MONCTON – Four Pictou County track and field athletes have learned what it takes to compete at an AUS championship after competing in their first in Moncton last weekend.
“It’s definitely a learning experience to run against people of that calibre,” said Ryan Washburn, a member of the St. FX men’s team that won their first-ever AUS banner. “We went to Montreal too for an event and the level there was phenomenal too. It’s been a learning experience this year running with people at this level and doing my best to improve so that I can compete at that level.”
Washburn competed in two events, finishing 11th in the 600m event at 1:27.85 and 12th in the 1000m at 2:44.32. Competing at an indoor event as opposed to mainly competing outdoors was also part of his transition to the university level.
“It’s a big transition from the outdoor to indoor events, which has been a big experience for me this year,” he said. “I also had to get comfortable with running the different distances. My goal was to do as much as I could to improve and do whatever I could to do my best at this event.
“Now for next year I know what it’s all about, what it’s like going through the motions of the meet and what’s expected of me.”
The lone county athlete to medal this year was Macayla Cullen, who finished second in the women’s high jump event with a personal best height of 1.66m. She also finished fourth in the women’s long jump event at 5.04m.
“It felt awesome and it showed that all the work I’ve put in was worth it,” said Cullen about medalling at the Atlantic championship.
This season she said she’s been able to improve her jumps because she has more people to train with, including her teammate Rebecca Haworth, who won the high jump event 1.78m.
“It’s been good because instead of training alone I have more teammates to help me push myself to my potential and help in areas I needed to work on,” said Cullen. “Going into it I just wanted to perform my best and knew what I had to try to do to make CIS. I have to rank in the top 12 in the CIS to go, which I’m on the bubble for making right now.”
Also a member of the Dal team, Heather Beaton said this year has been a major adjustment to the university lifestyle and that it wouldn’t be without their coaches’ dedication to monitoring their training, eating, sleep and general well-being that she would be doing so well on and off the track.
“The biggest adjustment for me personally was coping with university life and track, rather than just adjusting to the indoor season,” she said. “A lot of us are full-time students and athletes, so how everything is going overall with you can affect your track performance. A lot of us have been under the same circumstances for a long time with our parents always around, but now we’re in residence or living on our own. The way you handle that can affect your performance.”
Beaton was happy with her first performance at the AUS championships, finishing fifth in the 300m dash at 43.63, which was her goal.
“You can’t ask for more as a first-year student,” she said.
In the 60m dash she finished 17th in the preliminary round at 8.44. It’s not a usual event for her, but she said it was something new for her to try to get her speed up.
She also was a member of the Dal team that finished third in the 4x400m relay.
Looking ahead to next season Beaton said she wants to do a better job of properly recovering after her events, saying that she felt she could’ve recovered better over the weekend in between events.
Allister Mason was also a first-year participant at the AUS championship on the Dal team. He said it was an unbelievable atmosphere even after competing against most of the teams there at prior events.
“It was a really good experience even though we had seen many of the teams in other events this year,” he said. “You could tell there was something on the line (going to CIS). There was a lot more intensity. It was really fun and a great time.”
He finished 13th in the men’s 600m event with a time of 1:29.45, while finishing 16th in the preliminaries of the 300m event with a time of 39.26.
“I wasn’t seeded that high going into it, so I just wanted to get my feet wet and get a feel for it,” said Mason. “I did well on the high school circuit, but after making the jump up I’m more of an average athlete. Seeing where you stand gives you something to strive for in your upper years.”
According to Mason, this year track and field has become more of a 24/7 sport, speaking to the same points as Beaton about the way the coaches educate them preparing themselves away from practice.
“We’ve learned a lot about nutrition, proper sleep and looking after your body,” he said. “The biggest thing we’ve learned is that if you just go to practice four or five times a week you won’t be one of the top competitors. It’s basically a 24/7 commitment to make sure you’re eating well and getting the proper sleep when you aren’t practising.”