Varsity Blues dominate competition at OUA Fairweather Division Championships

Blues women claim victory in 19 out of 19 events

Varsity Blues dominate competition at OUA Fairweather Division Championships

Sounds of water and hands slapping bodies echoed throughout the Varsity Pool as swimmers warmed up for their events in the Ontario Universty Athletics Fairweather Division Championships. While the 25-metre competition pool was empty, the warm-up pool was brimming with swimmers from the Western Mustangs, the McMaster Marauders, the Waterloo Warriors, and host Toronto Varsity Blues. Over the next two days, both the Blues men’s and women’s teams would place first, with the women winning 19 races out of 19 and the men claiming victory in 11 out of 19 events.

The team element elevated the atmosphere for the first event on Day 1, the women’s 200-metre freestyle relay. Rachel Rode, Kylie Masse, Ainsley McMurray, and Rebecca Smith took the U of T B team to first place with a time of 1:40.39. The men’s A team followed similarly, taking first place in a much closer 200-metre freestyle relay with a time of 1:31.89.

The intimidating 400-metre individual medley followed, but rookie swimmer Kate Rendall was unfazed as she touched the wall first at 4:52.07. This, according to Varsity Blues swimming head coach Byron MacDonald, was a standout swim for Rendall, who swam in Calgary prior to joining the Varsity Blues.

After the race, MacDonald explained, “She was able to get down to the fastest time she’s done in, I think… four years, and winning the individual medley when it’s a tough event… It takes a lot of hard work to do that and a lot of perseverance.”

Another rookie, Everett Smith, won the 400-metre individual medley for the Blues men’s team with a time of 4:30.55, with MacDonald commenting after the race that this was “a breakthrough swim for him, and we’re looking for good things from Everett as he progresses through his career for us here.”

On Day 2, Smith also won the 200-metre individual medley with a time of 2:05.04.

Masse placed first in both the 50-metre backstroke with a time of 26.81 and the 50-metre freestyle with a time of 25.11. Christopher Ruus, another standout swimmer, won his 50-metre backstroke with a time of 25.76, which qualifies him for the national championships in February.

MacDonald highlighted this achievement, saying, “Last year was a learning curve in his first year and he wasn’t able to qualify for the National championships, but now he’s trained, I would argue, twice as hard this year compared to last year, and he’s seen the results now — he’s qualified for nationals.”

The first day closed with the gruelling women’s 800-metre freestyle and men’s 1,500-metre freestyle. The swimmers stood on the blocks, pulling faces as they adjusted their goggles one last time before diving into the water.

While the noise lagged at the beginning of these events, the last 100 metres brought with it some of the loudest cheering of the day from both the audience and the swimmers around the pool, with large hand gestures accompanying the cheers as though the swimmers were attempting to physically push their teammates further and faster. Sophia Saroukian won with a time of 8:58.05, adding the 400-metre freestyle to her wins on day two.

The second day opened with the Blues winning in both the women’s and men’s 200-metre medley relay. The audience was vocal in its support, but it was the swimmers poolside who truly created and sustained the rowdy atmosphere as they supported their teammates in each event, with the Marauders and the Warriors especially contributing to the excitement. In between events, teammates helped each other with the infamous tech suits.

First-year U of T swimmer and standout swimmer of the meet, Ainsley McMurray won the 100-metre freestyle with an impressive time of 54.52; she also won the 200-metre freestyle after 1:59.90 and the 50-metre butterfly in 27.14. The women’s 200-metre butterfly was dominated by Hannah Genich, while Osvald Nitskki came in first for the men’s team.

The butterfly and breaststroke swimmers were encouraged by their teammates with unintelligible shouts that were timed in sync with the swimmers’ heads as they systematically emerged from and re-entered the water.

“It’s important that you like your teammates and that you’re pulling for them… the swimmers are helping each other get excited for competitions,” MacDonald explained.

It looked effortless, but in truth, months of training went into cutting times by seconds and milliseconds.

The Blues dominated the meet, with the women accumulating a victorious 1,214 points and the men emerging first with 1,179 points. On what’s next, MacDonald said, “This was a good step, but now we’ve got to step it up with even more hard work if we’re going to be able to take on the teams from the west that are a little bit stronger.”

