By Kirk Jessome
With veteran leadership and some key contributions from first year runners, the 2017-18 men’s cross country team was able to recapture the AUS championship title for the first time since 2010.
Fifth-year transfer Cal DeWolfe was a huge pickup for the Tigers after being a part of four AUS championship winning teams before graduating from StFX. DeWolfe was the top finisher for the group in each major race, including a sixth-place finish at the AUS/RESQ Interlock in Laval with a time of 32:13.80 in the 10km race.
Depth was a key factor for the Tigers success all season with close times coming from the group’s fourth through seventh runners with some young talent being added on the back end in James Cromack.
AUS coach of the year Rich Lehman felt that depth is what put them in a good position to win all season long.
“The development of our returning guys helped us a lot, as well as a strong group of rookies that came in,” says Lehman. “We felt that any seven guys we put in a race were able to give us a chance to win.”
That statement held true at the AUS championship with all seven runners finishing in the top 15 in the conference.
Once again the group was led by DeWolfe who collected a bronze medal with a time of 32:03.95. The Tigers had four other runners rounding out the top 10 with Wach, Russell, Angus MacIntosh and Cromack crossing the line seventh through tenth respectively.
With the Tigers top four finishers in their fourth or fifth years, Lehman acknowledges how much they meant to the program.
“We had a lot of leaders on our roster this year, with guys like Will Russell being a key part of our team for five years, as well as Cal adding the experience as being the only one on the team that has won a conference championship. Those types of guys are hard to replace.”
The Tigers looked ready to become a national contender, sitting in the U SPORTS top 10 rankings all season long, going into the championship ranked tenth in the country.
It was a tough race for the Tigers at nationals however, with only Cal DeWolfe finishing in the top 50 in 31st place with a time of 32:11.35. Behind him was Callum Drever with his best race of the year, crossing the line in 78th place with a time of 33:27.08. The group came away with a 13th place finish at nationals, repeating their result from last season.
The Tigers will look to their younger runners to step up next season in the absence of seniors Cal DeWolfe and Will Russell, in order to repeat their championship victory and break into the top 10 in the country.