Bisons ready to host the nation at U Sports National Championships
Former Bison star Daryl Fillion reflects on his time at the University of Manitoba
As the University of Manitoba Bisons prepare to host the 2019 U Sports Track and Field Championships, March 7-9 at the James Daly Fieldhouse, former Bison track and field star, Daryl Fillion reflects on his U of M experience.
As reported by Canada West: In the distance, from the home Daryl Fillion shares with his family, he can see the track and field stadium where he became a world-class runner. Fillion is a University of Manitoba and Bison alum who now teaches physical education a short distance away from the Fort Garry campus.
A Kenora, Ontario native and gifted high school track athlete, Fillion declined opportunities to attend post-secondary in his home province and elected to come to Winnipeg to compete as a Bison.
“Kenora is the last remaining town before Manitoba so I feel as much from Kenora as I am from Ontario,” Fillion explains. “The closest big city to us is Winnipeg, so I was always connected to Manitoba.”
Fillion came to the U of M in 1991 and navigated his way through a student population that was twice the size of the community he was coming from. He quickly transitioned, continually supported by a herd of Bisons.
“I don’t know how I would meet people at a big institution without a sport connection,” Fillion explains. “Running track on a big team I got to meet a lot of people really fast. It actually grounded me.”
But it was at U of M when Fillion began to take off. Over his five-year career as a Bison, he would collect 10 gold and one bronze at Canada West track and field championships, and add seven gold, two silver, and one bronze from U Sports track and field championships.
Fillion was emerging as one of Canada’s leading middle-distance runners. He came 0.1 seconds short of qualifying for the 800-metre at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria. That near-miss drove him over the next several months to qualify for Canada’s 1995 Pan-Am Games team – which he did by just a couple hundredths of a second.
“It’s a really neat little story that I tell when I give speeches,” he says. “Missing by that much helped me make it by even less eight months later.”
Fillion reached the 800-metre final and finished sixth at the 1995 Pan-Am Games in Argentina then ran for Canada again in 1999 at the Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg. Back on the same surface he had called home as a member of the Bisons, Fillion placed fifth in the 800-metre final and was 10th in the 1,500 metre races.
Fillion continued to compete in meets around the world until 2001 when he took a full-time job teaching in Winnipeg. He’d already spent the previous few years working as a substitute, splitting time between school and track, not unlike he’d done as a Manitoba student-athlete before graduating with a Bachelor of Physical Education and Bachelor of Education.
Now able to instil his passion in the youth he teaches. “Whether it’s a competitive sport or just out walking or hiking, find your movement and embrace it, because that’s how you be lifelong active learners,” he says.
“Running was my movement, and I embraced it to the fullest. I never thought that I was going to be representing Canada intentionally, that just played itself out. I just wanted to enjoy it as much as I could, and things just took off.”
Since he started teaching full-time, Fillion has worked at three schools, all in Winnipeg. “I have barely moved away from the University. That was my home,” says Fillion. “Because I landed in this very safe supporting place, I haven’t really left.”
Take in the U Sports National Championships, March 7-9 at the University of Manitoba. Buy championship tickets today.