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Windsor Reboot first meet for trio

 OUA season back on track for athletes


   Knelsen, Stanat, Wilson-Walker, excited their OUA indoor track and field

   seasons are resuming following a month long delay



  February 14, 2022


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By Rob. J. Ross 

WINDSOR, Ont. - A trio of local track and field athletes welcomed back a competitive meet with open arms.

Hallee Knelsen, A.J. Stanat and Madie Wilson-Walker, had their first official indoor meet of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) schedule, the Lancers Reboot, Sunday, at the University of Windsor.

The OUA season, set to resume after Christmas on January 4, was pushed back to this past weekend, due to province closing sports venues under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Knelsen placed third, running for the Western Mustangs, in the women's 1000 metres, in a personal best (PB) time of two minutes 51.48 seconds (2:51.48), in her first race against competition. Her time converted down to 2:49.63, due to track size, ranks in the U Sport National top 12, currently at number four, very early in the season.

"I was hoping for a little more, but it was a pretty good opener," Knelsen said. "I was excited to get back. My workouts have been really good, so I was looking forward to see what I could do in a race. I knew it was going to be hard and I knew there was going to be fast people."

Guelph Gryphons' Sadie-Jane Hickson set a meet record winning the race in 2:46.29, followed by teammate Kiana Gibson, in second spot, at 2:51.02.

The Guelph pair are two of the top runners in Canada. Hickson, age 23, was the runner-up to Olympian Lucia Stafford, in the women's 1000 metre final, at the 2020 U Sports (Canadian university Nationals) indoor championships. Gibson was eighth in that race. This past November, the 22-year old Gibson won the women's race at OUA cross country and was eighth at the National championship.

The 18-year old from Malahide respects her older competitors, but isn't intimidated by their resumes.

"They're four and five years older," Knelsen said. "I know right now it's easy to put them on a pedestal and say, look how good they are, but I know that I can do that one day as well."

In her second event, Knelsen ran the third leg on Western's 4x800-metre relay team that placed second, in a time of nine minutes and 22.23 seconds.

"I tried to be conservative because we didn't have  a lot of time between races (relay and 1000m), but then I had a lot left," Knelsen said. "I definitely could've gone a lot faster."

Back in November, Knelsen ran her first ever 1000 metres in 2:54.74 (converted to an official time of 2:52.86, based on track size), at the Mustangs' annual Purple and White intersquad competition.

The East Elgin secondary school graduate is glad to be back indoors, after a month of training at the outdoor track at St. Joe's high school. Despite the cold temperatures and snow covered oval, Knelsen stuck with her weekly workout schedule.

"It's not too hard for me to get the motivation to go, because I just do it naturally and I need it to keep me sane in times like that (season delayed)," Knelsen said. "If you let it get to you and become less dedicated because of the circumstances, then it's not going to pay off. You have to know what you're working towards will eventually pay off. When I'm training, I'm envisioning that it will all go towards a race eventually."

Knelsen plans to run her first ever 600-metre race, at a second meet in Windsor, Feb. 20.

Stanat, from St. Thomas, competing with Windsor, was sixth, in both men's shot put (13.32 metres) and weight throw (13.00m), setting PBs in both disciplines.

"Things went well. PBs in both events, so I can't complain," Stanat said. "A little bit shaky at first, but tightened the nerves once things settled in. I felt confident, especially in shot. I had a consistent series."

His only other meet was the Lancers intersquad back in November.

"It wasn't bad and better than our last meet, Blue and Golds. I still have some things to work on, but happy overall," said Stanat. "It's exciting and a step in the right direction for sure. I'm looking forward to what's coming in the next few weeks for meets."

The first year Kinesiology student who graduated from Parkside Collegiate last year, was able to keep training while meets were on pause.

"I have a home gym and fortunate to have something like that to keep up with my lifting," Stanat said. "Not a lot in terms of actually throwing implements, but I was able to do foot work drills."

While staying healthy, Stanat aims to increase his distances by at least a metre and half this season.

"Number one is to stay healthy," Stanat said. "I'd say in shot put and in weight throw as well, I suppose, would be in the north end of 14 metre range."

Wilson-Walker, a para-athlete from Avon, competing in her last year with Western, placed ninth, in women's long jump (5.04m).

The bi-lateral amputee who competes on running blades, only attempted three of six possible jumps, before calling it a day due to a mechanical issue.

"I didn't get my last three jumps in. My prosthetic is a pin and lock system and I think some sand got in down where my button is because it would not stay clicked on," Wilson-Walker said. "That's not safe. I can't jump if they're not clicked on. It won't push in all of the way right now. I was mid run and I could feel my leg coming off. So I thought, probably not the best way to jump. I don't want to injure myself."

Wilson-Walker is training for not only this season, but long term goals of representing Canada at the 2023 World Championships and at the 2024 Paralympic Games.

"It was a little frustrating, because it was something not really in my control. I'm going to get that fixed and next week will be better."

Her distance of 4.05 metres was short of her PB of 4.32.

"I feel most athletes are always hoping for a personal best and that is what I was hoping for," Wilson-Walker said. "I felt really good and I'm really happy with how my run way was. It was the most consistent it has ever been. It felt really fast and smooth. I just had no height on any of my jumps. Once I get better at doing the run way that many times and getting the height I should definitely get some big jumps."

Walker-Wilson is adjusting to a technical change at the take-off board, in order to help increase her height.

"I have a new approach after three to four years with the same approach. It's been good, but it's getting use to going that fast to the board. It'll help me in the long run, but it's getting use to doing it properly," Wilson-Walker explained. "I'll be trying to get better and get consistent, as the weeks go on."

Last week, Wilson-Walker was named the winner of the 2022 Jeffrey Reed Courage Award, that recognizes a Southwestern Ontario athlete who inspires others with their courage on and off the playing field.

"I'm very honoured to get such an award."

Notes: Brady Fodor, of Shedden, competing for Western, placed ninth in men's shot put (12.62m). Western hosts an indoor meet, March 5. The OUA provincial championships are March 18-19, at York University, in Toronto, The 2022 U Sports national championships, in March 31-April 2, in Saint John, New Brunswick.





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