Every time Thomas Land took to the start line of a race this year, he believed he was in a position to win. He knew that this year was different, that this year was the year.
“Going through the season, I knew I put in double the amount of work than I had before, I knew I was taking care of every small detail,” says Land. “I knew the work had been done.”
The Normandale, Ont., native had a breakthrough season with Gryphons. Winning gold in the 600m and silver in the 1000m at the OUA Championships in Toronto, the fourth-year mechanical engineering student would run even faster at the U SPORTS Championships, capturing gold in the 600m en route to being named the U SPORTS Performer of the Meet as well as helping the Gryphons to the men’s national title.
In a very deep Guelph team, Land knew he wasn’t alone. As the season progressed, he began seeing signs of more than just individual golds on the team, but a possibility of a team title.
“I’ve never been on a team this stacked,” says Land. “I was keeping an eye on how everyone was doing and everyone was feeding off each other and working towards the same goal.”
But the Gryphons track and field and cross country program isn’t new to this winning experience. Not only has the men’s track and field team won four U SPORTS titles in the last 10 years, the women’s cross country team captured their 12th straight national championship this past fall, while the men’s team has won nine of the last 11 championships.
Head coach Dave Scott-Thomas believes that it’s the depth in the team that has allowed them to consistently send athletes who can challenge for the titles year after year. Thanking the support of the medical team, he believes their contributions went a long way.
“It allows a little more confidence in knowing you’re being taken care of during the season as well as in competition,” says Scott Thomas, who took home Coach of the Year honours in both men’s track and field and women’s cross country this season. “That translates into athletes knowing there’s a whole team approach, so if someone is a little bit off, they know that there’s someone who can step up.”
For the veterans like Land, the confidence in his teammates to support his efforts was significant.
“There was so much talent that it didn’t really matter if one of our top guys underperformed because there were so many others who were there to carry the weight and step up,” he says. “I definitely expected championship titles just by the environment going into this season.”