Western starts off season on the right foot

Mix of veterans and rookies to lead track team to success

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Jumping over the bar

Jonas Hrebeniuk

THIS GUY AIN'T GOT SHIT ON BEN JOHNSON, OR JOHNSON’S PHARMACIST. Track and field coach Vickie Croley has high hopes for her men’s and women’s teams this season. The squads prepare for the Purple and White meet at home on Dec. 3.

With a mix of talented rookies and accomplished veterans, track and field head coach Vickie Croley is optimistic about the prospects for both the women’s and men’s team this season.

“I really think we have the strongest women’s team that I have had since I’ve been coaching at Western,” she said. “We’ve got a few athletes competing at a really high level and then we’ve got a few other athletes just behind them in those events.”

On the men’s side, Croley believes the team has the potential to achieve high results once it can overcome its injury woes.

“Right now it’s just so early in the season we just need to get everybody back and healthy,” Croley said.

“We’ve got the makings of a very strong men’s team but right now there’s too much uncertainty with injuries. I think everything will iron out as we get closer to [Ontario University Athletics] championships.”

Both teams got a chance to strut their stuff this past weekend at the 33rd annual Season’s Opener at Thompson Recreation and Athletic Centre (TRAC). The tournament featured teams from the University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, McMaster University as well as a number of club participants.

Overall, the women’s team finished with eight first-place finishes while the men’s team finished first in two events.

“Usually this is the week we do our Purple and White meet, but with scheduling conflicts [this tournament] got bumped a week earlier,” Croley said. “So for the first competitive opportunity for our athletes, I thought overall the results of the meet were pretty good.”

Jumping for the distance

On the women’s side, third-year athlete Jen Cotten had a standout day, finishing first in both the 600m dash and high jump. Cotten is a former Canadian Interuniversity Sport gold medalist in the pentathlon.

“We are really looking to her to lead the women’s team, along with Heather Patterson,” Croley said. Patterson, who did not compete at the Season Opener due to a back injury, is a former CIS shotput champion.

Two rookie athletes, Alicia Smith and Jenn House, also had a strong weekend. Smith finished third in both the long jump and triple jump, and House finished first in the pole vault.

“Both of these athletes are coming in with some experience already competing at a higher level,” Croley said.

On the men’s side two rookie athletes, K.J. Hinds and Alex Witmer, finished first in their respective events. Hinds was victorious in the 60m hurdles, while Witmer nabbed gold in the high jump.

Witmer was the only Western athlete all weekend to meet the CIS standard, meaning he achieved a result equivalent to the sixth place result at the past three CIS meets.

“[Alex] came in and competed very composed,” Croley said. “I anticipate Alex being a first-year athlete that can contribute to our team this year.”

One of the injured veterans Croley expects to make an impact is fourth-year athlete Andrew Judge.

Judge is a former all-Canadian in the long jump and hurdles and this past summer finished third at the senior Nationals competition in the triple jump.

“Traditionally the triple jump has been the weakest of his three events but I can see that this year after last summer that it could be very close to the other two,” Croley said. “Andrew has the ability to medal in all three events at [CIS championships].”

The Mustangs’ next meet is at home, as they host the annual Purple & White meet between Dec. 3-5 at TRAC.

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