Lions track & field team set for national meet

photo of a track star

The York University Lions track and field team is gearing up for its biggest meet of the season and will be in Winnipeg later this week to compete against the best student-athletes from across the country at the 2012 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Track & Field Championships.

The national meet gets underway at the University of Manitoba on Thursday, March 9, and continue for three days. For a full schedule and live results, visit the CIS Track & Field Championship website.

The Lions’ contingent this year includes 29 student-athletes (eight women, 21 men), up from the 18 that competed in Sherbrooke, Que., one year ago. At the CIS meet last year, the Lions men finished in a tie with the Western Mustangs for fourth place with 50 points, just three points behind the Regina Cougars for third place in the team standings. The women, meanwhile, tied for 14th with 10 points, all earned by thrower Cynthia Appiah.

Appiah is back again this season and looking to improve upon her two fourth-place finishes in the shot put and weight throw from last year. A double medallist in the two events in 2010, she is ranked second in both events heading into the York Lions track and field star Umar Khannational meet.

Shot putter Umar Khan is the team’s best hope for a medal in the event, with a number two national ranking

She won’t be alone in the competition, however, as teammates Elizabeth Petrov and Kristin Obrochta are back again and favourites in the shot put and weight throw, respectively. Petrov won the gold medal in the shot put at the recent Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships and is ranked first in the event heading into the CIS meet, while Obrochta turned the same trick in the weight throw and already won a national title in the event two years ago.

There are several medal hopefuls on the men’s side as well, with many Lions ranked among the nation’s top three in their respective events.

Sprinter Dontae Richards-Kwok  won three national medals last year – gold in the 300 metre and silver in both the 60 metre and 4 by 200 metre relay – and contributed 26 of the Lions’ 50 points in the team standings. He’ll be crucial to the team’s success again this year as he is entered in four events and is coming off three medals at the OUA championships, individual silvers in the 60 metre and 300 metre and a bronze in the 4 by 400 metre relay. He is ranked in the CIS’s top three in both the 60 metre and 300 metre.

He will be joined in the 60 metre race by teammates Tyrone Halstead and Olu Ogunde, who are ranked third and 11th, respectively, in the event, while Halstead will also compete in the 300-metre race.

The last member of the Lions to compete in an individual event on the track is Ryan Charlton, who is entered in the 600 metre. He has the eighth-best time in the CIS this year and will be looking for a strong finish in this race after falling on the final lap at the OUA championships while sitting in the bronze-medal position.

In the field, the Lions’ best chance at a medal will be in the weight throw courtesy of Daniel Novia, whose season-best toss of 20.74 metres is nearly two metres better than any other throw in the country this year. He is ranked first in the event and won his first OUA championship two weeks ago.

Teammates Eric Brathwaite and Chris Preece will join him in the weight throw. Brathwaite is seeded fourth in the country after a bronze-medal performance at the OUA championships, while Preece is seeded 10th and qualified for the CIS championships with a personal-best performance at the OUA meet, where he was fifth.

Both men will also compete in the shot put, where they are seeded sixth and ninth, respectively, behind fellow Lion Umar Khan, who is the team’s best hope for a medal in the event with a number two ranking. He won the OUA silver medal two weeks ago with a personal-best throw of 17.34 metres, which is two metres better than his result from the national meet last season.

The Lions have two rookies who are coming off OUA gold medal performances in David McKay and Vinh Le, who finished first in the pole vault and triple jump, respectively. McKay cleared 5 metres at the OUA meet, 25 centimetres higher than his previous personal best, to win the event by 19 centimetres over the second-place finisher, while Le jumped 14.37 metres at the OUA championships. Both are ranked third in the CIS in their events.

Joining McKay in the pole vault at the CIS meet are Vince DiBacco and Luke Durward, while Rodney Fajardo and Richard Jansen are both entered in the triple jump along with Le.

Rounding out the Lions contingent in individual events is rookie Kyle Killam, who is ranked eighth in the CIS in the high jump with a season-best 1.97 metres.

The Lions have a team entered into each of the three relays at the national championships, while the women have an entry in the 4 by 200 metre relay.

Their best chance at a medal will come in the men’s 4 by 200 metre event, where the Lions have won medals in three straight years, including CIS gold in 2009 and 2010. The quintet of Halstead, David Mayer, Birko Monitnat, Ogunde and Richards-Kwok is ranked fifth in the CIS prior to the championships and all but Montinat has already won a national championship in the event in past years.

Mayer, Montinat and Richards-Kwok will also run in the 4 by 400 metre relay along with Charlton, Andrew Heaney and Jordan Miller. The squad is ranked sixth in the CIS in the event and is coming off a bronze-medal showing at the OUA championships two weeks ago.

The final relay on the men’s side is the 4 by 800 metre, which will be run by Charlton, Heaney, Ethan Henry, Miller and Sam Neal. They came together to finish fifth at the OUA meet and are ranked eighth in the CIS.

On the women’s side, the Lions will be represented in the 4 by 200 metre relay by Kelsey Desjarlais, Diandra Forde, Sheereen Harris, Monique Rodney and Ashley Skof. They put together their best time of the year at the OUA championships, crossing the finish line in a time of 1:43.75, and enter the national meet ranked 10th.