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U Sports conference track championship preview: Canada West

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

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.

From Regan Yee’s mind-boggling mark of 8:58.29 in the 3,000m to the Manitoba Bisons’ crowding of the men’s 600m national top-12 rankings, the Canada West conference has been raising eyebrows all year. Watch for Saskatchewan Huskies Julianne Labach and Courtney Hufsmith to be ubiquitous in the middle distance and distance events, but don’t even try to predict the finishing order of the men’s 3,000m.

Women’s 600m

Julianne Labach, a senior with the Saskatchewan Huskies, hopes to improve on her seventh-place finish at last year’s U Sports Championship. This year, she ranks fifth in the nation, and is coming off a strong showing at the University of Alberta Pandas Open, where she claimed top spot in the 600m and the 1000m. She will be hard to beat. The race for second place will be a toss-up between three runners having stopped the clock at 1:31 and change.

1 – Julianne Labach – Saskatchewan
2 – Michaela Allen – Regina
3 – Alyssa Mousseau – Victoria

Men’s 600m

U Sports veteran Tyler Smith of the University of Victoria is the only athlete standing in the way of a total Manitoba Bison domination. The fifth-year athlete has appeared in three U Sports championships, and is showing strong form, having dipped under 1:20 twice this season. He will be challenged by a herd of Bisons, in rookie Shane Dillon and sophomores Tristan Allen and Miguel Morrison. All four athletes currently occupy a top-12 spot, so with time out the window, this race could get tactical.

1 – Tyler Smith – Victoria
2 – Shane Dillon – Manitoba
3 – Miguel Morrison – Manitoba

Women’s 1,000m

Regan Yee is the class of the distance running field at this year’s Canada West championship. Despite having to battle with Saskatchewan’s power duo of Courtney Hufsmith and Julianne Labach, she should be able to hold them off. The senior and 4th place finisher at the U Sports cross-country championship brings a wealth of U Sport experience to the start line. This one is her race to lose.

1 – Regan Yee – Trinity Western
2 – Courtney Hufsmith – Saskatchewan
3 – Julianne Labach – Saskatchewan


Men’s 1,000m

Don’t sleep on Alexander Eiswerth. He has yet to run quite as fast as conference leaders Thomas Oxland and Timothy Longley of Victoria, but the sophomore runner from the University of Regina has yet to lose in a 1,000m this year. The diminutive runner is the reigning Canada Summer Games 1,500m champion, and has the wheels required for a tactical 1,000m which, if past years at Canada West serve as any indicator, we will see happen. That being said, if anybody flips our prediction on its head, it will be Royden Radowitz of Alberta.

1 – Alexander Eiswerth – Regina
2 – Thomas Oxland – Victoria
3 – Timothy Longley – Victoria

Women’s 1,500m

Word on the street is that Yee is attempting to pull off the triple this weekend. Great news for Trinity Western; bad news for everybody else. Despite having to run the 1,500m on tired legs, she likely has first place in the bag. The women in the chase pack, however, are no slouches. Four Canada West milers rank in the top-12, so expect a quality field racing for placing and points, rather than times.

1 – Regan Yee – Trinity Western
2 – Melissa Jones – Calgary
3 – Julianne Labach – Saskatchewan


Men’s 1,500m

Again, Eiswerth is a threat to win this one and, again, Radowitz is our dark horse to make it onto the podium. Oxland will be hard to dethrone, here. His mile time of 4:05.61 made him the top Canadian at the Husky Classic, in Seattle, as he finished second in his heat. This race is his to lose. Trinity Western University, in the absence of last year’s Canada West 1,500m runner up, Declan White, has churned out an army of nationally competitive metric milers in James Lam, Adam Marshall, Nick Colyn and Levi Neufeld. Expect some teamwork near the front.

1 – Thomas Oxland – Victoria
2 – Alexander Eiswerth – Regina
3 – Levi Neufeld – Trinity Western

Women’s 3,000m

For the third year in a row, Yee enters championship season with the fastest 3,000m seed in the country. Her blistering 8:58 turned heads in late January, and has yet to be challenged on the national level. Like in the 1500m, Melissa Jones will likely be her runner-up – the cross-country specialist is too strong to finish any lower than second. Hufsmith will round out an impressive podium.

1 – Regan Yee – Trinity Western
2 – Melissa Jones – Calgary
3 – Courtney Hufsmith – Saskatchewan

Men’s 3000m

This race is an enigma. It will feature a battle of cross-country studs, and it will likely come down to who is sharpest between Kieran MacDonald of Alberta, Russell Pennock of Calgary, and Caleb De Jong of Trinity Western. Though MacDonald and De Jong have run three to five seconds faster than Pennock, the fourth-place finisher at the U Sports Cross-Country Championships has comfortably won two of his races this year. Just like in the men’s 600 metres, all three contenders are ranked in the U Sports top-12, so we predict this one to be tactical. Note: do not sleep on Nick Colyn of Trinity Western – he could win the whole thing on a good day.

1 – Kieran MacDonald – Alberta
2 – Russell Pennock – Calgary
3 – Caleb De Jong – Trinity Western