By: Kirk Jessome
The Tigers men’s and women’s cross country teams are primed to have a strong showing at the U SPORTS national championship this Saturday.
Both teams are going into the event as the AUS champions, coming off wins at the meet hosted by Acadia two weeks ago. It was the fifth-consecutive win for the women, while the men earned their first title since the 2010 season. This also makes it the first time that both teams will go into the national championships as conference title holders since the men last won.
The men are led by fifth-year Calvin DeWolfe, who finished third overall at the conference championships this year, after claiming first place at the 2016 event. After DeWolfe, the Tigers have a very strong core group of runners, all of whom finished in the top 15 at the AUS championships this year. Graeme Wach, Will Russell, Angus MacIntosh, and first-year James Cromack finished one after another from seventh to 10th respectively.
The men’s team spent the entire season ranked within the top 10 in the country, and will go into the meet as the 10th seed. The Tigers are set to improve on their 13th place finish at nationals last year with their solid balance of youth and experience.
Head coach Rich Lehman spoke on the biggest difference in his squad from this year to last.
“Another year of experience for some of our younger guys has been important for them,” says Lehman “The tight spread in our runners from 2-7 is what makes us dangerous. The addition of James Cromack has been great as well. He handled the transition to university running exceptionally well.”
Savanna Jordan has had an incredible season in just her first year with the Tigers. She won the AUS championship race by nearly a minute, earning AUS MVP and rookie of the year honours and was named the U SPORTS female athlete of the week as a result. Finishing behind her in second place was fourth-year Michelle Reddy. The Tigers added two more to the top 10 with Jenna MacDonald and Shaylynn Tell finishing seventh and ninth, respectively.
This is the first year that the women ran an 8km race, instead of a 6km course, and Lehman says the transition has gone as expected for his group.
“We’ve always run a fairly high-volume program, so we didn’t really need to change much training-wise,” explains Lehman, “The extra seven or eight minutes of racing means that athletes need to be a little more patient in the first half of the race, but that’s what cross country is all about. It’s supposed to be a long distance race and 6km was definitely too short.”
Lehman believes that both teams have chances of finishing in the top ten in the country this weekend.
“Usually the teams that are ranked eighth-15th are basically interchangeable. It all just comes down to who shows up on the day of the race.”
The U SPORTS Cross Country Championships take place Saturday, November 12 at the University of Victoria. For more information, visit the event site.