By Kirk Jessome
With a veteran roster supported by a strong recruiting class, the Tigers men’s track and field team had one of the deepest rosters the conference has seen to win their sixth AUS title in a row; their 18th in the last 19 seasons.
The roster was highlighted by one of the deepest sprint groups in the country, and certainly in the AUS. That group was led by Matthew Coolen and Josh Lunda, both in their fifth and final seasons, as well as the strong rookie class of Nicholas Beaulieau and Dan Lord.
In the distance group, Hudson Grimshaw-Surette led the way, while rookies Beaulieau and Tobi Oshikoya were the Tigers top jumpers on the field. Shot putter Andre Hendricks also had some impressive performances in his senior year.
With limited competition opportunities in the season, the Tigers had to make the most of conference level meets to hit qualifying marks, starting with the New Brunswick University Invitational in Saint John.
Coolen jumped at the opportunity to run a 6.88 in the 60m, and an 8.36 in the 60m hurdles to give him U SPORTS top-10 times in both.
Also hitting a qualifying mark was Grimshaw-Surette in the 1000m with a time of 2:24.33, ranking him second in the country going into the AUS championships.
There wasn’t a single point in the season that the Tigers held the #1 ranking as a team at the end of a meet in the AUS, sitting UNB. AUS coach of the year Rich Lehman noted that another championship was certainly not guaranteed.
“The UNB men’s team that hosted the AUS championship was probably the best team we’ve competed against in the conference, but our guys responded better than I ever could have expected and made a clear statement that we won’t just hand our title to anyone.”
At the AUS championships, the Tigers had nearly everything go their way that needed to. Coolen took home double-gold in the 60mH and led a Tigers sweep of the 60m dash, while Josh Lunda won the 300m sprint. The sprints group continued their dominance by setting a new AUS record in the 4x200m relay.
Callum Drever came from behind to take the gold in a very tough 3000m race, while Grimshaw-Surette set a new AUS record in the 1000m and also won the 600m.
In the field, Beaulieu and Oshikoya won gold in the long jump and triple jump events respectively, while Hendricks took home silver in the shot put.
Getting massive contributions from every event group, the Tigers were able to take home their sixth-consecutive AUS banner in their toughest battle yet.
The U SPORTS championships were a bit of a different story, with two-time 60m champion Coolen finishing in fifth-place on the first day of competition. The next day, he improved upon his silver medal finish last year to become the national 60mH champion bringing his career national medal count to four (three gold, 1 silver).
Beaulieu also had a standout performance in his first national championship appearance, placing eighth in the long jump final. With that, the Tigers finished the championships in 16th place as a team.
The team may be losing a national champion, and lots of veteran leadership, but with a young group coming up, they are sure to be back as strong as ever next season to look for title number seven.