Why the Varsity Blues matter

An introduction to The Varsity 's Sports section

Why the Varsity Blues matter

There’s a simple story regarding how I first started writing for The Varsity’s Sports section.

The July before my first semester, I sat across from then-Sports Editor Emma Kikulis in the lounge at The Varsity’s office and shared my ideas with her, in an enthusiastic and nervous fashion, characteristic of an incoming university student.

Back then, I wasn’t aware that eventually succeeding her was even a possibility. I was just eager to write about sports.

A few days before I attended my first class, I sat in the press box at Varsity Stadium and watched the Blues lose a high-scoring 55–33 game to the McMaster Marauders. Blues running back Divante Smith rushed for 112 yards and scored three touchdowns, while Marauders quarterback Asher Hastings threw for a ridiculous 384 yards and five touchdowns. I couldn’t think of a more entertaining introduction to Varsity Blues athletics.

Blues quarterback Simon Nassar, who towered above my audio recorder during the postgame interview, earnestly answered my questions about Smith’s performance and how the team could rebound from the loss. He even mentioned how cool he thought it was that I was covering the football team for The Varsity and thanked me for it.

Three weeks later, I was back at Varsity Stadium to cover the Blues women’s soccer team. The Trent Excaliburs didn’t provide much of an opposing force on that Friday evening, as striker Natasha Klasios scored a hat-trick to lead the Blues to a 6–1 victory.

However, it wasn’t until I became The Varsity’s Sports Editor as a third-year student that I fully embraced Varsity Blues athletics and understood what the program stands for. That happened after I finished an internship for Vice Sports in April 2017.

At Vice, I was educated on Canada’s sports media landscape while working on a story informed by former Ontario University Athletics (OUA) president Peter Baxter on the importance of varsity-level athletics for student athletes and the need for more coverage.

After being elected Sports Editor, it wasn’t hard to guess how I wanted to spend the next year of my life. I just couldn’t have predicted how incredible the experience would be.

When you reflect on an entire year, you tend to recall the big moments first.

It was an easy decision to skip the first day of class and interview Olympic bronze medalist Kylie Masse. Sitting across from Kylie, who admits, “The most important thing for me is enjoying to swim,” she appears likely to be the happiest person in any room with her positive attitude and constant smile.

I also won’t forget the day that Kylie broke her own 50-metre backstroke Canadian and U SPORTS record in the preliminaries and then again that same night in the finals at the U SPORTS Swimming Championships. Nor will I forget the roar of the crowd that followed her in each race that she competed in over the three-day event.

There was something unique about the brisk fall weekends I spent at Back Campus covering the Varsity Blues field hockey team.

Writing about field hockey was a chance to take a break from covering football and soccer and attempt to write about a sport that I initially knew next to nothing about.

I stood next to parents who were cheering on their daughters, jotted quick notes to describe the fast-paced action, and overheard returning alumni converse about how their weekend was going. It was liberating to step outside of the somewhat isolating nature of a press box and into a setting where one didn’t exist.

During the first game I covered, a parent approached me as I sat in the bleachers and typed notes. He was curious about what I was doing. Like Simon, he thought it was great that I was writing about the game. For the length of our conversation on Blues athletics, I didn’t mind being distracted from the action in front of me.

The interviews I conducted are impossible to forget.

Julia Costanzo looks down the field against the Queen’s Gaels. PHOTO BY MARTIN BAZYL COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

It was incredible to listen to Blues women’s hockey head coach Vicky Sunohara reflect on her illustrious career and memories of winning two gold Olympic medals and hear Emily Ziraldo’s teammates, Julia Costanzo, Rachel Spogue, and Emily’s twin sister Hilary, describe the incredible person she is on and off the field.

After interviewing Blues second-year swimmers Rachel Rodé, Sarah Polley, Hannah Genich, and Sophie du Plessis, all of whom happened to be roommates and won a combined 19 medals at the 2018 OUA Championships, it was inconceivable not to dub them as the ‘Fantastic Four.’ And before speaking to Hannah, I would’ve never considered the idea of hanging medals on a bedroom curtain rod.

Then, there are the moments I experienced vicariously through the words of my section’s writers, like Kate Reeve’s engrossing narrative capturing the shared experience of novice and veterans rowers — not to mention coxswains — competing at the annual Brock Invitational Regatta from the start of their journey as they departed Toronto before sunrise.

