After three months of indoor meets, the Thunderbirds finally took to their home outdoor track to host the UBC Open on Friday and Saturday. With the weather on their side, the ’Birds put in solid times, distances and heights against fellow Cascadia teams.
15 of those athletes in blue and gold also earned automatic spots in the NAIA championships coming up in May down in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
“[We're] really happy, we’ve had some automatic qualifiers for the NAIA championships,” said head coach Laurier Primeau. “First meet of the year, so that’s a really good start for us.”
The ’Birds were particularly dominant on the track, with 23 athletes earning a spot on the podium for their respective events.
On the men’s side, Jacob Hanna was a standout for the Thunderbirds in the short-distance races, claiming second in the 200 metre with a time of 22.25 seconds and taking first place in the 400 metre hurdles with a time of 54.74 seconds.
Kenneth Schultze and Bogdan Pavel also punched their tickets to the NAIA championships in the 110 metre hurdles, finishing in second and third respectively with times of 14.33 and 14.45 seconds.
The middle-distance runs were where UBC truly dominated, though. In the 1500 metre, the Thunderbirds demolished the competition, taking the first five spots across the finish line. First and second-placed Kieran Lumb and John Gay, who had times of 3:50.14 and 3:51.28 respectively, also claimed their early spot in the NAIA championships.
And in the 5000 metre race walk, the trio of Alger Liang, Kenny Ho and Nathan Downey all took their spot on the NAIA championship roster for UBC, with times of 22:15.53, 22:52.74 and 23:15.76.
“Pleasant surprises ... really happy that we had three male racewalkers automatically qualify, so that was really cool. And then the 110 [metre] hurdles for Kenneth Schultze and Bogdan Pavel to automatically qualify, and then of course an athlete whose a freshman here but competing unattached, Anastas Eliopoulos, ran 13.39 to meet the World Junior standard,” Primeau said.
Eliopoulos finished first in the 110 metre hurdles ahead of Schultze and Pavel, though at the junior height of 39 inches compared to the senior standard of 42 inches.
On the women’s side for track events, Natalia Hawthorn and Jessica Williams were the two T-Birds to take home the top prize in their events, as Hawthorn finished with a time of 2:10.58 in the 800 metre race and Williams finished the 400 metre hurdles at 1:01.80. Both earned a place in the NAIA championship, alongside Nicola Symonds who placed second in the 800 metres at 2:11.06.
The 10,000 metre event also saw two more UBC athletes join the NAIA roster: second and third place finishers Enid Au and Madelyn Brunt.
The field events were a bit tougher for the blue and gold, with only a handful of podium placings. Standouts included Roan Allen who earned top prize in javelin with a distance of 61.64 metres and Olivia Campbell. Campbell finished second in women's high jump (1.60 metres) and first in the triple jump (11.65 metres).
The combined events also saw some solid performances from UBC, with Heather Betz finishing in second for the heptathlon with 3,398 points and Kenneth Schultze finishing the decathlon in fourth with 5,334 behind three Western Washington Athletes. Schultze did dominate the short-distance runs, taking first in the 100 metre, 400 metre and 110 metre hurdles.
Overall, it was a successful weekend for the ’Birds. With a smattering of NAIA placements and a chance to see where the team can continue to grow, the UBC Open was a good signifier of what’s to come for the T-Birds.
Up next, the Thunderbirds head down to Western Washington’s Quad Meet on April 6, before heading back to UBC for their high performance meet on April 25.
— with files from Liam Fisher