Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Supposed to be a rebuilding team with an entire roster of rookies, the MacEwan Griffins indoor track team served notice on Saturday that they'll be a contender to win their fifth ACAC Championship in the past six years.
Winning all but one women's event at the MacEwan Invitational ACAC Grand Prix #1 at the Kinsmen Fieldhouse, the Griffins easily captured the women's meet team title with 87 points. Red Deer College was second with 47.
They also were tops on the men's side of the competition with 55 team points to RDC's 54, but not every top athlete was at the meet, which serves as a warmup for the big one: The March 15-16 ACAC Championship in Calgary.
Still, the results were encouraging for Griffins head coach Drew Carver.
"I liked the fact that most of the athletes handled multiple events and they took the approach of recovery, so they could get ready for the next event," he said. "That's part of the training, so I was really impressed with that.
"The times weren't all that fast, but at the same time we weren't worried about knocking off stellar times. We were worried about being able to run hard and still pick up and run hard for the next time. That part was impressive."
Ember Large led the Griffins women's team with victories in two individual events – the women's 1000m in 3:05.82 and 600m in 1:41.95.
"Ember looked solid," said Carver. "She comes with the right attitude, she does whatever she needs to. She was happy to be with the team and help us out in every way possible.
"Hopefully when she comes back from (the Winter Universiade, where she'll represent Canada in cross-country skiing) she's not (too tired) and we'll have a good shot at the championship."
Large later ran the lead leg of a 4x400 relay victory for the Griffins, along with teammates Shaunice Burgers, Bailey Stang and Ashley Tymkow in 4:28.65.
"The women's relay team did really well," said Carver. "I was happy with the fact they were able to run a pretty good time and we had a lot of athletes PB. That's the important part.
"It's the athletes you don't expect who PB'd and are really helping us out," he added. "Bailey Stang had a really good day. She ran faster in her events. Shaunice Burgers had a good day. She improved her 300-metre time and is feeling confident she could get going a little bit faster."
Tymkow won the women's 3000 in 11:22.07, passing teammate Emma Steele (11:22.71) at the line. But Steele turned the tables in the 1500, winning in 5:07.24 ahead of Tymkow (5:09.40).
Burgers, meanwhile, carried the Griffins' hopes in the women's 300, finishing second in 46.03. She had another runner-up in the 600 to Large in 1:44.93.
The most impressive performance for the MacEwan men's team came in the 300 metres, where they claimed the first five positions – a dominant result even if ACAC record holder Brent Stephen from SAIT wasn't in attendance.
Rookie Caelen Begg pulled off the upset, passing former ACAC 300 record holder Thomas Cross-Trush at the line to finish first in 36.84 to Cross-Trush's 37.01. Connor Swaby was third in 37.70, Andrei Pop fourth in 37.84 and Omar Medina fifth in 38.73.
"Impressive showing by the sprint crew this year where we have five solid sprinters," said Carver. "We didn't even run Reece (Runco) in there. Reece had a good day. He PB'd in the 600 metres – he's just getting that mental drive for the 600."
Runco only ran the 600 for the first time last season, but he finished second on Saturday in 1:25.58.
Scott Kohlman was second in the men's 1000 (2:39.78), while Owen Guenette finished third in the men's 3000 (9:41.48).
MacEwan also swept the top of the podium in the men's 4x400 with their A team winning in 3:37.78 and their B team finished second in 3:43.37.
And to top it off, Griffins also ascended to the top of the podium in the 60-metre races, contested as an exhibition event for the first time in an ACAC competition. Former Griffins sprinter and assistant coach Amanda Ntiamoah, racing for the Edmonton Columbians, won the women's race in 8.22, while Pop claimed the men's sprint in 7.26.