March 11 will mark the start of the 2022 NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Ala. Six Canadian athletes, including three women who broke Canadian records this season, will head to Alabama to contend for the NCAA championship.
The Canadian contingent is led by the new national 600m record holder, Aurora Rynda, who competes for the University of Michigan. Rynda has had a fantastic season, setting indoor personal bests in the 600m and 800m as a fourth-year student. Rynda will be one of 16 NCAA athletes vying for the 800m title, along with fellow Canadian Victoria Tachinski of Winnipeg, who is in her last NCAA-eligible season at Penn State University.
“It’s going to take a personal best to win NCAA’s,” Rynda says. Many of the women who have qualified for the 800m at NCAAs have run sub-2:04 this season. “I am looking at the championship as another opportunity to run fast,” says Rynda. “I want to reach the final and be competitive.”
Two weeks ago, Rynda joined Olympic medallists Athing Mu and Raevyn Rogers as the only women in the NCAA to run under 1:27 in the 600m. “I think coming off of cross-country training propelled me with a lot of strength going into indoors,” Rynda says. She suffered an injury in late 2020, which took her out for the majority of the 2021 NCAA season. “One thing I’ve tried to do as a senior is taking pressure off myself.
“When you attend these big meets, it’s very easy to get freaked out and in your head,” says Rynda. Her coach at Michigan, Mike McGuire, and Canadian mile record holder Kevin Sullivan, have helped Rynda to maintain her composure this season, helping her to carry her confidence from workouts into meets.
Rynda and Tachinski will be two of five Canadian women who are set to compete in Alabama this weekend, along with Ottawa’s 200m Canadian record holder Lauren Gale of Colorado State University (400m), Canadian U23 3,000m record holder Ceili McCabe (3,000m) and Rosseau, Ont., Gracelyn Larkin of New Mexico University (5,000m).
The lone male representing Canada at the 2022 NCAA Indoor Championships is Toronto’s Ehab El-Sandali, who is in his last year at Iona University in New York state. El-Sandali will be racing in the men’s 5,000m after clocking a blazing fast 13:25.01 earlier this season.
“I’ve never felt better heading into NCAA’s,” El-Sandali says. “This season, I’ve had a mental shift in my training, which has allowed me to shake off the pressure that comes with performing.”
El-Sandali is in one of the deepest 5,000m fields in NCAA championship history, with the slowest seed time being 13:26:00, only 16 seconds off the world indoor standard. Earlier this week, El-Sandali was named to his second Canadian senior national team for the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, which starts next week. He will compete for Canada in the 3,000m.
“I want to finish off my university career at Iona on a high note,” El-Sandali says.
NCAA Indoor Championship action kicks off Friday afternoon, with El-Sandali in the men’s 5,000m, followed by Gale in the women’s 400m, then Rynda and Tachinski competing in the heats of the women’s 800m. All results and schedules for the 2022 NCAA Indoor Championship can be found here.