The 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) indoor championships were marked by a number of outstanding performances for SFU, along with a lot of firsts. Four members of the team — Chantel Desch, Ella Brown, Vladislav Tsygankov, and Addy Townsend — ended up winning conference titles.
“I would say it was an epic weekend,” said head coach Brit Townsend talking to The Peak. “We’ve probably never had the depth and the quality of performance that we had on this past weekend. We had probably five or six more people that are on the rankings list. We came within a couple of points of winning the championship, which we’ve never done. Our men finished in the highest placing ever, and just missed third place.
“I think overall, it just showed we are definitely going in the right direction.”
Chantel Desch won her first-ever indoor title in the 400-metre, Ella Brown won her first ever title — indoor or outdoor — in the triple jump, and Addy Townsend continued her strong season with a title in the 800-metre. But perhaps the highlight of the event for SFU was the performance of Vladislav Tsygankov. Not only did he finish first in the 400-metre, but also in the long jump event — the first time that has ever been done.
“He’s just a great athlete,” said Townsend on Tsygankov. “He’s somebody who, if you introduce him to something, he’s got that body awareness and he’s a really quick learner, too. [He’s] very coachable.
“We had him in the four-by-four last year, and he proved to be a really great contributor. This year, his four-by-four splits were becoming so fast that we thought ‘you know what, we’re going to try him on the Sunday of last weekend in a flat 400,’ which he hadn’t done in a long time. He actually ran faster than Daniel had on that track in Seattle. We said ‘it’s your best chance of making it to nationals, so let’s give it a try at the GNACs.’
“He did that, and honestly, it was only two and a half hours later after the heat of the 400s that he had to do the long jump, and he had his best result of the year.”
Other standout performances included those from Katherine Lucas and Valda Kabia, who finished second and third in the 200-metre respectively, and Nathan Mah, who finished third in the 200-metre.
The team now turns its focus to the upcoming NCAA Division II Indoor Nationals, taking place in Birmingham, Alabama starting on March 10. Townsend is hoping to send at least 10 people to nationals, but stressed how hard it is to make it there.
“It’s really tough to make it in track and field. There [are] over 300 schools, and they only take 16 competitors, so you have to be at least the 16th-best in the nation.
“Our goal will be to get people in the final,” she continued. “That will be fantastic. We had an all-American performance from Vlad last year in the long jump, and an all-American performance from our women’s DMR team. Our women’s DMR [distance medley relay] has a chance to repeat at that, I think Vlad has a chance, and I think someone like Chantel — if she gets a break and gets through the heat to the final — has a chance. Same with Addy.
“They’ve all gained a bit of experience and I think those individuals have a chance of moving through to All-American positions, which would be amazing.”