On Jan. 27 and 28, the Martlet and Redbird track and field teams held their annual McGill Team Challenge at the Tomlinson Fieldhouse. With 538 athletes representing schools and clubs from across Canada, personal bests were achieved, school records were broken, and fans were more than entertained.
Day one started off with a bang after Donna Ntambue’s stunning performance in the 60-metre dash. The transfer from Northeastern University won her race with a time of 7.38 seconds, beating McGill track alumna Jorden Savoury—who was competing for the Saint-Laurent Seléct club team—by 0.27 seconds.
“I’m still speechless,” said Ntambue in a post-race interview with The McGill Tribune. “Obviously that was one of my goals, but it’s just nice to see it happen. But I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be back on track. And it’s nice to know that I’m actually getting better. So I’m looking forward to [running] faster [and] just enjoying the ride.”
Ntambue later led the Martlets 4×200-metre relay team to a bronze medal with a McGill record finish.
The longer-distance events held several highlights as well, including Abby McIntosh and Markus Geiger in the 1000-metre race, and Noah El Rimawi-Fine and Sophie Courville in the 3000-metre race. McIntosh managed to dip under three minutes with her 2:58.49 for seventh place, while Geiger put up an intimidating early season performance with a 2:26.37 for fifth place. In the longest races of the weekend, Courville ran an impressive 10:09.93 and El Rimawi-Fine ran a smashing personal best of 8:33.17. The two runners both scored themselves a spot in seventh place in their respective women’s and men’s races.
Despite some pre-competition frustrations, El Rimawi-Fine reflected on how the race went surprisingly well, but noted that there are still areas to improve.
“Honestly, I felt pretty good. I didn’t expect that,” said El Rimawi-Fine. “But I felt like the Queen’s guy was slowing down a little bit and I had a lot of energy, so I kind of wanted to make a move. If I had known I had enough in me, I probably would have kicked a bit sooner [….] So I think if I had done that, it could have been a sub four attempt closer than 4:03. But I’m happy with this.”
However, the 1500-metre isn’t El Rimawi-Fine’s main race—most of his season goals revolve around the 3000-metre race, where he placed fifth this weekend with a time of 8:33.17.
Day two was another intense day of racing. Ricardo Percopo finished eighth in the 300-metre, and Geiger followed up his impressive day one performance with an even more remarkable third place in the 600-metre, running 1:20.59.
In the men’s 1500-metre, a massive McGill presence made for an exciting spectacle for the home crowd. One of the seven McGill runners in that race was Jérôme Jacques, who slid in under four minutes (3:58.89 to be precise) for 11th place in an inspiring display of grit and bold racing tactics. On the women’s side, Courville followed up her 3000-metre performance from the day before with a 12th place finish of 4:47.27 in the 1500-metre.
Two of the most exciting races of the weekend came courtesy of Matthew Beaudet in the 1000 and 1500-metre races. Despite being passed by two of his competitors in the last 100 metres, Beaudet still managed to pull off an impressive 2:24.76 for third place in the 1000-metre on day one.
“My main goal for the weekend was to run a good 1000-metre, and I felt I was in shape to run close to the provincial record of 2:21,” Beaudet told the Tribune. “ I think I was a little too anxious during the race as I took the lead early [at about] 550 [metres] and used too much energy there [….] The time was still good considering the tactical mistakes, and it was nice to compete against strong athletes in Montreal.”
On day two in the 1500, Beaudet ran a very similar race. His blistering pace was too much for everyone else in the field except for Queen’s University’s Jude Wheeler-Dee––the same foe who bested him in the 1000-metre––who managed to hang on once again and out-kicked Beaudet in the last stretch of the race.
“I was pretty tired doubling in the 1500, but I wanted to run with more confidence this year, so I picked up the pace after 850 metres and led until the last 50 metres where I got passed again,” said Beaudet. “I was hoping to run a few seconds faster in this race, but I was happy with how I executed the race plan and I am looking forward to competing in later meets.”
Off the track, McGill dominated with two golds on the men’s side from Mackenzie Stathis in triple jump and Olivier Gregoire in pole vault. The Martlets came home with one bronze medal from pole vaulter Rosalie Lupien. And for those who throw heavy things, McGill took home two bronzes in shot put from Lina Ikhlef and Ella Villeneuve, while Philippe Haddad finished seventh for the men. As for the hurdles, Vanessa Lu Langley took home a silver medal in the women’s 60-metre race.
The Martlets and Redbirds will compete again on Feb. 4 in Quebec City at the Laval Invitational.
Moment of the Meet:
Ntambue ran the 60m in 7.38 seconds, dominating her toughest university competitors by over two-tenths of a second and setting a fresh school record.
“I’m no better than I was last season…but I’m also not worse.”
––Lucien Louvet, distance runner
With 45 teams and clubs, including 14 universities, over 500 athletes, and more than 800 entries, the 2023 McGill Team Challenge was slotted as the largest indoor track meet in Canada.