by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor
The Windsor Lancer men’s track and field team has won their 20th CIS track and field national title in school history on home track at the St. Denis Centre.
The team’s total of 101 points was good enough to edge out their rivals from Guelph who finished second with 92 points. The York Lions claimed the bronze medal in the team competition with 73 points.
Heading into the final day of competition, Windsor and Guelph battled down the stretch with the national men’s team title undecided heading into the final event of the competition, the four-by-400 meter relay. Guelph ran in the first heat of the event with a good race, putting the pressure on the Lancers. With memories of a one point CIS men’s title loss to Guelph on home track in 2009 fresh in the minds of coaches and alumni, all eyes were on the track and the clock.
Windsor’s four-by-400 meter team was clutch when it counted as CIS silver medal pentathlete Jesse Drennan took the lead on the opening leg and handed off to rookie Chris Kramer for the second. Kramer did not waver during his leg and handed off to Corey Bellemore cleanly as he took the lead for the Lancers on the opening bend of his section.
As Bellemore handed off to Alex Ullman, chants of the anchors last name rang throughout the St. Denis Centre from the loud contingent of Lancers athletes and alumni in the third corner of the track. Ullman pulled away from heralded Trinity Western runner Thomas Riva and ran to victory with a gold medal finishing time of 3:17.79.
“We wanted it so bad,” said Ullman. “When Guelph won their heat and set a fast time that made things really interesting. We all had to run our fastest race, it was the last race of the year, so we had to give 100 per cent and we did. When Corey [Bellemore] took the baton [from Kramer] in that position, I knew we had it. I had the confidence in Corey and the confidence in myself that we would win after Jesse [Drennan] and Kramer ran amazing legs.”
Ullman and Bellemore both had big performances Mar. 14, including second and fourth place finishes in the men’s 600 metres, respectively. Ullman picked up silver in 1:18.52 while Bellemore rounded out the top four in a time of 1:19.11.
The Gryphons were able to stay alive in the team competition thanks to a strong performance in the men’s 1500 metres. Guelph’s Ross Proudfoot, who was also the CIS male athlete of the meet, won gold in a time of 3:47.84 while Victoria’s Riva picked up the silver in a time of 3:48.08. Guelph claimed the fourth and fifth spots as Kyle Grieve and Aaron Hendrikx finished in 3:49.32 and 3:50.03.
The Lancers once again got a number of strong performances in the field events which helped to clinch the men’s team title. Milos Savic captured a bronze medal with a vault of 4.92 meters and fellow Lancer Chris Waugh finished fourth with a best of 4.82 metres. York’s David McKay won the pole vault in convincing fashion, finishing with a winning vault of 5.20 metres to easily win the event.
In the men’s shot put, Windsor’s Eli Pawliw threw a personal best of 16.60 metres to finish third after entering the competition ranked ninth to earn big points in the standings and claim the bronze medal for the Lancers.
Over in the triple jump, Aaron Hernandez of Lethbridge won the gold with a best jump of 15.33 metres. Jordan Bruce from Dalhousie finished second with a best of 14.91m and Chas Smith also of Dalhousie won the bronze with a leap of 14.85m.
Windsor’s Angelo Bortolin won CIS rookie of the year honours earlier in the week and finished fifth with a jump of 14.59 metres. Bortolin also finished sixth in the men’s long jump for more important points.
Nearing the end of competition Mar. 14 with Windsor leading Guelph by one point, it was Bortolin’s performance in the triple jump which allowed the Windsor Lancers head coach Dennis Fairall to pull Bellemore from the 1,500 metre race and save his energy for the four-by-400 metre relay, which Windsor won to clinch the men’s title.
“It feels great to contribute to a men’s CIS title in my first year,” said Bortolin. “We always say that everyone is a key role, so I’m really happy that I filled my role and contributed to that.”
Fairall won the Bob Boucher Award as the CIS men’s track and field coach of the year. In what has been a truly remarkable coaching career, Fairall earned his 20th CIS track and field title and 25th overall CIS national championship with the victory.
“I’m really proud of our team, it was a total team effort all weekend,” said Fairall. “We were able to get points from a variety of events and had a number of athletes come up with big performances when it counted. It feels great to win our 20th CIS track and field team title at home in Windsor in front of our fans, alumni and supporters in our house.”