MacEwan, SAIT win team titles, seven records fall as successful ACAC Championship wraps up

MacEwan women's 4x400 relay anchor leg runner Nikita Case takes the baton from Hannah Leggatt as Valerie Schlottke, right, cheers them on. The foursome, which also included Amanda Ntiamoah, broke the ACAC record and solidified the Griffins' fourth women's team banner in the last five years (Len Joudrey photo).
MacEwan women's 4x400 relay anchor leg runner Nikita Case takes the baton from Hannah Leggatt as Valerie Schlottke, right, cheers them on. The foursome, which also included Amanda Ntiamoah, broke the ACAC record and solidified the Griffins' fourth women's team banner in the last five years (Len Joudrey photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The host MacEwan Griffins won their fourth women's team title in the last five years and the SAIT Trojans repeated as men's champions as the 2018 Alberta College Athletic Conference indoor track championship went into the books on Saturday at the Kinsmen Field House.

Led by a dominant sprinter group that set a new ACAC record in the women's 4x400m relay on Saturday, the Griffins women won their third-straight banner with 74 points ahead of SAIT (57.5) and Lethbridge (42.5).

"I think we've got to win one more to be considered a dynasty," joked Griffins coach Drew Carver. "This year, it wasn't reliant as heavily on my distance runners. The sprinters are the ones who came through and got us the points."

MacEwan entered Saturday with a slim lead after sweeping the women's 300m podium on Friday. They solidified the banner when Nikita Case breezed to an easy win in the women's 600m, setting a new ACAC Championship record (1:37.35) and her teammate Valerie Schlottke finished second (1:42.27).

"My teammates Valerie and Shey (Shehzadi Abdul, who was sixth in 1:48.03), they were amazing," said Case who leaves the ACAC Championship with two individual gold medals and relay gold. "It was Valerie's first 600, so they did great.

"I have a lot of competition, so it makes you prouder if you are able (to win) because you have great competitors next to you. It feels good."

Case later anchored MacEwan's golden relay squad (with Amanda Ntiamoah, Schlottke and Hannah Leggatt), powering across the line in a new ACAC record time (4:02.32).

The men's competition ended in a runaway for the SAIT Trojans, who won by just six points in 2017, but lapped the field this time with 96 points, a 55-point advantage over runner-up MacEwan (41). Red Deer College placed third (35).

There is no banner for the overall team title, but SAIT took those bragging rights, too. Their 153.5 points topped MacEwan (115) and RDC (75).

"It's all credit to the athletes, that's for sure," said Trojans coach Ryan Edgars. "They worked hard, all of them, in the fall. The cross-country guys who were with us, as well as the more track specialists, who were training really hard in the fall had an awesome winter of training and got the races they needed.

"They really came together as a team and it showed that they performed today. All the credit to them. They did awesome."

SAIT's day included the first men's podium sweep in ACAC indoor track history (on the heels of Friday's first-ever women's podium sweep by the Griffins in the 300m) when Brent Stephen (1:25.02), Brant Lauweryssen (1:26.73) and Christopher Karg (1:26.93) finished 1-2-3 in the 600m. MacEwan sprinting specialist Reece Runco (1:28.92) did his best attempt to break up the Trojans' podium in his first-ever attempt at the longer distance, but faded from second down the stretch to finish fourth.

"The guys' 600 was awesome," said Edgars. "It was very exciting to watch and we're very happy we were able to pull that off."

The Griffins men were second for a second-straight year.

"The men's side – it was like chasing the dragon there," said Carver. "We just wanted to make sure we didn't let SAIT sweep the podium. Reece gave it a good stab to make that podium in the 600, but they got all three spots.

"It was tough. It was what we wanted. We wanted to be out there competing with these guys."

Men's individual champion Matthew Travaglini, centre, is flanked by SAIT teammate Alex Howells (silver) and MacEwan's Scott Kohlman (bronze) on the men's 1500m podium on Saturday (Len Joudrey).

SAIT middle distance specialist Matthew Travaglini wrapped up one of the most dominant individual performances in ACAC Championship history when he captured his third individual gold by easily winning the men's 1500m on Saturday, breaking his third record of the weekend in the process, his time of 4:04.01 eclipsing the old ACAC Championship mark. He then helped the Trojans 4x400m relay team (with Stephen, Karg and Lauweryssen) topple the ACAC record in the relay (3:31.12).

It was a weekend to remember for Travaglini, who led a 1-2-3-4 finish for SAIT in the men's individual title race.

"I think between ourselves, it wasn't really a competition," he said of finishing with 32.5 points, ahead of Stephen (22.5), Alex Howells (16) and Lauweryssen (14.5). "We just wanted to do as well for the team as we could. It's definitely cool to come away as the top athlete, but anyone could have gotten it."

SAIT also put their stamp on the women's individual crown as Ricki Christopher, who won her third individual gold in the 1500m on Saturday after claiming both the 3000 and 1000 on Friday, finished atop the standings with 31.38 points, just ahead of Case (22.5) and Lethbridge's Sophia Nowicki (22), who had two silvers and a bronze.

"It means so much to me. It's incredible," said Christopher. "My goal was to get one gold, that's what I wanted. Last year, I got silver in everything and I was 'I just want to feel it once.' It was my last season, so I just wanted to go out and give it everything that I had.

"Being in varsity sports for four years, having it come to an end is really tough," she added, her voice cracking with emotion. "This is my last one. It's been my life every day for four years. It's tough, but it's incredible. This is the top I've ever been. I have my team and my coaches and my family and everyone to thank for that."

Women's individual champion Ricki Christopher, centre, poses on the 1500m podium with silver medallist Sophia Nowicki of Lethbridge, left, and bronze medallist Hannah Leggatt of MacEwan (Len Joudrey photo).

FINISH LINE … In total, seven records were broken over the two-day meet – ACAC marks in the men's 1000 (Travaglini, 2:31.17), 300 (Stephen – 35.61 – and silver medallist Thomas Cross-Trush of MacEwan – 35.62 – broke it) and both women's (MacEwan, 4:02.32) and men's (SAIT, 3:31.12) 4x400m relay teams, while ACAC Championship standards fell in the men's 3000 (Travaglini, 8:41.62), 1500 (Travaglini, 4:04.01) and women's 600 (Case, 1:37.35) … A rare tie was declared for the bronze medal in the women's 4x400 relay on Saturday as a photo finish couldn't determine a winner of SAIT and Lethbridge at 4:22.04, who finished behind MacEwan and RDC (4:19.80) … MacEwan's silver medal-winning relay team included Cross-Trush, Omar Medina, Scott Kohlman and Runco … Kohlman also finished with his second individual bronze of the weekend in the 1500m and tied with Runco for the top MacEwan male athlete of the meet (14 points).