University athletes dodge puddles to practise at leaky St. Denis Centre

As a track athlete it’s not uncommon for Rachael Wolfs to practise in the rain.

The plot twist Wednesday was that Wolfs, a third-year pole vaulter with the University of Windsor, was getting wet as she trained indoors at the St. Denis Centre.

“It was a mess,” said the 20-year-old Wolfs of numerous roof leaks that left the pole vault runway with pools of standing water.

University athletic director Mike Havey said roofers were at the school Thursday making repairs, just 24 hours before the facility is scheduled to host the Ontario University Athletics track and field championships.

Havey said there were “a number of leaks on campus” Wednesday when Windsor was soaked with 35 mm of rain.

Wolfs is the No. 2-ranked female university vaulter in Canada. She’s looking to win an OUA gold medal and hopefully set a school record at the provincial championships which run Friday and Saturday.

“It’s another stress to overcome,” she said of Wednesday’s soggy session. “It was in the back of my mind, what if I slip and we’re at the week of championships?”


Wolfs has seen the St. Denis Centre weep before but noted “this was outrageous. It was actually raining inside the building.”

Facility staff used large blue barrels to collect rainwater and soaked up more with towels.

“We had about 60 towels down and they had to be replaced frequently,” said pole vault coach Kevin DiNardo. “There’s always challenges whether you’re inside or outside, but certainly there are more ideal situations than that.”

DiNardo said leaks have sprung up just before other provincial and national championships hosted at the St. Denis Centre.

“It’s usually when there’s a season change, from fall to winter or winter to spring,” he said. “I think it has to do with a combination of precipitation and condensation.”

Fifth-year distance runner Paul Janikowski said the indoor track had a few wet spots in Lane 1 but that the vault area definitely “got the worst of it.”

Head track coach Brett Lumley hadn’t had time to inspect the fieldhouse floor Thursday. He was busy attending to last-minute details for hosting the OUA meet as well as final preparations for a celebration gala Thursday evening honouring former head coach Dennis Fairall.

“We’re hoping the weather will play a significant role today and tomorrow and it’ll sort of fix itself,” Lumley said, hoping for dry conditions.


Environment Canada has no rain in the forecast until Sunday.

Gord Grace, the CEO of the OUA, was in Windsor Thursday for the Fairall gathering and hadn’t heard about the water leaks.

As the former athletic director at the University of Windsor, Grace does recall previous incidents where barrels had to be placed on the track but doesn’t remember it being so bad that the water pooled.

“It’s critical for that facility to be kept up,” he said.

Asked if this could impact the university’s ability to successfully bid on future provincial and national championships, Grace said, “You want to pick places and venues where athletes are going to be able to perform at their best. You want to have the best playing surfaces available.”

University administration has ambitious plans for a $73-million renovation to the St. Denis Centre but those hit a snag this school year when a proposed student fee to help finance the project was voted down by graduate students. Undergraduate and part-time students voted in favour of the plan but all three groups need to vote yes for the fee to be approved.





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