Women’s track and field team top in the country, MacNeill stands out for men

The varsity track and field team has finished its season looking strong, despite the loss of top athletes from last season.

After second-place finishes in last year’s Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships, the women’s team continued where it left off, earning a rank of fifth in the nation going into the OUA championship in late February.

Toronto’s relay teams were a particular highlight, with the 4 x 400 team of Maggie Hanlon, Fiona Callender, Natalie Geiger, and Rachel Jewett, and the 4 x 800 team of Callender, Jewett, Colleen Hennessy, and Honor Walmsley both top-ranked going into the competition. They didn’t disappoint, running their distances in 3:45.50 and 8:53.26, respectively, to claim OUA gold.

High jumper Katia Vasilyeva, who was also top-ranked heading into the OUA finals, captured gold as well with a stellar 1.72-metre jump, while Gabriela Stafford won the gruelling 1,500 metre run with a time of 4:28.71. Thanks to these efforts, the Blues won the silver medal and earned a trip to the CIS Championships in Edmonton, Alberta.

At the national championships in Edmonton, the track teams were at it again, with the 4 x 800 team setting a U of T record and capturing the silver medal. The team ran nearly six seconds faster it they had in the OUA finals, and was bested only by a stunning team effort from the Victoria Vikes. The 4 x 400 team improved as well, shaving off almost three seconds from their OUA Championship time, and winning U of T’s lone gold medal of the tournament. Toronto fell just short of winning the CIS title, falling to the Guelph Gryphons 96-93.

Though it was doubtless a disappointment for the team to once again narrowly miss out on OUA and CIS titles, it is tough to be anything but positive about the future of Varsity Blues women’s track and field.

In the past several years, U of T has established itself as a track and field powerhouse, and with stars such as Hanlon and Vasilyeva having many years of eligibility left, it seems that the best is yet to come.

The Varsity Blues men’s track and field team placed tenth in last weekend’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships in Edmonton, bringing an end to a solid season of athletics.

The standout on the team this year was sophomore hurdler Greg MacNeill, who was instrumental in both U of T’s tenth-place finish in Edmonton, and the team’s sixth-place finish in late February’s Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships at York University.

MacNeill won the Blues’ sole gold medal at the OUA finals, running the 60-metre hurdles in a stellar 7.78 seconds. He then tied the 30-year-old CIS Championship record in Edmonton, running the distance in 7.83 seconds to claim the silver medal. He was bested only by the Ottawa Gee-Gees’ Sekou Kaba, who became the first hurdler to break 7.80 seconds at the CIS Championships.

Other key contributors on the squad were veteran pole vaulter Townsend Benard, who recorded a 4.73 metre jump to win bronze at the OUA championships, and third-year pentathlon star James Turner who was top-ranked heading into the provincial finals. Though Turner failed to medal at York University, he has two more years of CIS eligibility, and will be a force to be reckoned with as a senior next season.

Though the Blues have not won an OUA men’s title since 1990, the team shows promise. It consistently featured in the CIS Top Ten rankings this year, and has a young team with many players returning next season. Gone are the days when U of T could win 18 straight OUA track and field titles, but this team is certainly trending upwards.

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