Cracks in Carleton’s dominance as Victoria takes No. 1 seed for men’s basketball

Basketball and track and field championships highlight the U Sports calendar this weekend, with a wide open field on the hardcourt that saw various teams hold the No. 1-ranking throughout the season, and a heavy favourite on the track in Saskatchewan.

On the men’s side in basketball, the Canada West (CW) champion Victoria Vikes were named the No. 1 seed for the first time in 17 years, and will try to go for gold at the U Sports Men’s Final 8 in Halifax.

The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champion Ottawa Gee-Gees (No. 2 seed), Atlantic University Sport (AUS) winner StFX X-Men (No. 4), and Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) champ UQAM Citadins (No. 6), help round out the conference winners among the field of eight teams, with the Citadins opening up action on Friday against the defending champion Carleton Ravens.

The Ravens women’s team earned the No. 1 seed in the U Sports Women’s Final 8 in Sydney, N.S., for the first time in five years.

Joining them as conference champs will be the CW’s Alberta Pandas (second-seed), AUS’s Saint Mary’s Huskies (fourth-seed) and RSEQ’s Citadins (sixth-seed).

All events — including the upcoming Track & Field Championships — will be streamed live on, CBC Gem and the free CBC Sports app.

Ormond forges path in Guelph track program

The Guelph Gryphons men’s and women’s track and field teams have been nothing short of dominant under the leadership of head coach Jason Kerr.

When the Gryphons travel to Saskatoon for the 2023 U Sports Track & Field Championships on Thursday, the men’s team will be gunning for their sixth straight title, while the women’s team will be aiming for their fourth straight.

“The list of people that have to be bought into a program like ours to be as successful as it is is incredible,” said Kerr to CBC Sports. “We have 100 student-athletes on our team, and 20-plus people that we communicate with on daily staff.

“You’re running a full-blown organization, it requires [a head coach] to have a cursory amount of knowledge in a lot of different areas, which gives you an idea of what my role is.”

Cameron Ormond, centre, stands on the podium alongside teammates Sadie-Jane-Hickson, left, and Nina Whitford after winning the gold medal in the women’s 1,000m race at the 2023 OUA Track and Field Championships in Windsor, Ont., in February. (Edwin Tam/University of Guelph)

One athlete-coach connection that bore fruit for Kerr this year has been third-year endurance runner Cameron Ormond and second-year associate head coach Terry Radchenko — who also coaches Ormond in the fall on Guelph’s cross country team.

Ormond, a 21-year-old native of Aurora, Ont., has seen her performance explode this year after various injuries and illnesses have limited her since she came to Guelph in 2019.

“Once I got here, Terry definitely recognized that I have that speed [to compete in the 1,000m],” said Ormond to CBC Sports, whose focus was the 3,000m in high school and her first year at Guelph.

“He’s confident in my ability to run the shorter distances, like the 1,000m. He knows that I have that strength.”

The trajectory for Ormond from an all-time great high school cross-country runner — winning four straight OFSAA titles — to one of the brightest names in track has been tumultuous, yet, as Kerr puts it, “incredible.”

“When [Ormond] came to Guelph she had a lot of difficulties with long-standing injuries,” said Kerr of the athlete that was unable to participate at the cross country U Sports Championships in the fall due to an illness. “I think a lot of people would easily have forgotten about her and maybe written her off.

“Her return to athletic excellence is a testament to the type of person she is, as well as our lead endurance coach that has been pivotal in helping her rebuild herself into an even better and healthier athlete.”

Ormond enters the national championships as a triple gold medallist at the OUA Track & Field Championships in late February, which she earned in the 1,000m, 1,500m and 4x800m relay disciplines, but her greatest achievement didn’t even happen in the country.

On Feb. 10, Ormond posted a staggering time of 4:30.17 in the women’s mile event at the 2023 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational, the 28th fastest time recorded for an indoor women’s mile in the 2022-23 season.

Only American Katelyn Tuohy ran a quicker time among athletes born after 1999, and she trails only her training partner Lucia Stafford among Canadian competitors.

When Ormond was getting her feet wet as a freshman in 2019-20, matching the accomplishments of an athlete such as Stafford wasn’t even a thought.

“As a first-year, I looked up to [the top Canadian women’s track athletes]. They were my major role models, especially Lucia,” Ormond said.

“I didn’t think that I would ever come close to how she had performed when she was younger. It’s really exciting to be able to see my results compared to what she had run when she was my age.”

Beyond Ormond’s standing on the world stage, there are more than enough outstanding athletes at Guelph to help foster healthy competition, including a 1,000m event that saw fellow Gryphons Sadie-Jane Hickson, Nina Whiftord, and Julia Agostinelli join Ormond as the top four finishers at the OUA Championships.

Fifth-year Mark Bujnowski has stood head-and-shoulders above the men’s shot put and weight throw competition, and heads a team that has no shortage of role models for younger student-athletes to look up to, which now includes Ormond.

“One of the most interesting parts of the experience [at Guelph] is your daily training environment includes world class performers, so you get to see pretty early on what that looks like,” Kerr said.

“And then, it’s really up to you. Will you make the sacrifices and challenge yourself to potentially see if you can achieve that as well?”

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