The Sports section came full circle with Julia Costanzo’s reflection on her rookie season as a member of the Blues field hockey team. The year ended with Emily and Blues punter TJ Morton being awarded the inaugural The Varsity Athletes of the Year, as voted upon by the section’s contributors.

Julia’s personal essay, “Notes from the dark room,” in The Physical Issue of The Varsity Magazine was impossible to read without confronting how little is actually known about concussions. It’s also the type of sports writing I would have introduced to Emma as an example of why I want to write for The Varsity.

Julia’s writing speaks volumes about her own resilient spirit; her essay detailed the difficult experience she went through after suffering a concussion, but was later able to overcome — an attribute fitting for the outstanding athlete she is, but also reflective of the character displayed by her and fellow student athletes.

That’s the reason why I believe every U of T student should attend Blues games. Any writer who is passionate about sports, wants to learn more, or is maybe just interested in writing about people should take the opportunity to contribute to the The Varsity’s Sports section for the same reason.

I know it’s the most rewarding decision I’ve made so far at U of T.

Blues women earn second, men place third at U SPORTS Championships

Kylie Masse breaks Canadian record in 50-metre backstroke

Blues women earn second, men place third at U SPORTS Championships

Some may believe that the outcome was inevitable. The University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds entered the 2018 U SPORTS Swimming Championships as the reigning champions, with a talented roster centred around Canadian Olympian Yuri Kisil, among other valuable swimmers, and they left having defended their title. UBC took home both the overall men’s and women’s titles, scoring 1,151.5 points and 1,362.5 points respectively. The Blues women came in second, and the Blues men earned third.

Despite all this suspected sureness, the element of competition in the air was impossible to ignore over the three-day event.

Kylie Masse led the way with a dominant performance at the meet, setting the Canadian record in the 50-metre backstroke and earning four U SPORTS records, one Canadian Club record, and five gold medals.

Entering the National Championships, conveniently held at the Varsity Pool, Masse, for the second year in a row, held the added responsibility of captaining the Blues women. “To have that title, it means a lot. I know a lot of the girls, I know when I was in first, second year, and third year, I really looked up to the captains… I’m very honoured to be the captain,” said Masse prior to the competition. “Not a lot of people get to race their high level races in their home pool and hometown, let alone home country.”

Masse’s stellar meet began in the preliminaries on Thursday morning as the Olympian broke the Canadian record with a time of 26.24 seconds. She managed to better this a few hours later with a time of 26.15.

Thursday night also saw an upset of Olympic proportions, as fellow Rio Olympic bronze medalist and Université de Montréal swimmer Katerine Savard failed to reach the podium in the 200-metre freestyle event. University of Calgary Dinos second-year swimmer Danica Ludlow earned gold in the race with a time of 1:55.43 minutes. The Victoria, British Columbia native earned another gold on Friday night, taking first place in the 400-metre event, and she closed out the tournament with first place in the women’s 800-metre freestyle.

The women’s 400-metre freestyle relay surpassed expectations as one of the best races of the championships. With Masse, Savard, and Ludlow swimming different legs in the event for their respective schools, the event saw a tight battle.

“It always gets really rowdy, and the environment and the atmosphere gets crazy during relays, because it’s always so close,” said Masse. “Team dynamic is really important. It’s something that even as a national and international level swimmer I always go back to.”

“Being part of a team event and having your teammates around you and push you, and are there for you through the training and the competition… I really love that part of swimming,” said Masse.

After a great start from Rachel Rodé, Masse entered the pool to loud chants of her name, and she closed down the gap on Montréal’s Camille Bergeron-Miron to within an arm’s length. Sarah Polley followed Masse, and Olivia Sbaraglia swam the anchor leg for Toronto against Savard, but she was unable to close the gap. Montréal won the gold with a Canadian record time of 3:37.76; Toronto earned second, and UBC closed out the podium.

In addition to Ludlow’s impressive showing and strong performances from the men’s team, Calgary also brought plenty of energy to the meet as swimmer Olivia Bellio hammered a snare drum in sync with the her teammates’ powerful strokes in the pool. The Thunderbirds furiously rang handbells throughout the race, but Toronto, not to be outmatched, began each night with a boisterous chant deafening the entire pool deck.

