SFU's Addy Townsend finished sixth in the 800 meters at NCAA Div. 2 nationals on Saturday in Florida. (Chris Oertell - file photo)
Feature University Track and Field

SFU Clan at NCAA’s: Eight first-timers, three finalists make mark, on track for more in 2018

Eight national championship rookies, seven of whom will be back next season. 

Three finalists, each fashioning a spot in the top 10 and earning All-American status.

If the 2017 outdoor track and field season represented anything for the Simon Fraser Clan, it was about the seasoning its young base of talent received at the highest levels of NCAA Div. 2 competition.

On Saturday, the campaign came to an end with three Clan athletes racing in finals at the national championship meet in Bradenton, Fla.

Burgeoning 800-metre superstar Addy Townsend didn’t cap off her sophomore season with her best two-lap performance, yet she got something incredibly valuable en route to a sixth-place (2:08.39) performance.

So did junior 400-metre men’s hurdler Vlad Tsygankov, the Moscow native and junior, who due to passport issues, had just one true crack at his specialty event this season yet still finished in 52.15 and seventh place.

Junior Julia Howley, a junior from Newfoundland, ran a 4:29.57 and finished ninth in the 1,500 metres.

“The experience they got was so important,” said SFU head coach Brit Townsend on Saturday evening from Florida. “Just getting used to this level of competition and being able to compose yourself here, it was a huge learning experience for eight first timers.”

The head coach’s daughter, Addy Townsend had clocked a 2:07.96 personal best this season, but a demanding qualification schedule and debilitating heat are the kinds of factors you have to live through to get better.

“A huge goal of making the final was achieved,” Brit Townsend said. “Qualification came yesterday so the back-to-back was tough. And it was so hot. Big ice towels around the midriff. She was tired, but she battled and she always wants more.”

SFU’s Vlad Tsygankov finished seventh in the 400 metre hurdles at the NCAA Div. 2 track and field championships. (Photo: Christopher Oertell)

Tsygankov, who convinced the coaching staff he was not just a long jumper by clocking a 51.48 in the 400-metre hurdles, the fourth fastest time in NCAA Div. 2 earlier this season, ran a little slower Saturday but will hit the ground running in his senior year.

“Vlad hardly ran any races because of his passport issues and honestly, he is so powerful,” said Townsend. “He is going to continue to get better and he will try to compete at the Under-23 European championships this summer.”

Howley is another beacon of hope for Clan women’s middle distance.

In mid-April, at the Bryan Clay Invite, the junior’s 4:25.45 was among the top dozen times in NCAA Div. 2.

“The 1,500 metres really had a lot of good top-end people,” said Townsend of the national field in which the top six all finished sub-4:22. “For Julia, I think making her first final in her first national championship was a chance for her to learn a lot of things.”

Also qualifying for nationals but not emerging from the heats for finals were Clan women Alana Mussatto, Sophie Dodd, Paige Nock, Miryam Bassett and Chantel Desch.

The eight total Clan qualifiers represented the most athletes it has sent to the NCAA Div. 2 national meet.

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