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U Sports conference track championship preview: AUS

An in-depth look into the middle-distance and distance events at the AUS conference track and field championship

AUS Track Championships
U Sports Cross-Country
Savanna Jordan at 2017 U Sports XC. Photo: U Sports.

The 2018 U Sports track and field conference championships are taking place in four venues (one for each U Sport conference) across the country on the weekend of Feb. 23-24.

The top athlete in each event from the RSEQ (Quebec) and AUS (Atlantic) conferences, and the top-two athletes in each event from the OUA (Ontario) and Canada West (Western Canada) conferences will automatically qualify for the U Sports national championship in Windsor, Ont. on March 7-10. Athletes can also qualify for the championship by running faster than U Sports standard times, as well as by being ranked in the national top-12 in a specific event.

Being distance running nerds, Canadian Running takes an in-depth look into the four middle-distance and distance events offered (600m to 3,000m) on the U Sports track circuit, while predicting the top-three finishers in each race.

The AUS conference has seen breakthrough performances from rookies and veterans alike, and is projecting to be more competitive on the U Sports level than it has been in years. Dalhousie and St. FX have control over most of the middle distance and distance races, but a certain Saint Mary’s Husky will be hoping to play spoiler.

Women’s 600m

The Dalhousie duo of senior Anna McCrea and sophomore Olivia Ross established itself as a dominant one-two punch within the conference. McCrea currently holds a AUS-leading time of 1:35.33. Since that time is still a few seconds shy of U Sports standard, it will likely only be the winner who moves on to the national championship. Do not expect those two teammates to hold back any punches. In the event that McCrea scratches the 600m to focus on the 1,000m, Lizzie Comeau of Dalhousie could sneak onto the podium.

Note: Dalhousie senior Michelle Reddy, despite not having raced a 600m yet this year, is on the start list. If she races, expect these rankings to be shaken up.

1 – Anna McCrea – Dalhousie
2 – Olivia Ross – Dalhousie
3 – Allie Flower – St. FX

Men’s 600m

Dan Brown, a perennial AUS 600m favourite and last year’s champion, graduated leaving the floor open for a new victor to emerge. Much like on the women’s side, no men’s 600m runner from the AUS has achieved U Sports standard or has cracked the national top 12, so the top contenders will be racing for a spot on the starting line in Windsor, Ont. [at the national university championships]. Tim Brennan, a third-year runner for St. FX holds the fastest seed time at 1:21.08. Dalhousie runners Matthew Leighton and Hudson Grimshaw-Surette, trail him by slim margins.

1 – Tim Brennan – St. FX
2 – Hudson Grimshaw-Surette – Dalhousie
3 – Matthew Leighton – Dalhousie

Womens’ 1,000m

Coming back from nearly a year away from competition, in which she nursed a navicular stress fracture, Michelle Reddy is back and has a commanding eight-second lead on the second-ranked 1,000m runner in the AUS, Olivia Ross of Dalhousie. The senior from Sarnia, Ont. will be racing a relatively inexperienced field of sophomores and rookies, and is expected to walk away with the title. She currently ranks 13th in U Sports.

1 – Michelle Reddy – Dalhousie
2 – Olivia Ross – Dalhousie
3 – Jane Hergett – St. FX

Men’s 1,000m

So far, it’s been the Andrew Peverill show. The rookie runner for the Saint Mary’s Huskies ranks ninth in U Sports, and his time of 2:25.28 should make him competitive at nationals. Though he assumes a four-second lead on the next fastest seed, Michael Colford of UNB, do not expect the race to be a cakewalk for the Halifax native. Last year’s AUS 1,000m champion, Will Russell of Dalhousie, will be fighting to defend his title. Russell has yet to find his form, but he competes well under pressure. As the 13th seed at last year’s U Sports championship, he snagged fifth in the nation. Time is ticking for the senior, however, and he has yet to reproduce last year’s magic. Russell’s teammate, Mike Rogers, is the dark horse in this one.

1 – Andrew Peverill – SMU
2 – Will Russell – Dalhousie
3 – Michael Colford – UNB

Women’s 1,500m

Reddy seems to have the upper hand here as well, but she will be pressured by 2017 U Sports XC All-Canadian, Savanna Jordan. The rookie from Calgary has only appeared on the track once this year – at the McGill Team Challenge – and has recently competed for Canada at the Pan-American Cross-Country Cup in El Salvador, finishing fifth. Her recent focus on cross-country might make it difficult for her to contend with Reddy in the metric mile, but her already impressive racing pedigree makes her a threat.

1 – Michelle Reddy – Dalhousie
2 – Savanna Jordan – Dalhousie
3 – Rachel MacDougall – St. FX

Men’s 1,500m

Andrew Peverill is seeded at the top of the AUS at 3:53.35, but he will have to get past Angus Rawling to win gold. Rawling will be well rested for the 1,500m, as he is sitting out the 3,000m at the AUS championship, while Peverill will already have raced the 1,000m. Expect their race for gold to be hotly contested. For third place, cross-country specialist Cal Dewolfe will battle it out with his teammate, Will Russell. This weekend, stamina will trump speed.

1 – Angus Rawling – St. FX
2 – Andrew Peverill – SMU
3 – Cal Dewolfe – Dalhousie

Women’s 3,000m

The end of Colleen Wilson’s reign as queen of the AUS distance events coincided with the arrival of Savanna Jordan. The rookie’s recent cross-country performances are great foreshadowing for a solid performance over 3000m. With Reddy sitting this one out, it will not even be close. A St. FX duo of junior Zoe Johnston and senior Rachel MacDougall should claim silver and bronze.

1 – Savanna Jordan – Dalhousie
2 – Zoe Johnston – St. FX
3 – Rachel MacDougall – St. FX

Men’s 3,000m

As mentioned, Rawling is sitting out. His 3,000m time of 8:08 at the Boston University Valentine Invitational meet bested Eric Gillis’s St. FX school record and secured his spot at the national championship. He will be cheering on his teammate, Alex Neuffer, as the senior battles Dewolfe for 18 laps (editor’s note: the indoor track is an unusual 166m) in search of the 3,000m crown. With personal bests of 8:26 and 8:23, respectively, Neuffer and Dewolfe (former teammates and roommates at St. FX University) may try and work together to benefit from Moncton, N.B.’s generous conversion and both slide into the U Sports top twelve. Neuffer, however, is recently coming off an injury, and may not have Dewolfe’s sharpness.

1 – Cal Dewolfe – Dalhousie
2 – Alex Neuffer – St. FX
3 – Callum Drever – Dalhousie

Read our OUA preview here and RSEQ preview here.