“This is the pool that we train in every single day. It’s nothing new for us. It’s really neat to be able to see it all decked out and have all the teams here at our pool,” said Masse.

The stands were filled with spectators from all over Canada on the edge of their seats, cheering on family and friends. Four-time Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak was in the crowd to cheer on her fellow Olympic teammates.

Over the span of the second night, the Blues claimed seven medals, including a bronze from Rodé in the women’s 50-metre butterfly and a gold medal finish by Eli Wall in the men’s 200-metre breaststroke.

“This is my last U SPORTS and last races for U of T, so it’s been great,” said Wall. “It’s always nice to win in front of a home crowd.”

Unsurprisingly, Kisil claimed gold in the men’s 50-metre freestyle. Kisil, another member of the 2016 Rio Olympics Canadian swimming team, looked confident in the water, barely taking time to breathe during his race. He won with an extremely fast time of 21.50, breaking his own previous U SPORTS record of 21.69 set in the prelim round that morning.

Masse confidently took the gold in the 200-metre backstroke finals on Saturday night, setting a new U SPORTS record time of 2:02.17, breaking the previous one, which she also held. The final was an emotional one, as fellow teammate and bronze medalist Sarah Polley shared an embrace with Masse following the race.

The stands were packed all night with the sound of screaming fans. It was the loudest and most energetic day of the three. All the swimmers who had already finished events, especially the ones from U of T, came out and lined the balconies to cheer on their fellow Blues. Throughout the night, the family and friends of the swimmers stayed loud and energetic. Tears of joy and tears of sadness flooded the stands, with many dreams coming to fruition and some dreams being delayed until next year.

Kisil’s main event, the men’s 100-metre freestyle, took off to a nice start in prelims with a first-place finish to move him onto the finals. During his heat, he was behind after the first turn, but to no surprise, the Canadian star pulled ahead and had a solid finish. Kisil sped to the finish to claim the gold medal with a time of 47.12. U of T’s Mitch Ferraro took the bronze medal, confidently stepping out of the water to the screams of his fellow Blues teammates.

With the night coming to a close, the Varsity Blues women’s and men’s relay teams fiercely competed in the 400-metre medley relay. The women took home the gold, and the men earned silver.

Closing out the night, the Blues women finished in second place overall, and the men claimed a third-place finish. Looking forward, many of the athletes have their eyes set for the international stage.

Finally, with much anticipation — but without much surprise — Masse and Kisil were named U SPORTS Swimmers of the Year.

Blues swimmers make waves at Winter Invitational

Varsity swimmer Jess Yu flies to first place

Blues swimmers make waves at Winter Invitational

Over the weekend, the Varsity Blues swim team competed against multiple schools, including Western University, Brock University, and the University of Ottawa in the Winter Invitational at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Pool.

The first day of the tournament kicked off without delay at 6:00 pm, following a 5:45 pm warm up.

Hundreds of swimmers and spectators lined the decks and stands as family and friends of swimmers from all over Ontario supported the teams. The pool was so full that it was hard to find seats, which, for a Varsity Blues game, is an impressive turnout.

The night started off with 16 heats of women’s 50 metre freestyle. The competition was fierce and prepared for the night ahead; swimmers such as Charis Huddle from the Western Mustangs displayed their athleticism with swift turns and fluid, speedy movements. The Varsity Blues fared well, taking second and third place in this event.

Chris Ruus of the Blues also impressed, placing first in his heat of the men’s 200 metre backstroke. Going up against very strong swimmers from Brock and Guelph, the Blues swimmer accentuated his fluid arm strokes and strong leg kicks to take first place in his heat and seventh overall. The U of T men continued to show that their training has paid off, claiming top spots in the men’s 200 metre freestyle and 50 metre breaststroke.

U of T swimmers finished off day one with nine first-place finishes out of 16 events. Multiple top-five finishes followed.

The second day of the meet started strong with a win from Varsity Blue Jess Yu in the women’s 200 metre butterfly. Her strong arms and graceful kicks brought her out on top, with Laurentian Voyageurs’ Riley Konrad and Ottawa Gees-Gees’ Claudie Richard falling short of victory and claiming second and third place respectively.

