Members of the U of M track and field team joined This Week in Bison Sports Friday to talk about the upcoming national championship.
The Bisons will host the 2019 U Sports Track and Field Championship at the Max Bell Centre in March.
Team captain Syed Aoun was joined by runners Marcel Dufault and Stefan Hreno, as well as jumper Oyinko Akinola.
“Well [nationals] is like one of the biggest events in track and field like [the] whole year, the whole season,” Aoun said.
He said hosting the national championship is important to all athletes at the U of M, whether they are competing or just training in track and field.
It will also be great for the city, he added, noting Winnipeggers will get a first-hand look at Team Canada athletes and other high caliber track talent.
“I think it’s super special,” Hreno said. “Not just because we get all our friends and family to come watch us run, but because our sprints team is really, really damn good this year.”
“I totally agree with [Stefan],” Dufault said. “Just the fact that we have such a strong team right now this year is like the best moment that could happen, to have [nationals] at home.”
Akinola has had success on the national stage before, winning silver during the 2018 championship. He snagged the second-place finish with a 2.13 metre result in the men’s high jump.
“It’s a very good opportunity,” Akinola said.
“It’s a very great meet and it’s a good atmosphere, and having it done at home would definitely be a plus.”
The jumper also said that competing at home brings a comfort advantage.
The Bison athletes train at the same venue they will compete, see the same people every day and get to go home at the end of the night.
“You sleep in your own bed and eat your mom’s food, and that’s always a plus,” Akinola said.
With three days of action, filled with countless different events, trials and athletes, trying to take it all might be daunting for fans.
However, the track athletes gave listeners some tips for appreciating the competition and becoming a fan of the sport.
“It’s a pretty extensive day when we compete,” Akinola said. “It’s just very broad, like we’ve got to fit in a lot of things.”
“Kind of just show up for like […] usually I’d say for the 60 [metre],” he said.
“The 60 [metre] final is usually the best time to watch because that’s usually when the fastest guys are running. That’s fun, and if you like jumping, high jump finals are usually pretty cool as well.”
Akinola also said fans should look at the schedule and pick events that interest them.
Aoun added that everyone competing during the championship will be among the best in the country.
“Everyone will be exciting for sure,” he said.
“No matter what event you pick, from sprints to jumps to relays.”
Relays were singled out as another exciting event to watch at nationals. The points garnered at the event, according to the track athletes, have the potential to decide which team ultimately wins the day.
“Yeah our [4×400 metre] teams or [4×200 metre], those are usually really fun,” Akinola said.
“Those obviously take a little bit longer which means people do get passed and things like that, so that’s always a fun thing to watch.”
All four athletes agreed that nationals is the perfect time for would-be fans to get into track and field. They will not only see top performers but also Olympic athletes and hopefuls.
“You get to see the best athletes in the country for sure,” Akinola said. “I know we have a couple guys that actually were on the Olympic team in 2016 coming back to Guelph to come compete, there were a few guys that made the FISU team.
“So there are a lot of really great, great, great athletes that will be here, so that’s definitely something you can watch.”
The Bisons begin the Canada West track season on Dec. 1, at the Flying M Classic. The start-time for the meet has still to be decided.
The full interview with Aoun, Dufault, Hreno and Akinola is available for streaming on UMFM.com.
Tune into 101.5 UMFM for more This Week in Bison Sports, hosted by Jason Pchajek, every Friday at 11 a.m. CDT.