NAIA qualifications and Olympic hopes at UBC Open track meet

Several T-Bird track and field athletes earned their spots at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championships at the UBC Open this weekend. 

The meet, held at the Rasphal Dillon Oval, was the first of the season for the Thunderbirds.  

Athletes competed in the chilly rain on Saturday, nonetheless surpassing top qualifying standards in several races. Athletes must meet the ‘A’ or ‘B’ standards set by the NAIA for each event to qualify for national championships in Indiana this May.  

The team showed its strength in distance runs — Andrew Davies and Jaiveer Tiwana both achieved ‘A’ standard in the men’s 5000m race. 

There were qualifiers off the track as well — Michelle Dadson topped the women’s hammer throw and shot put events, while Sonya Urbanowicz jumped 3.8 metres in the women’s pole vault for first. 

Since the UBC Open was the first meet of the season, head coach Laurier Primeau said the team is still assessing where they need to focus their efforts to vie for another championship banner. 

Last year, UBC’s women’s team won NAIA gold, while the men earned silver. 

The teams have had some turnover since, but Primeau highlighted two recruits who qualified for NAIA championships in their first competition as T-Birds.

First-year Maximilien Filion handily won the men’s steeplechase and Theo Manuel threw an A qualifying distance the men’s javelin. 

Race walkers started their weekend with the 5000m race on Saturday, where Primeau said UBC athlete Olivia Lundman “obliterated” the championship qualifying time. 

UBC women's race walkers from left to right: Olivia Lundman, Cassidy Cardle and Joean Lu.
UBC women's race walkers from left to right: Olivia Lundman, Cassidy Cardle and Joean Lu. Anabella McElroy / The Ubyssey

On Sunday, the sun shone down as race walkers competed in the longest event of the weekend — the 15000m. 

A gruelling 37 and a half laps long, the race was added to the meet to allow Lundman to clinch a spot on the Canadian national race walking team, and vie for a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

After the race, Lundman was happy to be competing on the track where she trains. 

“It's special to get to hit important time here,” she said. 

Race walk coach Evan Dunfee, a T-Bird alum and Olympic medallist himself, will be competing alongside Lundman at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Turkey this April. 

“[I] get to go from playing the coach role to playing the teammate role, which will be a lot of fun,” he said. 

Dunfee and Lundman will be competing in an event appearing for the first time at the Olympics this year — the marathon relay. Each race walker completes two legs of just over 10km to race the full marathon. 

Lundman said Olympic qualification is her main goal for the season ahead. 

“This race was just step one in that process, and so we’ll get some solid training in and hope to perform at our best [in Turkey] and make it to Paris,” Lundman said.