The 10 new faces of #Indoor2020

Don't make a perfect vision joke, Alex. Don't be that guy.

By: Alex Cyr

This year already has a theme: goofy.

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Tik Tok is exploding, some guy in Connecticut thinks he has figured out how to time travel and, in the world of running, it’s more of the same:

As the months pass, things may only get less predictable. That starts with the indoor season. Many top runners have graduated, leaving room for lesser known athletes to shine. Seriously, at this year’s U SPORTS championship, you might have to pull an Auston Matthews to learn the names of some medalists.

Fear not - read this edition and you won’t have to awkwardly crouch in front of superstar newcomers and read their bibs. In the words of Slim Shady: I got a list. Here are ten people who did not contend for medals at U SPORTS last year, who very much will in Edmonton’s Butterdome in early March. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a new star break through and rise to the top without warning. So, without further ado, it’s time for…

Who the heck are they?

Sponsored by: The Ghost of 22-year-old Alex Ullman

*Note: This list was created without final confirmation of the FISU cross-country roster.

1) Thomas Windisch - Sherbrooke - 3,000m

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Look, if another non-Laval RSEQ guy with a nondescript name had dropped an 8:15 3,000m this early in the year, I would be taking my steaks out of the freezer and bringing them to his February races in preparation for a long, painful and delicious burn. But there is something different about Windisch. He is a triathlete - those hybrid weirdoes come with fully-developed aerobic bases and durability that helps mitigate The February Dismantling. In other words, Windisch is used to pushing his body to the brink, and his new level of fitness might not necessarily mean that he is flirting with the line of burnout. Think of him as a french Russell Pennock. Could he win the 3,000m? I don’t think so. But could he eventually run 8:10 and be a threat for the medals? Absolutely.

2) Kate Current - Western - 1,500m and 3,000m (?)

Current at the 2019 U SPORTS cross-country championship - Photo:

We saw Current in the 1,000m last year, but here is my prediction for this year: she moves up and takes the longer events by storm. Why? She is a 1998-born athlete - young enough to still be exploring distances, old enough to have built up stamina to put a great 1,500m-3,000m double together. She has sub-2:50 1,000m speed, and ran a monstrous cross-country race in Kingston to finish fifth in the country. Speed + strength = the 1,500m is her oyster.

3) Andre Ford-Azonwanna - Guelph - 60m

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Ok, BIG asterisk here. If you follow track and field in Canada (or if you remember Ford-Azonwanna making a mockery of the 100m final at the 2011 Legion youth national championship while you were preparing to get embarrassed in the slow heat of the 1,500m, wearing knock-off white Oakley sunglasses and a singlet much too big for your 90-pound frame like, uh, my friend) you know he is an obvious contender. The 24-year-old represented Canada at the 2018 NACAC championship, and has been ranked in the national top ten for the better part of the last decade. So, why is he on this list? Because you probably had no idea he was running for Guelph this year. Surprise, he is. Surprise, so is fellow elite Canadian sprinter Tremaine Harris. Surprise? Not really. The Gryphons are once again a sprinting powerhouse and, on the men’s side, only one team in the nation may come close to challenging them in the 4x200m. They are…

4) The Dalhousie men’s 4x200m team

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Matt Coolen could lead his 4x200m team to an unexpected podium finish

Wait, what?

Bear with me. They are perhaps the deepest sprinting squad the AUS has ever produced. They are headlined by Matt Coolen, the two-time defending 60m U SPORTS champion, and Mike van der Poel, the 2017 bronze medalist in the 300m, who is back training after breaking his foot last summer. Joshua Lunda, a long-time veteran of U SPORTS relays, provides them with depth, and several talented rookies are fighting for their fourth spot. They didn’t make it out of their conference last year, but have far too much talent to be denied again. Probably the revelation of the year.

