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Varsity Arts: Toronto ComiCon 2016

There are plenty of reasons to check out this smaller celebration of all things pop culture

Varsity Arts: Toronto ComiCon 2016

Varsity Songbook: The Fallers

Watch The Fallers perform Left, Right & Centre and Get Up at the historic Verge Music Lab

Varsity Songbook: The Fallers

Mastering injury

Special coaching is essential for older athletes to stave off nagging ailments

Mastering injury

In track and field, a masters athlete is a competitor over the age of 30.

“A lot of people are not aware of track and field [let alone masters],” explains Theresa Rozario, a University of Toronto Track Club (UTTC) masters athlete. “[But] once I explain our workouts, our competitions, they are impressed,” she adds.

UTTC masters can choose to participate for fun or take their interests to a higher level and compete against other masters.            

For masters athletes in the latter category that are interested in competition, getting the right kind of coaching is essential — since factors such as age-related muscle loss or sarcopenia are a natural part of the aging process.

So how do coaches train masters athletes to ensure optimal benefits with minimal risk of injury? Varsity Blues coaches are in the clear here when it comes to training their athletes, as sarcopenia only begins after age 30. Up until that point, when we train our muscles they naturally grow bigger and stronger, but building strength for masters is no less of a requirement when training with the intent to compete.

UTTC sprint coach Chris Lemassif says, “Masters often come from several years, sometimes several decades of inactivity, so the starting point of their training usually has to be much lower for both volume and intensity.”

This is a point Rozario seconds: “my body keeps telling me to take it slowly… if I don’t listen… well you know what happens… [my] body wins!” 

Nicky Slovitt, another UTTC masters athlete, says she tore the ligaments in her ankle warming up for a relay a couple of years ago; it’s now a chronic issue if she’s not careful. “Last summer while training for France I re-injured it because I trained too hard getting ready. Sometimes less is more,” she said.

The goal for masters coaches then is two-fold: they must not only spot injuries as soon as they happen but also take into consideration age-related conditions and create specific programs to prevent these types of injuries. 

Speed City Track Club coach Steve Dos Santos, explains how he trains his masters athletes to avoid injury. “Normally we don’t get injuries,” he says. “First I assess the athlete’s ability then decide whether or not the athlete can handle the workout for that session.”

This suggests that a coach may have to devise many routines to suit individual athletic needs, and that challenging and pushing any athlete to their limit requires several meticulous steps. Dos Santos says he “tends to keep the volume lower depending on whether the athlete is already trained, like a varsity athlete who becomes a masters.”

Coaches must pay attention to each individual athlete before the next challenge can begin. Masters must gain a certain amount of strength before moving on to the next challenge, otherwise they risk injury.

Lemassif says, “An important aspect of training is progression… Masters’ bodies are slower to adapt, so the progression has to be much slower.” While Dos Santos maintains that on balance, while masters can handle less training than varsity athletes, the quality is higher. 

Here’s a sobering thought: all coaches are not created equal, and some may not know when their athletes become injured or fully understand what to do when they are injured.

For masters athletes, injuries sustained in training and competition are common, and the road to rehabilitation can be long.

Through progressive resistance training and smart coaching, masters athletes — myself included — can regain their strength and return to the competition circuit better and faster than ever before.

Pressure mounts on controversially-named sports franchises

Changing the face of sport is harder than you think

Pressure mounts on controversially-named sports franchises

Public furor directed at several professional sports teams over offensive names and branding is reaching a fever pitch. Several professional sports leagues in North America include teams whose mascots, names, and logos have drawn criticism from many communities. When we consider that these logos and names are not only representative of the teams, but entire cities across North America, the concern broadens.

The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, the MLB’s Cleveland Indians, and the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins are among the highest profile targets of public outrage. In addition to the inappropriate names, the teams logos heighten the organizations’ offense.

‘Chief Wahoo’ is the team mascot and logo for the Cleveland Indians — a cartoon depiction of an Indigenous man with red face paint. The logo has received heavy criticism and prompted petitions for it to change.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a team that have been lauded for their Stanley Cup victories and the success of their individual players, however, the team’s logo has also been a source of longtime contention. It is the face of an Indigenous man with feathers in his hair and war paint on his face. Some consider it to be one of the most offensive logos in professional sport.

Offensive logos, however, are not limited to professional sport, as controversy has sparked up around intercollegiate teams as well. The McGill Redmen have attempted to respond to the controversy over their name by devoting a portion of their website to explaining the origins of the Redmen name.

