The weather outside might still be chilly, but that hasn’t stopped the University of Saskatchewan track and field team from beginning a new season. The Huskies kicked off 2017 by hosting the 48th annual Downtown Lions Sled Dog Open Track & Field Meet on Jan. 13 and 14.
The Sled Dog Open is an indoor track and field meet put on in co-operation between the U of S Huskies and the Saskatoon Downtown Lions Club. The event is the first track and field event of 2017 for the Canada West athletics division, as well as a community fundraiser for Huskies Athletics.
Along with the Huskies, athletes from the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Regina competed in a wide variety of track and field events.
Joanne McTaggart, the head coach of the Huskies track and field team, had nothing but good things to say about the team she’s already spent months coaching. Because of its indoor/outdoor status, track and field athletes begin training in September for the upcoming year.
“Basically, we’re off to a good start. We got a lot of medals, a lot of personal bests, probably 15-20 personal bests over the weekend, so we did really well,” McTaggart said.
Highlights from the weekend include firsts in the senior men’s 60-metre dash, the senior men’s 4×200-metre relay, the senior men’s weight throw, and both the senior women’s 600-metre and 1000-metre races.
Julianne Labach, third-year commerce student, is the athlete that won those last two races.
“It was great. The first one was pretty — well, it was a lot slower than I was hoping for, like it was 12 seconds off of the personal best I ran last year, so that’s pretty significant, but a win’s a win. I’m super competitive so I really just love the race,” Labach said.
Labach is not just a high performance track athlete. She also plays for the Huskies women’s soccer team as well.
“I was just so happy to get it out of the way. I was super nervous coming into it,” Labach said. “Because we had a really successful soccer season — we went to nationals for the first time ever — it pushed back my training for track by a couple weeks, so I have been feeling kind of behind and a little bit out of shape, so I was feeling pretty nervous.”
Astrid Nyame was another Huskies athlete that performed well at the Sled Dog Open, taking home first in the women’s 60-metre hurdles and second in the women’s 60-metre dash and long jump.
Even with her successes, Nyame is already looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Moving forward, I would like to improve on my time from last year. So right now, for the Huskie all-time [record], I’m sitting at second and I would really like to steal that first place spot!” Nyame said.
Despite numerous wins and personal bests, both Labach and Nyame cite the welcoming team environment as their favourite part of being a Huskies athlete.
“I think Huskies track and field is really great at bringing that team aspect into a sport like this,” Nyame said. “In a track and field sport like this, a lot of people are obviously competing on [their] own. It’s very individual based. So my favourite part of Huskie track and field is that there is that team aspect, which is something that is missing from a sport like this.”
Emily Klatt / Sports & Health Editor
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor