Ottawa – With the start of September, it can only mean one thing – time to go back to school. For three Ottawa post secondary institutions, it almost means getting back in to training to represent your school thanks to the help of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club. The Ottawa Lions took over the reigns of the University of Ottawa varsity cross country and track and field program in the fall of 2007, adding a club program at Carleton University last fall on a month’s notice and is currently taking over to create the roots of leadership of the cross country program at Algonquin College this month.
Since taking over the leadership of the Gee-Gees, two athletes have qualified for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Cross Country Championships, while on the track Gee Gee athletes have won a staggering 32 medals at the CIS Championships including 13 national championships and 2 CIS records. The success of the program has allowed numerous local athletes to stay at home to raise their academic and athletic game including 2012 Olympian Oluwasegun Makinde and fellow multi national team member Michael Robertson. Entering it’s eighth season, the University of Ottawa has risen in popularity on campus with nearly 150 athletes set to join the Gee Gee team this fall. Among the key athletes returning this fall are CIS bronze medalists on the track Mohamed Souleiman (1500m) and Charlotte Gardner (600m) as well as 2013 CIS finalist Devyani Biswal, who sat out last indoor season due to injury.
Just down the Rideau Canal at Carleton University, the Ravens are getting ready for the second season under the direction of the Lions. In its inaugural season, with a team of 15 athletes, the Ravens competed as a varsity club in competitions across Ontario, Quebec and in the United States. As the team looks to grow to upwards of 30 plus members, head coach Andy McInnis indicates the team could attain varsity status as soon as fall 2015.
“The university is currently exploring options that could have the team competing at provincial and national championships in the near future,” said McInnis. “The benefit of which of course is such an opportunity will encourage more to get involved in the sport, using championship participation as the growing of wings on the bird.”
In the west end of town is the club’s newest post secondary partner, Algonquin College. The Thunder, who competed at the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) cross country championships in 2013, have lost their varsity status for 2014. However, McInnis believes “success of this
club program will determine the potential return of Algonquin College Cross Country
as a varsity sport.” In an effort to attain this goal, the head coach has one message for his team, “We are going to train and we are going to race!”
The cross country squads will be the first to get going, with the preliminary practice for all three teams taking place 10 a.m. this coming Saturday, September 6th, at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility at Mooney’s Bay.