Richard Pound, former chair of the McGill Athletics Board stated, “Unless we find historical evidence which establishes that the Redmen name came from other than the colour of McGill’s uniforms, we intend to preserve the traditional name for our men’s teams.”

This argument is common throughout sports teams’ logo and name debates — franchises do not seem to want to change because to them, they represent the history of the team and the league.

Naming sports teams for symbols from Indigenous culture is disrespectful and offensive. It exploits these already marginalized communities through racist caricatures. We can only hope that in the future, sports teams realize the damage these logos cause and dismiss the idea of having Indigenous mascots, logos, and names to represent their team.

Regional CFL Combine raises draft stock of Blues

Will regional performances be enough to attract the attention of CFL scouts?

Regional CFL Combine raises draft stock of Blues

With the CFL draft approaching, it’s time to get to know the CFL Toronto Combine, which took place from March 10 to 13. The combine, broadly put, is a showcase of this year’s CFL prospects.

The participants for the national combine are chosen from three regional combines, but a high quality performance at a regional combine does not guarantee a national combine appearance.

In the 2014 regional combine, former Varsity Blue Christopher Johnson posted the fastest 40-yard dash time, highest vertical jump, and longest broad jump among linebackers. In spite of these accomplishments, he did not receive an invite to the national combine.

As important as exposure is to the draft, the national combine is not the only way CFL scouts evaluate athletes. While the combine can boost a player’s draft stock, scouts take an athlete’s entire body of work into consideration — this includes studying tapes of games, interviews with coaches and players, and regional combine results.

This year, a total of four Blues — DJ Sackey, Boris Isakov, Zack Lukings, and Farouk Musa — competed at the regional combine. Although none received invites to the national combine, this should not necessarily dissuade their draft stock.

Third-year offensive lineman Sackey will have another year with the Blues, while Isakov, Lukings, and Musa will have to hope that their current accomplishments are enough to get them invited to a CFL roster. While Sackey can be confident in his second place finish amongst lineman in the vertical leap, he looks to improve on his bench press and broad jump measurements.

Musa, who graduated in 2014, is hoping to crack a roster somewhere in the CFL after posting a 4.927 second 40-yard dash time. That time was good enough for third place at the regional combine among linebackers; the only two ahead of him were NCAA products.

Meanwhile, fellow graduate Zack Lukings posted the second fastest 40-yard dash time among defensive lineman, at 5.194.

Isakov, who transferred to the Blues in 2013 from the Queen’s Gaels, led the Blues in receiving yards in 2015. He had assumed his football playing days were over once the season ended. Then the CFL came calling. “I thought my football career was over,” said Isakov, “that’s when coach asked me to come in and told me there’s a couple of CFL teams that were interested in seeing what I could do.”

At the regional combine, Isakov posted a 4.31 second shuttle cone drill time, good for fourth among all participants at the combine. He says the environment around him helped. “Just to have friends and family and teammates and everyone there supporting… I feel like that really pushed me to have better results and a lot of drills I had personal bests because of that.”

These prospects, coming from both the CIS and the NCAA, put themselves through a gauntlet of football skill-testing drills in front of CFL scouts. With the stakes so high, the pressure can cause some to crack.

In spite of that pressure, several recent Blues have excelled at the combine. Prior to this year’s combine, former Blue Aaron Milton finished top amongst running backs in the 3-cone and short shuttle drills. Milton received a bid to the national combine that year, and he now plays for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Although there were no Blues invited to this years national combine, Christopher Johnson’s story may leave the Blues hopeful that CFL signing can still happen. The extra exposure Aaron Milton received from the national combine likely helped his draft stock. Exposure at the combine is important, however, it is far from integral. Isakov, Musa, and Lukings, may have hope that their portfolios are impressive enough to warrant a draft pick.

For Sackey, he may hope the that if he doesn’t get drafted this year, an additional year of eligibility will catch the eyes of scouts across the CFL.


Women’s volleyball bring home CIS banner to finish perfect season in style


For the first time in program history, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team are national champions. The Blues completed a perfect 25–0 season and breezed through the championship match against last year’s champions Trinity Western Spartans 25–1, 25–18, 25–12.

