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Thursday, Jun. 21, 2018
Cross-country success flows into indoor season - or not
2018-01-29
by Randy Pascal

Coming off a very strong cross-country season in the fall, it would be easy to presume that the Laurentian Voyageurs indoor track team would easily transition into another highly successful stretch, their outdoor training regimen now largely behind them.

That, however, would only be part of the story.

Certainly, one cannot help but to be encouraged by the early signs. Competing at their first official event of the new year, coaches Dick Moss and Darren Jermyn and their troops returned from the Ottawa Winter National Invitational Indoor Track Meet last weekend. The L.U. crew registered 18 personal-best performances, amassed five medals, all while qualifying no less than a program high eleven athletes for the OUA championships in February.

Certainly, for the likes of 1000m racer Heidi Tuszkiewicz, the fall played heavily into a first place finish (3:00.76) that pushed her through to the all-Ontario showdown in Windsor. “Cross-country, this year, went the best for me, ever,” she said. “Usually, I’m not really a fan of cross-country, I like track.”

“Cross is something for me to stay fit. This is the first year I feel that I really “raced” cross-country, really enjoyed the workouts, and the team aspect of it here really helped me thrive. Knowing I set a lot of PR’s (personal records), running faster than I have, gave me a lot of confidence into the indoor season – even just knowing that I’m fitter than ever and looking to run fast.”

There are a number of factors that vary between the setting of a standard cross-country race and the move to the indoor venues, certainly, including a dramatically different look at the starting line for each event. It would be next to impossible not to alter one’s race strategy, given the differences.

“You kind of play around depending on who you are racing,” Tuszkiewicz suggested. “If there’s a lot of really fast girls in the race, girls who are faster than me, then I’ll just hang on to them. But if I know that I’m going in with one of the fastest times, then I have to know my split times going in, have a plan going in.”

Kingston native and L.U. freshman Liam Pedersen will join Tuszkiewicz and nine other teammates, so far, in competing at the OUA championships, covering his 600m race in a time of 1:23.30. While some middle distance runners might make the jump to the cross-country circuit in the fall, that wasn’t the case for the 19 year old newcomer.

“During cross-country season, Dick works with the (XC) girls and Darren works with the (XC) guys,” explained Pedersen. “So Dick gives us workouts, every practice, and (coach) Joe (Burke) will supervise and watch us. They tell us what to do and they trust us, and we just go out and do it.”

It’s a recipe for success that Pedersen first tasted while living in Maryland in his teenage years, being part of a Canadian military family and all. “I ran track in grade nine, but to be honest, I didn’t take it super seriously and didn’t do anything with it,” he recalled. “In grade ten, we made States for the 4 X 800m (relay).”

“It was a real eye-opening for me, that if you put in a lot of work, you can get a lot out of it. I kind of locked in from there, and here I am.” Returning to Canada to complete grade 12, Pedersen would post outdoor track times that earned him a look from coach Moss. With no outdoor track season available within the OUA, he now returns to a setting which certainly isn’t completely foreign to him.

“In the States, we did indoor,” Pedersen said. “It wasn’t completely new, but I was pretty rusty, to be honest. More often than not, you’re running on a 200 meter track, so there’s more turns, it’s tighter, it can be a lot harder on the body. It’s also much drier, most people don’t think about that, it’s harder breathing. It’s not a big deal, but definitely something you have to consider.”

Twenty-seven year old Collège Notre-Dame graduate Eric Roque has not yet reached OUA standards, but he is a very familiar face to anyone who has followed the local sports scene for some time.

A city championship sprinter and noteworthy football talent during his time with the Alouettes, Roque completed a four year degree with majors in French and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo, all while mixing in an introduction to varsity athletics with a pair of Warrior teams.

After graduating in 2014, Roque opted to enter the workforce, before meandering his way back to the academic environment, enrolling in Teacher’s College at Laurentian this past fall. Where some might have long forgotten their athletic dreams, such was not the case for the local sprinter. “I always told myself that it was something I could come back to,” he said.

“It was always something in the back of my mind. I love sports, I love being competitive, and I guess I missed that competitiveness and being part of a team.” Thankfully, it wasn’t right back to square one for the young man who still holds the current SDSSAA records for both the 100m (11.07) and 200m (22.73) events for senior boys.

“Being an athlete and growing up playing so many sports, I guess you just always have that side of you that wants to workout and keep in shape,” said Roque. “If you’re not in the gym for a little while, you start to miss it. It’s always been a part of my life, and probably always will be part of life.”

And while his training resumed in earnest only this past September, he is encouraged by some of the signs to date. “It’s been a while since I had a real workout and trained this hard,” he said. “My times are not bad, but I definitely have room for improvement. It’s nice that I have another year of eligibility left.”

Rounding out the group of OUA qualifiers from Laurentian, to date, are Hannah Merjavec (60m dash), Danielle Roy (60m dash), Natasha Mayer (300m), Kirsten Crowe (300m), Nicole Rich (1000m), Jenny Bottomley (3000m), Megan Crocker (3000m), Skyler Savage-Perreault (60m dash) and Paul Sagriff (3000m).

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