Track team looking for gold in Montreal

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Ready to take off from the track start line

Laura Barclay

Anticipation brewed at Thompson Arena as the Western track and field team held its final practice before hitting the road Tuesday morning to compete against the country’s best.

The Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships are being held in Montreal and will extend from Thursday to Saturday of this week.

With a host of promising athletes, Western can expect some success on the national stage.

The women are currently ranked second in the country behind a dominant Windsor Lancers squad.

Mustangs head coach Vickie Croley discussed Windsor’s depth.

“Windsor is a well-balanced team,” she said. “They’ve got good athletes in the sprints, hurdles, field events, distance events and relays so they’re well-rounded like we are.”

Croley spoke confidently about the strengths of the female squad.

“This is the strongest women’s team I’ve had since I’ve been head coach at Western, for 13 seasons,” she said. “It’s a very well-rounded team. We do have some stars in Heather Patterson and Jen Cotten, but we have a lot of depth as well.”

Cotten is scheduled to compete in five events, and will play an integral role in Western’s quest for success. Cotten, who excels in the pentathlon, sat out of the Ontario University Athletics pentathlon event for strategic purposes.

Croley discussed preserving Cotten for the nationals.

“One of the reasons why we didn’t have Jen doing the pent is that it takes a lot out of you to do five events, so her focus at OUAs was more on the individual events and relays,” she said. “Now at the national level, the pent overall is her strongest event.”

With the pentathlon scheduled early in the competition, Croley will use Cotten’s abilities to secure a dominant position in the standings.

“If we can pick up some good points on Thursday night, we’re going to set the bar high for Windsor and Guelph to catch us,” Croley said.

With Patterson competing in shot put and weight throw, Leila Angrand competing in the 1000 and 1500m and Shellie McParland competing in the pentathlon, 60m hurdles and long jump, Western’s team dynamic is largely focused around four powerhouse veterans.

“Since those four are competing in a number of events, I’d like to look at that group as being the nucleus of our team,” Croley said. “They are veteran athletes and they’re going to go out and do what they’re capable of doing. Because of their experience, I have complete faith that they’ll do that.”

But Croley noted that in order for her team to succeed, the entire unit must perform well.

“I do think we need a total team effort,” she said.

The men’s team is ranked fifth overall. Croley discussed the remarkable improvement the men’s side has made.

“As far as the men go, we’ve been building steadily. We’ve gone from a non-ranked top 10 team to fifth going into the CIS championships,” she said. “My goal for the men is to finish in the top six. Fourth, fifth and sixth are really close, but I think if we have the best meet, we can keep moving up.”

Croley noted the youth in the men’s squad and the endless possibilities she foresees for these athletes.

“We have a few individuals that are just getting ready to peak,” she said. “If they have their best individual performance, we could see a podium finish for our men’s team as well.”

Veteran athlete Randy McAuley described his mentality as confident and focused heading into the meet.

“Mentally you have to be ready to compete against the best athletes,” he said. “You’ve got to go there expecting to compete your best, and not get too psyched out being at nationals.”

McAuley is prepared for what lies ahead.

“It’s one of those things where everything that you did before now is kind of lost and it’s competition time,” he said.

A positive attitude and past experience will surely contribute to this team’s success.

“A lot of us have been there before so we’re taking that experience with us, and trying to get some medals,” he said.

The CIS number one-ranked female shot putter, Patterson, is all too familiar with her opponents.

“Most of the girls that I train with are all pretty tight in the rankings, so it should be a pretty good battle,” she said.

Patterson was all smiles as she discussed what this meet has in store.

“I’m just trying to stay relaxed and stay calm, not get inside my own head too much. I’m just going to throw the best I can. It’s been a long season and I’m feeling ready.”

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