One of the most controversial races in OUA history ensued on the weekend, and McMaster’s Taylor Forbes, Blair Morgan and Austen Forbes were a part of it.
In the men’s 3000m, three of the Guelph Gryphons’ fastest runners acted in questionable fashion, appearing to fix the race to get their teammate to qualify for the national championships.
While the top two runners in the fastest heat in the OUA championships get to run at nationals, Gryphon runners Aaron Hendrikx, Ross Proudfoot and Chris Dulhanty—who have all already qualified for the CIS Championships based on time—did everything they could to try and get Brayden Seneca to be up at the front of the pack.
The beginning of the race went out slowly and they were at the front. Things began to look suspicious as their incredibly slow pace also included the three top Gryphons turning their heads to look back at the pack, to see where Seneca was in the race.
Then, as the race ensued, more suspicious activity began to take place.
Whenever a runner tried to pass the Gryphons to be up at the front of the pack, elbows were flying, and the three Gryphons began to create a barricade that went from the first lane into the fourth.
First, an angry Queen’s Gael runner, Alex Wilkie, tried to get by the Guelph threesome, with no luck. After Wilkie received a push from Gryphon Ross Proudfoot, Wilkie flipped off Proudfoot and fell out of contention.
Mac’s Taylor Forbes was in the thick of the race, experiencing the behaviour first-hand.
“There are some really good guys who were really gunning for them, and that’s when it started to get really aggressive because the barricade caused more tension and they were throwing elbows and pushing people back, and just looking over their shoulders and impeding everybody’s race, trying to slow them down,” said OUA bronze medallist, Taylor Forbes.
Then, in the last lap of the race, their goal became more and more obvious.
As Lakehead runner Kevin Tree began to make a run for the bronze medal—which was the spot that was mostly up for grabs, as Hendrikx and Proudfoot had the gold and silver medal locked down—Gryphon Chris Dulhanty swung his arm out so as to stop him from passing.
Dulhanty’s actions in the last 250m of the race got him disqualified.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said head coach Paula Schnurr.
For Schnurr, a two-time Olympian in the 1500m to say that, shows just how bizarre this occurrence was.
After the race, the Lakehead coach Kip Sigsworth and the Queen’s coach Steve Boyd went to appeal the actions of the Guelph Gryphons.
Dulhanty’s disqualification meant that Taylor Forbes, who finished fourth overall, would receive the bronze medal, which would be McMaster’s first OUA medal won on the men’s side in distance running in over 20 years.
“He wasn’t really happy with the way he had to medal,” said Schnurr.
“I know when he finished he was very frustrated because you can feel it when you’re a part of that, and I’m sure he was bumped and cut off numerous times, but despite the outcome, he ran an awesome race.”
Luckily, the actions of the Gryphons didn’t effect anyone on McMaster too much, as both of the Forbes twins and Blair Morgan all had a great race despite all of the pushing, shoving and the barricade that was created throughout the race.
Unfortunately for Lakehead’s Tree, and Queen’s Wilkie, their race was directly affected by it all, which speaks to the problems of this race in general.
There is no question that in championship races, runners tend to play it safe, as it’s more a race for place than it is for time, and no one wants to take the lead early on.
But the Gryphons showed up to the track that day, knowing what they were capable of as elite runners, and they tested what they could get away with.
“They just didn’t race,” said Schnurr.
“It’s just unfortunate, you never want to see that in a championship race.”
While the race got out of hand, Forbes does not doubt the overall character of the guys on the Gryphons, and feels as though it’s unfair for them to be judged by this incident.
“I don’t think it was meant to be malicious or anything like that. I think they just wanted to slow it down a bit. I think what happens is when you get into the heat of the race, you act on instinct,” said Forbes.
“They had a good intent, because they wanted to help out their teammate. But they did it the wrong way.”
Although Forbes admits to being angry and frustrated immediately after the race, he has no hard feelings towards the Gryphons.
“Even though it was one of the most controversial races I’ve ever been in, it was also the most exciting race I’ve ever been a part of. I’m not angry with them, and I’m not mad at them.”
After all of the flack the Gryphons received, Hendrikx and Dulhanty came forward with an apology, and justified their actions.
While that controversial race was the main topic that came out of the OUA Championships, for Mac, there were several highlights.
The men’s 4x800m team of Connor Darlington, Luke Charbonneau, Nick Kondrat and Jeff Tweedle also won OUA bronze with a time of 7:58.
Several of the Marauders also ran to personal best times, including Maddie Benjamin and Emily Nowak in the 1500m, Gabrielle Foran in the 3000m, Nick Bomers and Matt Napier in the 1000m, Arnold Kofia in the 60m, and Derek Van Schepen in the 1500m.
Jeff Tweedle will be the lone Marauder heading to the CIS Championships after his McMaster record-breaking time in the 1000m that he ran at the Valentine Invitational in Boston.
While he will be training for that in the next two weeks, the rest of the Marauders will be taking a break before gearing up for their summer track season.
The Forbes’ will be taking a break from the track to concentrate on triathlons.