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TMU track athlete Aaron Kelly races against Guelph athlete Richard Davis
Photo courtesy of TMU Athletics/Connor Sykes
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TMU track and field athletes sprint past records in history-making season

By Daniel Carrero

The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold track and field team jammed in a small school bus as they headed to Windsor, Ont. to compete in a team challenge on Feb. 9 and 10.

Two athletes vomited on the long and bumpy five-hour drive from Toronto—one due to motion sickness and another due to food poisoning.

Still, the favourable weather—an unexpected high of 14 degrees near the middle of February—contributed to the “vibe” that brought the team high spirits. 

“It can’t be a bad day,” said second-year TMU sprinter Tafara Gwata as he went into the meet.   

Despite no athlete qualifying for the U Sports national championship this season, some runners still managed to put themselves in the history books by breaking school records during the team challenge in Windsor, Ont. Fourth-year sprinter Aaron Kelly, the 4x200m women’s relay team and Gwata all broke the school records at the meet.

Two weeks later at the Ontario University Athletics championships, first-year jumper Jacob Duck was the fourth athlete to break a school record this season after he reached the 6.44-metre mark in the men’s long jump.

“We have a personal vendetta for next season to do better”

Regardless of their outcome, the motivation to achieve higher goals remains within the squad. 

“We have a personal vendetta for next season to do better,” said Gwata.

During the record-breaking meet, Gwata was the first to compete for the Bold in the 60-metre sprint. However, hopes were not high for the Oakville, Ont. product to make his historic performance as he struggled to come close to the school record throughout the season. 

Yet, Gwata did the unexpected and broke the decade-long school record with a personal best time of 7.04 seconds.

The prior 60-metre sprint record was set by Ryan Chong back in 2014, with a 7.06-second mark in the Ottawa Dome 1 Final. Before Gwata, Chong also held the other top five times in the school’s history.

Kelly said Gwata was “really competitive” at the meet. 

“[Gwata] is so fast, but only when he wants to be,” he said.  

After Gwata broke the record, it strengthened the mood on the track for TMU and the competitive stakes rose. 

“I guess it kind of challenges my peers, right?” said Gwata.

  • Seven track and field athletes race in the 60 metre event
  • TMU sprinter Aaron Kelly sprints
  • TMU hurdler Meghan Koo jumps over a hurdle in a race
  • Seven track and field athletes race
  • TMU track athlete Christina Karaiskakis runs alongside her teammate

Up next was the 4x200m relay event. Three of the four runners were first-year athletes and their lack of experience was expected to either bring the best or worst out of them. 

First-year sprinter and hurdler Christina Karaiskakis said the meets have been “very nerve-racking” throughout her rookie season. 

“When you are on your block and line and they say ‘mark, set, go,’ it really brings a whole bunch of adrenaline into your body,” she said.

Along with Karaiskakis, the relay team included first-year sprinter Ella Di Mola, first-year sprinter and hurdler Lisa Franchett-Ngandu and fifth-year sprinter and hurdler Meghan Koo. 

The team shattered the previous school record by more than a second, setting it at 1:49.86 seconds. 

Karaiskakis was the last of the four to have the baton when the squad crossed the finish line. 

“We were all aiming to break that school record,” said Karaiskakis. 

Meanwhile, Kelly, in his last season, had his last taste of glory with the squad. He broke the 300-metre sprint school record with a new mark of 35.36 seconds. 

In the race, there was a familiar clash between Kelly and Guelph Gryphons third-year sprinter Richard Davis. The two have faced off against each other three times this year. 

Both runners were neck and neck throughout the sprint. Davis got a slight advantage over Kelly in the final 50 metres but Kelly channelled his speed in the last segment to make it a tight finish.

From the sidelines, it was unclear who had won the race as the team and the whole fieldhouse became silent. All eyes turned to the scoreboard. It took a few seconds—which felt like minutes—to announce the winner. Finally, Kelly’s name and time appeared in first place.

The whole team, including Karaiskakis, jumped with joy and excitement.

“I honestly got goosebumps and I’m sure everyone else did too,” she said. 

We have become the underdogs of track and field against all other universities

Despite their lack of resources, Kelly said the team has achieved great progress since his first year. 

“We have become the underdogs of track and field against all other universities,” said Kelly. 

Unlike TMU’s varsity athletic teams who travel in coach buses, their track team competes as a varsity club and travels in a small school bus. Additionally, the team practices at the Toronto Track and Field Centre, home of their cross-city rivals, the York Lions. 

Yet, they find a way to make it work.

“We don’t have a lot of funding,” said Kelly. “The coaches and staff all do it for free. They just do it for the love of the team.” 

With four broken school records, the club continues to grow more competitive. Kelly said “something magical happened” on the team as they had a better connection throughout this season. 

“These first years on the team are so motivated,” he said. “They love the sport and it’s just so amazing to see.” 

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