Varsity Blues track and field. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

The Varsity Blues women’s track and field team are now defending national champions. The squad, led by veterans Rachel Jewett and Julia Stille, dominated another season, sweeping the CIS championship for the second year in a row.

Despite the banner win, the Blues’ season didn’t start the year on a high. The squad fell to the Guelph Gryphons during the OUA championships, finishing in second place.

Even with gold medal winning performances by Jewett and Stille in the 600m and triple jump, respectively, and a stand-out performance by third-year Danielle Delage in the high jump, the Blues couldn’t overtake the Gryphons.

The Blues managed to ward off the third place Western Mustangs by one point, finishing with 131 total points to the ‘stangs 130.

The national championships hosted by  York, however, became another success story for the Blues, who rallied after their disappointing conference loss to take the CIS championship.

Day one of the competition saw an incredible 60m race by fourth-year standout Madeline Warren, who placed fourth in the event, tying her personal best of 7.61 seconds. “I’m quite happy with my individual performance, I came into CIS ranked 6th and ended up coming 4th overall [so] It was… super exciting,” said Warren. “I was excited to contribute five points to the team and bump out a couple girls who were ranked ahead of me.”

The first day concluded with another fourth-place finish by sophomore Carolyn Adams in the pentathlon competition. Adams finished with a total of 3,756 points, but she missed the podium by a 68 point margin to Saskatchewan’s Astrid Nyame.

The Blues carried their momentum into day two of the competition. The women’s squad took home three medals in the 1,000m, 3,000m, and 4x800m relay to put them in second place behind the Gryphons, going into the third and final day of competition.

A gold medal performance by third year Gabriela Stafford in the 1,500m race opened the floodgates for the Blues on the last day of the competition, as the squad went on to take home four more medals, edging out the Gryphons in the final standings by 14 points.

Blues head coach Carl Georgevski was named coach of the year, and Stafford, who would go on to place tenth at the world indoor championships in the 1,500m, won the outstanding female athlete of the year award.

Describing the post-win feeling as a combination of excitement and pride, Warren maintains that this year’s championship title was truly a team effort. “We came into CIS ranked first, however, Alberta and Guelph weren’t far behind and their rosters were stacked,” she said. “Overall, this year was much more of [a] collective effort. We had athletes from all disciplines getting points and this kept us on our toes till the very last minute.”

When asked of her goals for the team next year, Warren doesn’t hold back- — she wants a three-peat. “It’ll be my fifth and final year on the team and I can’t think of a better way to go out” she said. “We have a team of dedicated, talented, and passionate athletes so while I know this is an ambitious goal, by no means do I think it is unattainable.”

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