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Posted: March 11, 2009  : Add to Mixx!

Athletics: Gryphons Gear Up For Title Defenses

Six years ago at the 2003 CIS Track and Field Championships in Windsor, a surprise team stood on the third rung of the men's podium: the University of Guelph Gryphons. The Gryphons, with a squad consisting of six distance runners, one hurdler and one thrower had an incredible meet and made history by becoming the school's first podium track and field team. It would be five more years until a Gryphon track and field team would find itself on the podium, but when it did it would do so in an even more dramatic manner than that team in Windsor. Last year the Gryphons were sensational in capturing their first and second ever CIS titles in track and field as the men and women swept the titles at McGill. As the Gryphons return to the site of their first statement as the University of Guelph as a track school they will do so as defending National Champions.

The growth of the University of Guelph Track and Field program took another major step forward two weeks ago as the women's team captured their first OUA Championship, while the men placed second matching their highest ever finish. As they prepare for Windsor, the women will enter the meet as co-favourites with the hometown Windsor Lancers while the men will be extremely hard pressed to defeat the heavily favourite male Lancers and will be in a battle to finish on the podium. It speaks to the growth of the program that a finish off the podium would be considered a disappointment for either gender.

The Gryphon women's title hopes will once again largely rest on their young stars. Second year athlete Lindsay Carson enters the meet as the favourite in the women's 1500 and co-favourite in the women's 3000 meters as well as being a key member of the women's 4 x 800 meter relay team. The relay will be a race vital to the team competition as the Lancers enter ranked first in the country with the Gryphons less then a second back in second. The relay team will consist entirely of first and second year athletes, potentially including twin rookie sisters Lydia and Nadine Frost as well as second year athlete Jess Vanhie all of whom will also be running the women's 1000 meters in which they are ranked fourth, sixth and seventh respectively. Fellow first year athlete Rachel Aubry will also be in the pool giving Coach Dave Scott-Thomas five excellent legs to select from for his final quartet.

First year athlete Miana Griffths is ranked second in the 60 meters and will be part of a strong women's 4 x 200 meter relay. Griffths has been undefeated this season aside from an early season narrow loss event favourite Genevieve Thibault. Looking to join Griffths on the podium will be Sarah Peirce, who placed second to Griffths at the recent OUA Championships.

The Gryphons will also be dependent on a strong presence in the field events led by the teams' elder stateswoman fifth year athlete Steph Jackson. Jackson will be aiming to defend her title in the women's shot put. She is coming off her incredible performance at the OUA Championships which saw her shatter her own school record with a throw of nearly fourteen and half meters. Also entering the meet as a likely podium contender in the field is second year athlete Shaneista Haye. Haye enters the meet ranked third in the women's high jump after finishing fifth as a rookie.

Although the performance of these blue chip athletes will be critical if the Gryphons hope to bring the Championship back to Guelph, it will require a full team effort since the team title could come down to a single point in any one of a number of events.

The Gryphon men's hopes will rest largely on their vaunted distance squad. More than half of their predicted points will come from the distance crew, including a potential sweep of the men's 3000 meters. Teammates Kyle Boorsma, Allan Brett and Derek Snider will look to repeat their 1-2-3 performance of the 3000 at the OUA Championships, and all three will also be in action in the men's 1500 and could also be part of the third ranked 4 x 800 meter relay team.

If the Gryphon men are to improve upon their current fifth place ranking and make the podium, they will need a strong performance from their field event athletes which were so instrumental in last year's title. Guyson Kuruneri enters the meet as the second ranked long jumper in the CIS and will be looking to garner his first CIS medal after finishing fifth in each of his first two years. Last year's CIS bronze medalist in the men's high jump, Cornell Haynes, enters the meet as the twelfth ranked high jumper in the country. Haynes has been known throughout his Gryphon career as a big meet performer and if he can match his jump of 2.02 from last year's CIS Championships he could once again be on the podium. Rounding out the Gryphons male medal contenders will be Dustin McCrank in the men's weight throw. McCrank enters the competition ranked fourth in the country, the same position he finished at last year's CIS Championships.

If last year's CIS Championships proved anything it is that anything can happen at the CIS Championships. The action will get underway Thursday afternoon with the Women's Weight Throw and the Men's and Women's Pentathlons. Full coverage available at CISport.ca, live results at WindsorLegionTrack.com. From:

Chris Moulton
University of Guelph 
Track and Field

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