In the middle of event 22, the pools were cleared due to an emergency. A male swimmer was taken away on a stretcher and the decks were cleared for the emergency medical technician. All spectators were moved to the lobby as the swimmer who looked to be in distress was taken out. About half an hour later, spectators were allowed back in, as the competition started again, picking up at the sixth heat of event 22. Mitch Ferraro of the Varsity Blues took second place in the event followed by fellow teammate Cameron Kidd, who claimed third.

The women’s 100 metre breaststroke event was a strong one for the Blues, with Rachael Parsons winning the first heat. Her ability to maintain long strokes while still keeping her immense speed pushed her to first. Nicole Demirov came second in the following heat of the same event, showing the strength in the training of the U of T women.

The day started to wind down with a win from Varsity Blues swimmer Rachel Rode in the first heat of the 50 metre butterfly. The intensity of her arm strokes pushed her to her winning position.

What’s next for the Varsity Blues? The team has continued to improve over the length of the season and will give their best efforts at the OUA Championships in London, Ontario as well as at the U Sports Championships held at Varsity Pool from February 22–24. Come out to support the Blues and experience some world-class swimming competition.

Varsity Blues swimming program claim overall victory in OUA quad meet

Kylie Masse wins 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly

Varsity Blues swimming program claim overall victory in OUA quad meet

The Varsity Blues swim team competed this past Saturday against Wilfrid Laurier, Queen’s University and York University at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quad meet. Held at the Varsity Pool, both the men’s and women’s team took overall first place tournament wins, claiming victory over the three other participating schools.

The meet started with a brief 15-minute delay, but got off to a quick start with both the Varsity Blues men’s and women’s teams claiming victory in the 200-metre medley relay. The teams were well rehearsed, with quick switches and fluid movements through the water. Early on, the Blues seemed to have a clear advantage; starting with the third event the women’s 400-metre freestyle, Blues swimmer Sophia Saroukian showed off her strong strokes and clean movements to claim a first place finish with a time of 4:20.27. 

Continuing the Blues women success, Kylie Masse claimed first place in the 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly. Teammate Sophie Du Plessis also rose to the occasion, scoring multiple points by winning the women’s 100-metre backstroke with a time of 1:03.58, breaking her seed time, as well as winning her heat in the women’s 100-metre butterfly with a time of 1:03.84.

There was a slight pause after the first women’s 200-metre freestyle after York Lions swimmer Olivia Smail suffered an injury in the middle of her heat. The athlete was helped to the side and taken away to be treated for her injuries. After the break, the meet continued with the second heat of event.

The Blues men continued to excel in their strokes. Second-year backstroke and individual medley swimmer Matthew Mac won the men’s 100-metre backstroke with an impressive 56.04 time. The Varsity Blues men did especially well in the men’s 50-metre butterfly, claiming first, second, third and fourth place. Gaël Chaubet won first with a U SPORTS standard time of 24.75.

Overall, Toronto displayed their dominant skill through intimidating wins across the entire meet. Moving forward, the Varsity Blues will hope to replicate this success for the rest of the season. With another OUA meet in Guelph on November 25, the Blues will continue to improve upon their results and attempt to continue their impressive winning streak.

Kylie Masse: the Blues athlete of our generation

Masse discusses setting a world record, juggling school, and a hometown parade

Kylie Masse: the Blues athlete of our generation

Kylie Masse begins the first day of class differently than most Kinesiology students. At a mid-morning media avail, she’s flanked by University of Toronto Varsity Blues Sports Information Coordinator Jill Clark and Events & Marketing manager Mary Beth Challoner. The trio make small talk until the clock strikes 10.

Masse sits in the stands above the Varsity Pool, overlooking the sight where she dominated at the OUA Championships earlier this year, and recounts her eventful summer, headlined by her world record performance at the World Championships in Budapest and concluded by a parade in her honour in her hometown of LaSalle, Ontario in mid-August.

The event reminded the Olympic bronze medalist of her own childhood and how impactful it was for her at a young age to meet an Olympian or an older athlete. “It was pretty neat honestly, it was really eye-opening and meant a lot… I hope to continue to be that role model for kids out there, for girls and females in swimming and every other sport as well.”