5) Olivia Cooper - Alberta - 600m

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Cooper at the 2019 Canadian outdoor national championship

Cooper doesn’t yet have a photo of herself in action with the Pandas, because she is a true rookie, born in 2001. You know you are getting old when one of U SPORTS’ top athletes was born a full year after you beat Pokemon Gold for the first time. Cooper may be young, but she is the early leader in the 600m rankings, an event that lost many of its main contenders to graduation. The path to the podium is open to Cooper, provided she inches closer to 1:30:00. Bonus points for the rookie: home track advantage.

6) Eric Lutz - Calgary - 1,500m

Lutz at the 2018 Golden Bear Open

This is a cool story. As a sophomore in 2018, middle-distance runner Lutz finishes an unexpected ninth overall at the U SPORTS cross-country championship and helps the Dinos clinch gold. Not even two months later, he breaks his back (yup) in a freak ATV accident. No 2019 indoor season. He rehabs and prepares for the summer season. He races a few times to rid his tires of dust, and then runs 3:45 over 1,500 metres in July. He follows that up with another U SPORTS team gold last fall, and enters this season brimming with momentum, ready to challenge this year’s fast herd of milers.

7) Elodie De Coene - Montreal - 3,000m

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De Coene, left, leads les Carabins in early-season action

Perhaps the cross-country season’s breakout star. In 2018, she finished a forgettable 75th at the U SPORTS championship. At last fall’s RSEQ cross-country championship, De Coene slayed Laval’s four headed dragon of five names (Dubé-Lavoie, Comeau, Lacourse, and Beauchemin) and took home the individual title. She followed that up with a gutsy 2nd team All-Canadian finish at U SPORTS two weeks later. Such a rise bodes well for the 3rd year medical student’s 3,000m potential. That being said, if De Coene relies on another conference win to punch her ticket to Edmonton, she may be in hot water, as that dragon still breathes fire.

8) Kalum Delaney - Guelph - 3,000m

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Delaney, far right, was an important part of Guelph’s bronze medal-winning cross-country team in 2019.

Delaney still exists in the shadow of older and more established Gryphons, like Mark Patton and Mitch Ubene. But if you haven’t figured it out in cross-country, it’s time to notice that Delaney is good - he was eighth in Kingston. Plus, if you are working out with a bunch of 8:10 guys, you become an 8:10 guy. And if you become an 8:10 guy, like I said for Windisch, you are in the hunt for medals. Time to learn how to spell this guy’s first name.

9) Jane Hergett - St. FX - 600m and 1,000m

Hergett, front line on the left, training at St. FX University

The third year Hergett has appeared in two U SPORTS finals last year, but she was 10th in the 1,000m, and 11th in the 600m. So why is she on this newcomers list? Because raise your hand if you remember her. Nobody? That’s fair. Jenna Westaway was breaking records in the middle distance events, and Julianne Labach and Olivia Romaniw stole what was left of the show by battling for medals. There wasn’t much room for a 19-year-old to shine. But mark my words, you won’t forget about Hergett this year.

10) Jacqueline Madogo - Guelph - 60m

Madogo is raw. How raw? The only pictures I could find of the 2000-born athlete wearing Guelph colours featured her dribbling a soccer ball. The dual-sport athlete is a newcomer to U SPORTS track. That means there is lots of room to improve. And if she improves even marginally on her season opener of 7.48, she will wreak havoc in an event whose podium was ostensibly occupied by 2019 champion and runner-up Sandra Latrace of Lethbridge and Bailey Smith of UPEI, and by Madogo’s teammate and 2018 champion Shyvonne Roxborough. Don’t get me wrong, those three women are a tough trio to break up, but if someone can do it, it’s the still-unknown Madogo.

That’s enough for now. Best of luck to all in this early season. Work hard, have fun, go to Boston and run way faster than anyone ever thought you would run in your lifetime.

Alex Cyr is a writer, runner and journalist living in Toronto, Ontario. Every single run he does is on Strava. This week he tried rock climbing and hated it.