come from their own teammates.

"It has been tight all year with these guys," said Western head coach Catherine Bond-Mills concerning her three-headed speed machine. "If you took your finger and started and stopped a clock right away, that would be the difference in time between them."

Bond-Mills said she knew that Heffernan was disappointed in himself, but cited this as the nature of upper-echelon athletes.

"As an athlete competing at that level, he sets high standards. You go into an event ranked second and don't expect to go out without a medal," she said. "The key for Christian was to rebound. The last thing he said to me on Friday night was 'I'll be ready tomorrow.'"

And he was ready on Saturday, firing out of the blocks for the 4 x 200m relay, where the team set another season's best time, but finished second behind a lightning fast Sherbrooke team, led by 60m and 300m champion Ibrahim Meite.

The 4 x 400m relay had been Western's race all year, as they entered the meet ranked number 1 in Canada. Westman and his oversized calves started the relay for the Mustangs and got them out to an overwhelming lead.

"That's my role, to put us in first," Westman said.

"Bob had an outstanding meet. He had excellent legs on both relays," Bond-Mills said about Westman, who Heffernan called the weekend's MVP.

Gavin McTavish took the baton from Westman with the lead, but was abruptly passed at roughly the 200m mark. McTavish was tripped up by the narrow pass and wasn't pleased. When it comes to track relays, rubbin' isn't racing.

"I was angry," McTavish said after the race, but did admit it was a legal move. "Coming down the back stretch, everyone said I looked like I was running angry."

McTavish did fight back to reclaim his spot as the front runner, holding off the Sherbrooke runner and passing the lead off to Deon Crawley. Crawley had a great weekend overall, providing the perfect peak to his constantly improving season.

"There is no better way to end it off than with the gold," Crawley gushed after the race, with his bronze, silver and gold medals in hand.

Heffernan put the throttle down to finish the race and the meet. The Western men finished seventh as a team, behind the winner and host team the University of Windsor, who won their first national title in 10 years.

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