15 Medals, 2 Meet Records at McGill Team Challenge

It may have been cold outside, but the performances this weekend, inside the Tomlinson Fieldhouse on the campus of McGill University, were on fire. The McGill Team Challenge, which kicked off Friday night, has come to be known as the top indoor competition in Canada as it attracts university participants from across Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes as well as a number of high level club competitors. In total, Ottawa athletes brought home a total of fifteen medals, six gold, six silver and 3 bronze. In addition to their gold medals, both Melissa Bishop and the University of Ottawa men’s 4x400m relay team set meet records.

For Bishop, Saturday’s 600m contest was her first race since August and she looked in control from the get go despite being followed closely to the finish by club mate Emma Galbraith. Melissa’s winning time of 1:30.71 was her fastest debut performance ever and bettered fellow Lion Jen Perreault’s standard of 1:30.99 set last year. Galbraith would cross the line in 1:31.78, recording a new PB to move up to eighth in the all-time club rankings and take over the top ranking in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).  Emma was also victorious in the Friday night’s 1000m event with another personal best run and CIS leading time of 2:50.22. The rookie from Franco-Ouest is also currently ranked third in the 1500m.

In the 4x400m relay, the quartet of Toluwalope Makinde, Gabriel Tesfaye, Devin Biocchi and Michael Robertson, representing the University of Ottawa, would only relinquish the lead for 60m on the second leg as they were virtually unchallenged on their way to claiming  gold in a CIS leading 3:17.08. The time was also a slight improvement on the meet record of 3:17.77 set by nearly same the quartet last year. The night before, Makinde, Biocchi and Robertson teamed up with Gordon Cave to capture gold in the 4x200m relay, crossing the line in 1:27.28. The team, which broke the CIS record last March, continues to top this year’s rankings.

In the men’s 60m hurdles, national silver medallist Sekou Kaba was just hoping to get through the race in one piece after battling a patella injury for the past six weeks. However, Kaba, ever one to rise to the occasion, did a little more than that in sprinting across the line of the prelims in 7.94 seconds – his third fastest performance ever. While slowing slightly in the final, Kaba’s run of 7.95 seconds easily outclassed his competitors on his way to victory. Kaba’s teammate Oluwasegun Makinde was disqualified in the hurdles final for deliberately knocking down a hurdle; however, his prelims performance of 8.14 seconds marked his fourth PB in the event this season and currently has him ranked third in the CIS behind Canadian champion Matthew Brisson of Western University.

In one of the more anticipated races of the weekend, the men’s 300m did not fail to disappoint. The trio of Michael Robertson, Oluwasegun Makinde and Gordon Frenke were head and shoulders above their competition in the first heat. The three sprinters would come off the final corner bunched together, but as the they closed in on the finish Robertson and Frenke would pull ahead slightly, battling step for step to the line. When the times flashed on the board, Robertson was declared the winner by the tiniest of margins as he out leaned Frenke 33.61 to 33.62 seconds. However, following the race Frenke would be declared the victor as Robertson would be disqualified for stepping on the inside of his lane. Makinde crossed the line in 34.21 seconds to secure himself an automatic berth to the CIS championships in Edmonton.

The busiest individuals on Saturday were the pentathletes,  who were the first ones at the track and last ones to leave as they battled through five events on the day. Two time Canadian bronze medallist in the decathlon, Patrick Arbour put together a lifetime best performance over the five events to produce a score of 3710 points, 108 higher than his previous personal best. Highlighting Arbour’s day was the 60m hurdles, where he removed a tenth of a second from his previous best, running 8.38 seconds. He also tied his PB in the high jump with a 1.90m clearance and produced his second best long jump performance ever with a leap of 6.74m. Meanwhile, Arbour’s training partner, Hubert Chevrette-Belisle produced a CIS automatic qualifying performance in his combined events debut. The former 400m hurdler produced personal best efforts of 6.46m in the long jump, 1.81m in the high jump and 2:39.95 in the 1000m which pushed him to a score of 3572 points, which currently ranks him third in the CIS.

In the women’s pentathlon, Michele Krech needed to produce a lifetime best to claim third place with 3678 points. The nearly 100 point improvement on her previous best was fuelled by her second best high jump performance ever, 1.65m, and a personal best 800m, 2:16.32, to close out the day. Teammate Karla Shepard finished in 6th with 3528 points, including a 1.71m clearance in the high jump – good enough for sixth all-time.

A select group of University of Ottawa athletes will return to action at The Armory in New York City on Feb 2nd, while a contingent of Ottawa Lions will return to Montreal for the Corsaire Chaperal meet at Centre Claude Robillard.