LANGLEY, BC – From a near high-jump draw to a dominant steeplechase performance, the third day of the Bell Canadian Track and Field Championships did not disappoint overall, and U SPORTS athletes were no exception.
Canadian university athletes captured eight medals on Friday, with the Laval Rouge et Or leading all schools with a double podium in the men’s 3000-metre U20 event. Once again, Canada’s student-athletes consistently performed amongst Olympians and those bound for the World Championships later this month.
Here are three stories that captured the day on Friday.
U SPORTS and women’s high jump drama
Listed on the event sheet, Toronto Varsity Blue and 2022 U SPORTS champion Emily Brandrhorst had to pull out of the event during warmups due to a foot injury. Dejected, albeit smiling, she saw the eventual gold medal go to a height that she had previously jumped.
Former Acadia women’s basketball player Barbara Bitchoka pushed her way through the knockout rounds, quickly seeing off 2022 U SPORTS silver medalist Madison Myar among other UBC’s Julia Kwai.
Bitchoka, alongside Cornell grad Marguerite Lorenzo were the only athletes to get past the 180cm mark, eventually forcing a jump-off. However, they wanted to share the gold medal, similar to the men’s high jump at Tokyo 2020.
“We wanted to share the medal, but the officials didn’t really give us that option,” Bitchoka said. “We also both wanted to attempt those heights because those are heights we’ve done before.”
After three rounds of the jump-off, Lorenzo took the title, while Bitchoka settled for silver. Maddison Lawrence, a multisport athlete from the University of Manitoba, took home the bronze medal, giving U SPORTS two spots on the podium.
Men’s steeplechase brings double podium
UBC is not a U SPORTS track and field program. Still, alumnus John Gay made Canadian university athletics proud, capturing the national championship title in the men’s 3000m steeplechase and booking his spot at the World Championships. At the same time, Laval Rouge et Or student-athlete Jean-Simon Desgagnes earned the bronze medal.
Last year, Gay had to run the Olympic-standard time on a track all alone t punch his ticket to Tokyo 2020. However, this year, he had hundreds in the crowd pushing him on, and competitors nipped at his heels, albeit from a distance.
“It’s different when you have guys breathing down your neck like that, but it’s how racing should be,” Gay said post-race. “So I was grateful to have some guys pushing me from behind.”
Gay’s summer, which has been based entirely in the Pacific Northwest, will take on a bit more travel as he heads to Eugene for the World Championships and then to Birmingham, U.K., for the Commonwealth Games.
Laval’s Desgagnes also improved his ranking to a level that would qualify him to run at the World Championships. However, there is yet to be confirmation of his participation. The biomedical science student still has U SPORTS eligibility remaining. \
Varsity Blues alumnus wins decathlon
With Olympic Champion Damian Warner ruled out of Canadian Championshipsndue to an injury, the door was open for a new athlete to rise to the challenge of winning decathlon gold. For former Toronto Varsity Blue Rostam Turner, that idea suited him well.
Turner graduated from the University of Toronto in 2018 and has advanced to a successful multi-event career. He added a Canadian Championship gold medal to his resume on Friday.
He finished each of the decathlon events in the top 4, winning the 100m, 400m and discus throw sections of the competition. A total score of 6,418 earned the gold medal for Turner as he looks ahead to the rest of the season and potentially a call to the World Championships.
Keep an eye on men’s 100m for Saturday
Some might even call it the banner event. While Andre de Grasse, the poster boy, isn’t at the Nationals and won’t run the competition, the men’s 100m dash always brings an element of intrigue.
For U SPORTS fans, eyes will be on Guelph Gryphon Kudakwashe Murasiranwa, who covered the distance in 10.71 in the qualifying events, as he takes on the first heat of the semi-finals. Racing alongside him, however, is former UBC athlete and Botswanian-Canadian, Stephe Abosi, who could challenge for a medal.
While Olympians Aaron Brow and Jerome Blake are favoured to win gold at McLeod Athletic Park, Canadian university athletes have the potential to run their way to the podium.