On January 6, the Athletic Centre hummed with energy. Athletes, resplendent in their school colours, milled about the wide oval room. The air was cool but electric, punctuated regularly with the sharp crack of the starting gun.
The annual Sharon Anderson Memorial Meet had arrived — and with it, a horde of spandex- and lycra-clad students. Michelle Corrallo was the first Varsity Blue to perform in the 60 metre hurdle heats, achieving a sixth place finish at 9.69 seconds.
Anderson was followed by three more Blues: Anthony Kwan, Philippe Johns, and Steven Wilkens-Reeves in the men’s 60 metre hurdles. All three finished on the podium. Kwan came first with 8.55, Johns second with 8.78, and Wilkens-Reeves third with 9.03. The smaller heats leading up to the finals were quite friendly — the athletes often patted one another on the back or shook hands after they’d body-slammed the back pads at the end of track.
The hurdles were then cleared away for the 60 metre sprint heats, with Anne Gauthier, Marta Bogacki, Phoebe Simmons, Carolyn Solek, and Akeil Zarudny showing up for U of T. Waves of heats flowed furiously over the short expanse of track, runners gushing over the finish line every few minutes. Once finished, the runners idled around the track, waiting to hear if they’d qualified for the finals in a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere.
As the morning continued, the track area only grew more crowded. The finish line was padded on both sides with teammates and spectators. The meet began to transition to longer distance time trials, and the lap counter took its forbidding stance on the track. Alexander Bimm and Jake Carroll kicked things off for the longer distance Blues, striding easily through the 1,000 metre men’s timed race, finishing second with 2:31.85 and fourth with 2:34.10, respectively.
Next, Lucia Stafford loped through her 1,500 metre timed race, striking the track powerfully. The 19-year-old engineering student, whose record-breaking rookie year landed her a trip to Poland for the IAAF U20 World Championships, left her mark again. She took a wide first place, finishing with a solid 4:25.19, more than five seconds ahead of the second place finisher. She was followed by Zach Frangos in the men’s 1,500 metre; he ran a clean race in 4:17.92 and finished 10th in a stacked field.
A different kind of activity buzzed within the wide blue track, where the field events — including weight throw, shot put, long jump, high jump, triple jump, and pole vault — took place. Two jumps stood at either end of the inner circle, framing the action. First to take the leap for Toronto were Sarah Czmorek and Brittany Salmon in the women’s pole vault. They pounded over the brief stretch of track to gain speed before launching themselves over the barrier and plummeting to the mats below — Salmon placed third with a final height of 3.75 metres, Czmorek took seventh with 3.20 metres.
They were followed by Emily Branderhorst in the women’s high jump, the only Blues athlete to participate in the event; she tied for second with a final height of 1.6 metres. Next to take to the skies was Alexander Lau in the men’s pole vault, who moved dynamically over the barrier to take second place with a 4.25 metre finish. Tess McDonald closed things off on the field side with her second place performance in the women’s triple jump.
After a brief lunch break, the races resumed with the 60 metre finals. Zarudny had the best final result, finishing tenth with 7.29 seconds. None of the other Blues women placed in the top 10. After those frenetic bursts of energy, the shorter time trials began with the 600 metre and 300 metre timed sections, starring Alexander Bimm and Mateusz Krekora for the men’s 600 metre and Carolyn Solek for the women’s 300 metre. Bimm stole second in 1:22.92, while Krekora landed in seventh with 1:25.16.
As the meet crept toward its final events, athletes who’d completed their day’s work settled in with snacks and hefty doses of Gatorade to watch their teammates compete in relays.
For the everyday individual, stripping down to tiny shorts and running furiously around a rubber oval for a day likely doesn’t sound very enticing. Nevertheless, the Athletic Centre was brimming with people who were eager to compete. The Blues made their mark, leaving with 13 podium finishes and another golden performance from Stafford. As the season continues, athletes and spectators alike have a lot to look forward to.