Athletics: Wiebe wins double gold as T-Birds defend relay champions

Devan Wiebe won gold in the 800m, and the UBC women's 4x800m relay won a second straight title at the NAIA championships.

UBC Thunderbird sprinter Devan Wiebe claimed two gold medals at the NAIA championships last weekend in Alabama.

The Lord Byng alum is the national champion in the women’s 800m and shares the 4x800m title with teammates Tamara Harris, Rhiannon Evans and Catharine Farish. The women successfully defended their 2013 win in the relay, which Wiebe anchored.

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Harris put the T-Birds in the lead while Evans and Farish widened the gap, said Wiebe.

“By the time I got the baton, I knew if I could keep the momentum going we could repeat our last year's win,” she wrote in an email. “That said, you never know what can happen in a relay. Batons drop, other teams can close seemingly impossible gaps, so I made sure I was the first runner across the finish line before I even though about celebrating.”

In the individual 800m, Wiebe won bronze two years in a row and this year would not be denied the top tier of the podium. The third-year runner came through with a time of two minutes and 8.17 seconds. She was 0.68 seconds ahead of her closest competitor from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (UBC is the only Canadian school competing in the predominantly U.S. National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.)

She trained for this distance alongside Harris, who finished fourth in 2:10.16.

“[We] have been working towards this all year, so it was super exciting to qualify for the final together,” said Wiebe. “I knew I had the win in me, but with so many talented athletes in the race I knew I was going to have to work for it.”

The race didn’t progress as she and her coach Marek Jedrzejek had expected.

“We anticipated a fast opening lap but it ended up being a tactical slower starting race. I felt strong coming into the last 200 metres, but you never know what can happen in an 800m so I tried to run patiently and kicked it into the last gear with about 60 metres to go,” she said.

“To feel strong this year and come away with the win was super rewarding.”

Rhiannon Evans, a Point Grey graduate, finished the 1500m in seventh in 4:30.63 behind teammates Natalia Hawthorn, who was fourth, and Farish who came fifth.

The UBC women’s team finished third overall, their best-ever showing at the NAIA championships, held May 22 to 24, 2014, at the Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Their team score of 95 was seven points behind the winners from Indiana Tech.

The men finished fifth with 34 points in a field dominated by Indiana Tech, which won with 105 points.

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