WINDSOR, Ont. – Sometimes big stages in athletics lend themselves to dramatic outcomes that remind us anything is possible and miracles do happen, especially when mere fractions of seconds separate podium positions.
The University of Guelph Gryphons refused to let this be one of those times.
As the dust settled on the second and final day of competition at 2018 Ontario University Athletics conference championships this past weekend, the Gryphons sat comfortably atop the overall team standings.
Their men’s squad finished with 186 points, 71 ahead of second place Western Mustangs, while the women’s team ended with a staggering 197 points to beat the host Windsor Lancers.
It was the women’s third straight year claiming top honours at the event and their sixth time in the last seven years.
That kind of consistent success is rare in any sport, but it isn’t even the most successful streak in Guelph’s running program. Their women’s cross country team has won the last 13 OUA championships.
On the men’s side Guelph came into the event as the top ranked team in the nation and never faltered from that position. Their win marked the first time in school history they have earned back to back titles and their fourth win in the last six years.
Thomas Land and Shyvonne Roxborough turned in stellar performances for Guelph to lead the way.
Land defended his 2017 OUA gold medal in the 600 metre event and added a 1,000 metre gold to his collection as well, while Roxborough claimed gold in the women’s 60 metre final and played a crucial role in securing the team’s 4 x 200 metre gold medal.
Roxborough won the 60 metre final with a time of 7.44 seconds while fellow Gryphon Sarah Hammond finished in second with a mark of 7.56 seconds, narrowly edging Waterloo’s Tegan Sauer for the silver.
Hammond may not have earned gold in those 60 metre sprints, but that didn’t stop her from finding a way to stand atop the podium. She claimed the top spot in women’s 60 metre hurdles with a time of 8.18 seconds.
University of Ottawa’s Keira Christie-Galloway (8.31 seconds) finished a close second, and Emma Nero (8.50 seconds), also from Guelph, rounded out the top three.
On the men’s side, Kayden Johnson of York University kept Guelph from claiming another gold in the 60m with a dominant 7.92 second performance. The Gryphon’s Jackson Cheung (8.23 seconds) won silver, and Anthony Kwan (8.36 seconds) from U. of T. took home bronze.
Among the small handful of events that Guelph wasn’t favoured to win was the women’s 1,000 metre event.
The University of Toronto Varsity Blues came into OUAs with four of the top six seed times, including that of last year’s 1,000 metre national champion Lucia Stafford.
Stafford did not disappoint.
She finished first overall with a time of 2:45.48, just three seconds shy of the provincial record her sister, Gabriella Stafford, set in 2016.
U. of T.’s Madeleine Kelly placed second (2:46.95), however Guelph erased any hope the Varsity Blues had of sweeping the podium. Dana Earhart finished just 0.21 seconds ahead of fellow Gryphon, Charlotte Ward, to claim third place.
Western’s Jack Sheffar beat three Gryphons to claim the top spot in the men’s 1,500 metre event with a time of 3:49.42. Guelph’s Mostafa Elkurdy (3:50.22), Connor Black (3:51.18), and Joshua Kellier (3:52.23) finished second, third, and fourth respectively.
Sheffar also added a gold medal in the 3,000 metre event with a time of 8:23.94, edging out Black once more and McMaster University’s Sergio Raez-Villanueva. Black settled for third place while Raez-Villanueva took second.
Winning a pair of gold medals is rare and impressive and special, but for Sheffar these two meant even more.
During the 2017 U Sports 3,000 metre event, Sheffar’s bid for a national title ended in controversy after a lap counting error by a race official resulted in him sprinting to the finish line with one lap still to go.
The women’s side of this year’s 3,000 metre event featured three runners poised to compete on a global stage.
Sasha Gollish, the 35 year old runner from the University of Toronto is in the midst of training for the 2018 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championship, while both Western’s Kristina Popadich and Windsor’s Stefanie Smith are preparing for the FISU cross country championships in Switzerland.
Gollish and Guelph’s Danielle Jossinet overtook Smith at the end to finish first and second with times of 9:32.34 and 9:33.08 respectively, narrowly edging Popadich’s time of 9:33.29.
Varsity track action resumes for all athletes who have qualified on March 8 when the University of Windsor hosts the U Sports national championships at the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse.
All times courtesy of Windsor Timing, http://windsortiming.com