The 21-year-old Masse understands the impact and importance of being the first Canadian female swimming world record holder. Almost two months have passed since her feat, but she’s still processing her record time of 58.10 and can’t recount the specific aspects of the race explaining that “it’s all kind of a bit of a blur.”


“It happened so fast, I turned around and looked at the scoreboard a few times to double-check that I was seeing what I saw,” Masse says. “I did several interviews right after in a row and I didn’t really know how to process the information because I didn’t really know how I felt, but it was super exciting.”

After the race, Masse didn’t have much time to celebrate the accomplishment. She enjoyed her time on the podium but with a race the following morning, Masse needed to focus on her next challenge.

“Social media was crazy and my phone was blowing up which was awesome and [it] means so much to have that much support and recognition,” Masse says. “I had to put my phone down because I needed to go to sleep, I need to reset, and I still had to race like another five times. It definitely took more days to sink in then it probably should’ve, but I mean I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”

The four first place finishes she earned at the OUA Championships in February are almost incomparable to her more recent accolades, but her growth and development are a clear byproduct of U of T’s historic swim program. Masse believes she left LaSalle with a “good technical foundation,” but emphasizes that her coaches Byron MacDonald and Linda Kiefer have played a key role in her evolution in the pool and her ability to balance swimming and school.

“When I got here [my technical ability] just grew immensely and I think I gained a lot of strength and learned a lot about myself in the pool and out of the pool,” Masse says. “Byron and Linda have always been there for everything that I need in the pool and out of the pool as well.”

Masse displays flashes of her small-town roots, remarking on the vast availability of drop-in dance classes in Toronto in comparison to LaSalle. “I like dancehall, which is a Caribbean music, and beginner hip-hop,” Masse explains to the Kinesiology Department’s Communications Specialist Jelena Damjanovic when asked about what she does in her free time. Masse also admits that the day before the interview was her first return to the pool after a month-long layoff.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia are her next major objective for Canada. She laughs, “The official team hasn’t been named yet but I think I have a pretty good shot of being on the team.” Masse also looks forward to the U Sports Championships that will be hosted at the Varsity Pool on February 22-–24, 2018. She hopes her fellow students will come out and support the team.

“The most important thing for me is enjoying to swim, and that’s when you swim fast,” Masse says. “I kind of like to say a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer.”

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

Big week for Varsity Blues athletes

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

While U of T students gear up for classes after reading week, many varsity athletes didn’t get much of a break. Multiple teams competed in a throng of meets throughout reading week.

The Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swim teams came home with Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banners; the track and field squad took on international competition in Washington and Ohio; and the men’s volleyball team shut-out number one team McMaster, while the women capped off a perfect regular season.


The Varsity Blues swim teams didn’t disappoint during the OUA championships in London. Hosted by the Western Mustangs, the Blues dominated the competition with both teams’ closest challengers, the Mustangs, over 280 points away from the Blues women’s 1,049 point total and the men’s 1,019.

Over the course of the competition the Blues broke multiple OUA and national records, amounting to 18 in total. Second-year Kylie Masse led the women’s team, taking home four individual gold medals — one of which came in her national record breaking 100m backstroke race. Masse was named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) athlete of the week for her successes.

On the men’s side, third-year Hochan Ryu drowned the competition and was named the male OUA swimmer of the year, earning four individual gold medals, including a meet record; he was also a member of two of the Blues gold medal winning relay teams. The OUA banners signal the thirteenth straight banner win for the men and the third for the women. The wins place the squads comfortably at the top of the CIS leaderboards.

Track and field

Athletes from the Varsity Blues track and field team headed to the states for some division one competition when they attended the Husky Classic at the University of Washington and the Spire Invitational in Geneva, Ohio.

Sending teams comprised mainly of runners, the men’s team was lead by fourth-year veteran Sacha Smart who won the 600 m and 800 m competitions in Seattle. Smart, who competed on the Blues cross-country team in the fall, placed fifth in the 600 m at last year’s CIS championship. Sprinters Rayshaun Franklin and Isiah Weathers also enjoyed podium finishes in Seattle, placing first and third, respectively, in the men’s 300 m race.

