SAIT track team runs over the competition in Edmonton

First published in The Weal, March 26, 2018.

The SAIT Trojans’ indoor track team set two provincial records on their way to a first-place finish at the provincial championships in Edmonton, which took place March 9-10.

The men’s team won gold in all six races they competed in – the 300m, 600m, 1,000m, 1,500m, and 3,000m, as well as the 4x400m relay.

This led to a first-place finish of 96 points, 55 ahead of second-place MacEwan University.

The women’s team also did well, with a second-place finish of 57 points.

Helping lead the charge for the women’s team was Ricki Christopher, who won gold in the 3,000m, 1,500m and 1,000m events. It was the women’s team’s first medal since indoor track began at SAIT in 2014.

Two of the more notable men’s performances belonged to Matthew Travaglini and Brent Stephen, who set new Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC)  records in the 1,500m and 600m races, respectively.

Travaglini said that the team “wanted to make a statement.”

Stephen said that he did not realize how well they had done until the results were announced.

Stephen said that at the time, he “wasn’t happy with the race at all.” He won his 600m in a photo-finish, one-tenth of a second over MacEwan’s Thomas Cross-Trush.

Stephen also fell finishing the race, resulting in a mild concussion.

Unaware he was running with this injury, Stephen was at first “disappointed” by his winning 600m race, as it was four seconds off his personal best.

In training for this meet, Stephen said he had done a lot of things he had never done before, such as increased weight training and doubling up on runs each day.

Meanwhile, Travaglini’s own record-setting race in the 1,600m was his fourth race in 16 hours, which he called “pretty mentally exhausting.”

However, he had built up to that race all season. At the season-opening ACAC event in January, Travaglini set a conference record in the 1,500m race.

“This season already, I ran 20 seconds faster,” said Travaglini.

The two were not on last year’s team, but they were still able to talk about the team support that helped enable their dominance.

Even though track is a largely individual sport, Stephen spoke of team chemistry, saying teammates were able to “motivate each other on and off the track.”

“Our team gets along incredibly well.”

Travaglini said that the team’s ongoing success was a “big motivator.”

“We were on a pretty iconic pace,” he said.

Stephen said that track co-head coaches Ryan Edgar and Bre MacEachern “[gave] him the space to not quite do whatever I want” but close to it. The two coaches won ACAC Coach of the Year last season.

Stephen added that the Trojans team has a “forgiving support structure.”

The team victory is SAIT’s second straight first-place victory at the ACAC Championships.

The two were optimistic about the possibility of the SAIT team performing a three-peat next year. Travaglini said that because of the Trojans’ success, not many athletes on the men’s side would be leaving the team.

This included Stephen and Travaglini. Stephen has one year left at SAIT in the New Media Production and Design program, while Travaglini is finishing his first year in Geomatics Engineering.

“Barring some accident, we should be better this time next year,” said Travaglini.