York welcomes best of OUA track and field starting Friday

Women’s side thrower Cynthia Appiah, a gold and silver medal winner at last year's OUA Track & Field Championships

The best track and field student athletes from across the province will be at York University this weekend for the 2012 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Track & Field Championships.

The action will get underway at the Toronto Track & Field Centre on Friday, Feb. 24, from 12:30 until about 9pm. The event will pick up again on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 10:30am and go until about 5pm.

Women’s side thrower Cynthia Appiah, a gold and silver medal winner at last year's OUA Track & Field ChampionshipsThe York Lions men’s team finished fourth at the OUA championship last season, the same place they finished the previous year, while the women dropped down one spot to sixth. Both Lions teams have been ranked in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s  (CIS) Top 10 for the entire regular season; the men’s Lions peaked at No. 2 and currently hold down the No. 3 spot, while the women are at a season-high No. 8.

Women’s side thrower Cynthia Appiah, a gold and silver medal winner at last year’s OUA Track & Field Championships

It will be a tough battle for the team titles this season as the rest of the squads look to knock off the Windsor Lancers, who won both the women’s and men’s team banners last year for the second consecutive year. The men’s team is favoured again this year after ranking No. 1 in CIS for five straight weeks, while the women will again be in the mix and will likely see their biggest competition come from Guelph and Western. The Lancers have won 13 straight OUA men’s titles and 20 of the last 21 overall, while the women have won six of the previous eight trophies.

The two most recent champions not earned by the Lancers were Guelph’s women’s team in 2009 and Western’s men’s team in 1998.

Dontae Richards-KwokDontae Richards-Kwok

Last year, the Lions won 10 medals at the OUA championships, courtesy of six from the men’s team and four from the women’s team. Sprinter Dontae Richards-Kwok of Mississauga was the star of the meet with four gold medals and was named the OUA’s most valuable performer, while on the women’s side thrower Cynthia Appiah of Etobicoke won a gold and a silver medal to lead the Lions.

There will be many more exciting performances from the Lions this year as nine student athletes are ranked among the OUA’s top three in 11 different events heading into the two-day championship meet, and many others are within striking distance of reaching the podium. Appiah has the best odds of the year in both the shot put and weight throw to be ranked first in each of those events, while fellow thrower Daniel Novia of Mississauga is seeded first in the weight throw on the men’s side and teammate Eric Brathwaite of Brampton is third.

The Lions have several top throwers on their roster and two others, Kristin Obrochta of Mississauga and Umar Khan of Scarborough, are ranked in the top three prior to the OUA championships. Obrochta holds down the second spot in the weight throw, just behind Appiah, while Khan is ranked third in the shot put.

On the track, Richards-Kwok enters the meet with top-three seeding in two individual events, the 60-metre and 300-metre, while middle-distance specialist Ryan Charlton of Whitby has the season’s third-best time in the 600-metre.

Two other men’s field event specialists are medal threats in their respective events as David McKay of Toronto is ranked second in the pole vault and Vinh Le of Mississauga is third in the triple jump.

Many athletes competing at this weekend’s meet have already punched their tickets to the CIS Track & Field Championships, which are being hosted by the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg March 8 to 10. All athletes who achieve the CIS-qualifying standard in their respective events will advance to the national meet, as will all gold and silver medallists from the OUA championships.

For more information and for a complete schedule, live results, directions, ticket prices and more, visit the official 2012 OUA Track & Field Championships website.