Third-year distance athlete Gabriela Stafford not only placed second in the women’s 3000 m race, but also did it in a world championship qualifying time of 8:54.87 — a clocking which would have won the competition in 2014. Representing U of T’s field athletes was fifth-year horizontal jumper Julia Stille who, in keeping with her podium finishes throughout the season, placed second in the long and triple jump competitions.

The women’s track and field team sits at the top of the CIS leader board with a comfortable lead, while the men’s squad is just shy of 30 points behind powerhouse Windsor.


In an incredible demonstration of grit, the number four Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team defeated the top ranked Marauders in five sets to ruin McMaster’s perfect regular season.

The win, aided by a game high 23 kill performance from William Colucci, seemed to give the Blues a confidence boost, which carried them through wins against the Guelph Gryphons a day later, and an electrifying five set win over the Western Mustangs on Friday.

The win over the Mustangs awarded the Blues an OUA homecoming 12 years in the making, as the squad will play host to an OUA playoff game for the first time since 2004. Following a win over the Windsor Lancers on Saturday, the squad improved their winning streak to five.

Not to be outdone, the Blues women’s volleyball team completed a 19-0 regular season on Saturday with a win over the Lancers. Dropping only two sets all season, the women’s team sits five points behind UBC’s Okanagan campus who lead the CIS with 60 points. Last years OUA champions, the Blues will attempt to defend their banner this Saturday at the Goldring Centre in OUA quarterfinal action.

“Winning would be better”

Men’s and women’s swim teams face OUAs fins first

“Winning would be better”

Men’s Captain: Eli Wall 

Eli Wall. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Eli Wall. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Eli Wall has been swimming competitively for only 11 years, but can barely remember a time when he hasn’t been in the water.

The sport has taken him from his cottage, to the 2015 CIS Championships in Victoria, B.C. There, he was named the CIS Swimmer of the Year for his strong season which saw him take home two gold medals in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.   

This year, Wall hopes to repeat his successes both for himself and his team. Having recently returned from training in Fort Lauderdale, the team’s focus has turned from getting as fit as possible to improving their speed and technique. 

While the team is looking forward to defending their championship title at OUAs (Ontario University Athletics) even now, their sights are set on bigger goals: the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) championship. In 2015, U of T came just shy of a three-year winning streak. 

Wall thinks the team is stronger and more confident than ever. The first-year swimmers in particular, he notes, “are some of the hardest working swimmers I’ve ever had the opportunity to train with”. He knows that they will pull through in the upcoming competitions. 

As captain, Wall looks to keeping everyone focused. “If everyone stays on track individually, the team will thrive.” 

Wall cites his favourite swimmer as his third-year Blues teammate Cino Ling, and his favourite stroke as the 200 m breast.

Women’s Captain: Paige Schultz 

Paige Shultz. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Paige Shultz. Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

As a captain, Paige has taken a slightly different approach from Wall during her first year in the position. She acknowledges the difficulty of being a swimming captain — as the sport is both a team and individual sport — but she faces it all with excitement and positivity. Having lost the fun of swimming for a while, she rediscovered it through coaching children. “[…J]ust being easygoing with everything made my swimming so much better”.

Now she jokes behind the blocks and hopes that her swimmers don’t over think things before they compete.That isn’t to say Schultz doesn’t want to win, she does. She is confident about the OUAs, both for the team and for herself. She’s looking to add to her personal successes. In 2014 and 2015, Schultz won the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle events at the OUAs. Her fourth event, however, the 50m Butterfly, has always been placed right before or after one of her other races. This year, she’s hoping to win it, as well.

The team’s real goals, however, lie at the CIS championship. Ranked second in the nation, Schultz feels that retaining their position would be a big deal. “But winning would be better.”

Paige was actually propelled into her swimming career by a knee injury. Originally a gymnast she, like Wall, had also learned to swim at a cottage. When she hurt her knee, her options became surgery or swimming. Schultz won the Student-Athlete Community Service Award at CIS in 2015. She is a lifelong fan of the Dallas Cowboys and cites Dez Bryant as her favorite athlete. “If I could have half his confidence, I would be super happy… that’s the best part about him.” 

The Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swimming teams will head to London to compete in the 2016 OUA championships on February 11-13 where they hope to defend their 2014 and 2015 banners.