The 49th annual Sled Dog Open, which saw the Huskies compete on Jan. 12 and 13 to open the season, will go down in history as the start of the Jason Reindl era.
Reindl, who is returning to his alma mater after spending the past five seasons as a coach for the University of New Brunswick, is fresh off winning men’s track and field coach of the year in the Atlantic University Sport conference. Reindl was named the first full-time coach in Huskies track and field history in the spring of 2017, and he is excited to return to the University of Saskatchewan.
“[I am] very excited to be back home in Saskatoon and working with such an amazing team. We have such a legacy of success, [which] is something that I was very excited about,” Reindl said, via text message.
Reindl is very pleased with what he saw from his team in their season debut and hopes this is just the start of something special, as he aims to continue building this program.
“The team atmosphere, support and culture is something that I am extremely happy with. While it doesn’t seem like much, this is a huge building block for us in our continued success,” Reindl said.
The team won eight gold medals, and Huskie athletes had 19 other podium finishes, which is a start to the season that Reindl is extremely proud of.
“Results-wise, we had a ton of personal bests, which highlight the work our athletes and staff have been putting in,” Reindl said.
Among the medals, the Huskies were able to dominate in pole vaulting, as they swept the podium in both the men’s and women’s competitions. Leadan Chartier won gold for the women, while Josh Websdale finished on top of the men’s event.
Websdale speaks of the pole vaulters’ dominance at this year’s edition of the Sled Dog Open, and he believes Reindl has been a welcome addition to the program this season.
“The vault group has made some major improvements this season with the addition of some strong rookies that are making an immediate impact. [Reindl] is a great coach, and having him around to provide encouragement just boosts everyone’s confidence and makes us want to be better,” Websdale said, via text message.
On the track, Julie Labach was phenomenal. The fourth-year business student won gold in the 1,000- and 600-metre races, narrowly edging out teammate and second-year business student Courtney Hufsmith in both runs. Their times in the 1,000-metre race, which surpassed the previous program record, qualified both women for the U Sports National Championships this March.
“[Labach] and [Hufsmith] are both extremely talented but also extremely focused. They have proven that they are two of the top athletes in the country,” Reindl said.
Hufsmith explains that, going forward, she will be more focused on longer events, and Labach will keep her attention on shorter races. Hufsmith also notes that training alongside Labach is a tremendous advantage.
“It’s great being teammates with Julie, as we are very competitive and push each other to our best,” Hufsmith said, via text message.
Labach and Hufsmith will also compete together as members of the Huskies 4 x 800 relay team, and as a whole, Hufsmith is pleased with the group the Huskies have put together and confident in the team’s ability to make some noise on the national level.
“I feel really good about the talented athletes we have on the team this year and the program that [Reindl] is building,” Hufsmith said. “The women’s side is ranked fairly well, currently, and I’m excited to see what we can do this season.”
The women’s team, which is currently ranked number eight in the country, will look to build on their ranking as they, along with the men’s team, travel to Edmonton on Jan. 19 to compete at the University of Alberta’s Golden Bear Open.