T&F makes Western proud

Athletes rack up personal bests at Notre Dame

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Mustangs track and field

Ian Van Den Hurk

THIS GUY'S PUFFIN' LIKE AN ARCTIC ANIMAL. The Mustangs track and field team travelled to South Bend, Indiana to compete in the Meyo Invitational this past weekend.

Western’s top athletes were all business this past weekend as they journeyed six hours southwest for one of their biggest competitions of the season.

Twenty-three of the track and field team’s strongest competitors trekked to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana to compete against top NCAA programs at the Meyo Invitational meet.

“This is one of the most incredible meets,” said third-year competitor Tara Paluzzi. “I look forward to this all year.”

The Purple and Silver faced the daunting task of battling top American teams like Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Georgia Tech and Clemson " at Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center.

The ’Stangs crossed the border intending to make an impact.

“[At Notre Dame], everywhere you look, there’s people doing things that you don’t ever see in Canada,” said second-year jumper Andrew Judge. “With that type of atmosphere, it almost makes you do better " it opens your eyes and inspires you to do well.”

Judge was just one of many Mustangs who translated inspiration into results. He jumped a personal-best 14.60 metres in the triple jump, good for a spot in the final. He finished seventh in a field full of NCAA All-American-calibre jumpers.

Other highlights included Paluzzi beating her own personal best by over a second in the 300 metre, Miguel Wason winning his heat in the 300 metre with a time of 34.74 seconds, and star second-year athlete Jen Cotten earning a personal best and placing third in the 500 metre.

“There’s definitely a high level of competition in every event,” said Mustangs head coach Vicky Croley. “[With our meets earlier in the season], it’s good to build to this. This is just bigger because you’re competing with NCAA qualifiers. To see athletes come and perform well, it makes it worthwhile and it’s definitely a positive.”

A particularly memorable moment from the weekend was the Meyo Mile, the marquee event in the two-decade history of the Meyo Invitational. Notre Dame’s Jake Watson won the event in a time of 4:00.71, almost eclipsing the prestigious four-minute mile and recording the fifth-fastest time in Notre Dame’s history.

In premier events like the Meyo Mile, the eyes of the crowd and the fellow competitors alike were glued to the action and the cheering was deafening.

“With that many people watching, and with the announcer and the excitement in his voice, it really gets you energized,” Croley said. “I know that in the past we’ve had some really good results because of the energy in the building and because of who you’re competing against.”

Cotten, last year’s Ontario University Athletics Rookie of the Year, commented on the U.S.’s different athletic environment.

“I remember when I was thinking about coming to the U.S. maybe " that’s one of the big things that affected my decision, was that there’s so much pressure down here,” she said. “A lot of people seem to like it, but I don’t think I could perform well under that atmosphere.

“When our team comes here, I find that there’s no pressure, and you’re just trying to do your best.”

The Meyo Invitational was good preparation for the looming OUA and Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships. The OUAs are on the weekend of Feb. 26 and the nationals are the weekend of March 8.

The team will also have its full squad for the OUA and CIS meets rather than the diminished team of 23 that went to Notre Dame.

“The [Meyo Invitational] is actually a similar atmosphere to the OUA and CIS championships " they are even higher-energy in fact,” Croley said. “Partly because it’s a smaller facility, and you’ve got your whole team there. That’s one thing " if I had my whole team [at Notre Dame] it would make a difference.

“You can’t have a weekend like this every weekend. We’ll have some down time now, and over the next two weeks we’ll be gearing up for OUAs.”

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