By Thomas Debost
Ryerson University’s track and field team has come a long way since its creation just a few years back.
A major factor of growth, not only for its roster size but also its success, has been the arrival of head coach Albert Dell’Apa, who took over the team three and a half years ago when it was in urgent need of new management.
A runner himself growing up, Dell’Apa is a former Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star and top 10 runners in the country.
As he looks to pass on his knowledge and experience to up-and-coming athletes at Ryerson, he does so on his own time.
“He came into this purely for the fact that he has a passion for wanting to help”, said Jaya Sawhney, a member of the women’s team. “He just supports us in general quite simply by being so interested.”
Sawhney, who is in her fourth year with the team, was only 10 meters away from qualifying for nationals before a hamstring injury stopped her.
However, with Dell’Apa’s help, Sawhney has continued to run at a high level.
The roster has never been so filled up and coach Dell’Apa couldn’t be prouder of how far it has come.
This year, the team tried to promote themselves early on.
“We had about 30 or 40 athletes come and try out which made us think, ‘Wow this could work,'” he said. “And it was impressive to see so many interested in the program.”
One of the head coach’s proudest moments came in last year’s OUA 4 by 2 relay, when several runners who didn’t usually compete for the team, stepped up in the absence of multiple teammates who were dealing with injuries.
“Some of them stepped in and put points up on the board that didn’t usually run but that were there at the right time and took their chance,” Dell’Apa recalls.
The Rams added to their impressive OUA showing this season, highlighted by their women’s 4 by 200 metre team, who posted an all-time school record.
However, being on the track and field team has its fair share of tricky aspects to have to work around. The first being very simple: Ryerson does not own a track, and no, the RAC doesn’t count.
Similarly to the Rams’ soccer squad, the track team needs to travel off-campus in order to train and therefore compete.
“The added issue is that we have to commute to York University, and that in and it of itself makes the time we put into each practice insane”, Sawhney says. “By the time you get there and back, each practice can take up to four hours of your time.”
This means, according to Dell’Apa, that “only the ones that really want it make it to practice and we see the ones that have stuck with the program and that have gotten better.”
Regardless, any young team that’s willing to improve brings a sense of pride to all its members.
“It honestly feels like I’m continuing a legacy in the making”, says Cheo Bannis, who is a member of the men’s squad.
“When I think about how new the team is, I feel like I am helping build something at Ryerson.” And none of the runners or coaches are thinking of stopping there.
“I think generally our goal was always to improve off of last year, and get the exposure so people know more about the team.”
With every season comes new challenges. All of the Rams programs have come such a long way since their beginnings. The track and field team is no exception.