The Blues clinched the conference banner two weeks ago at the Goldring Centre, where they defeated cross-town rivals Ryerson Rams in three sets. The second banner for the Blues in as many seasons, the win would secure the squad’s trip to the CIS championships in Brandon, Manitoba, where they would be the lone competitors to represent the OUA conference.

The Blues started their championship sweep by defeating the McGill Martlets in the quarterfinals. In a game that went to five sets, the Blues came from behind to win the match and reserve their spot in the semifinal against one of the tallest teams in the league, UBC Okanagan Heat.

In the semifinal, it looked like the Blues had met their match with the Heat, who took the first set from the Blues 21–25. A dominant match high of 20 kills from the Heat’s all-star Katie Wuttunee would frustrate the Blues, as they struggled to return devastating hits from the 6’3” middle. Despite dropping the first set, fifth-year veteran Caleigh Cruickshank saved the Blues and notched 18 kills and 22 points during the four set thriller. The Blues would advance to their first ever CIS final on a service error by the Heat.

In a relatively anti-climatic match, the Blues overcame the Spartans to win the final.

A kill by Cruickshank clinched the first set for the Blues, after which the women kept rolling with kill after kill from Cruickshank and rookie right-side hitter Alina Dormann. After the first set, the Blues took hold of the competition, not dropping the lead once throughout the final two sets, and won their first national title on a service ace by Dormann.

Dormann lead the squad in the final with a dominant 10 kills to cap off her first university season with the Blues, while Cruickshank was named tournament MVP, notching 47 points and 40 kills throughout her last CIS tournament.

Women’s track and field sweeps national championships

“Who run the world? Girls.”

Women’s track and field sweeps national championships

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.”

National Cancer Institute invests $4 million in Pathcore

U of T based start-up leverages the power of computation to transform pathology

National Cancer Institute invests $4 million in Pathcore

Quick and accurate diagnosis is vital to effective treatment, anything that can make pathology more efficient might be a literal life-saver.

Pathcore, a start-up based at the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, aids this process by employing the power of computerized quantitative methods to transform the field of pathology. Using algorithm-based image analysis, the start-up helps pathologists make diagnoses more accurately and more efficiently.

“Pathology is a very analogue field that still relies on microscopes and human interpretation to diagnose complex diseases,” says Dan Hosseinzadeh, CEO and co-founder of the start-up. “We feel that computers can assist the pathologists in certain routine, time consuming, and tedious tasks, thereby allowing the human pathologists to focus on the complex decision-making by synthesizing information from various sources into a diagnosis.”

The Sedeen Viewer, is one of Pathcore’s products that allows pathologists to annotate and analyze whole slide scans of tissue samples. Pathologists can then apply tissue- and disease-specific algorithms to the images to make clinical diagnoses.

Sean Nichols, Pathcore’s Lead Web Developer explains that, “for prostate cancer, you might have an algorithm that calculates what’s called the Gleason score, which is a scoring method for grading the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. In that case you might look across the whole image or select a few areas that are representative, and then run the algorithm on it.”

Pathcore has also developed assisted algorithms that automate repetitive tasks such as cell counting. “So right now pathologists would look at an area and say there’s about 200 cells, whereas an algorithm could tell you exactly how many it detects,” says Nichols.

“The main challenge is coping with the vast amount of information available when specimens are imaged at high resolution… Also understanding the complex nature of the disease process is challenging and important for building good algorithms,” says Hosseinzadeh.

Pathcore’s technology is currently being used by over 100 organizations around the world. The $4 million (CAD) investment from the US’ National Cancer Institute will accelerate algorithm development for cancer detection. This investment will allow the company to expand its Software Development Kit to support its partner institutions as they build their own algorithms.

Additionally, the company is “hoping to improve on the usability of the [Sedeen Viewer] and potentially hire some more developers to improve the software,” says Deyu Wang, product designer at Pathcore.

The start-up is a spin-off from a research project originally supported by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the Sunnybrook Research Institute.

The Impact Centre nurtures early stage start-ups by providing a range of services, including marketing, consulting, and legal support. It also provides a physical space for start-ups at little or no cost. Nichols explains that the Impact Centre “puts all these start-ups in an environment together to kind of interact with each other and give each other advice.”

U of T students interested in working at a start-up should enroll in IMC200 (Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and IMC390 (Internships in New Ventures). The latter allows students to complete a placement at an Impact Centre Company.

The three characteristics of a successful start-up, Hosseinzadeh argues are, “a dedicated and hardworking team, a niche product, [and] a strong network.”