This week's Throwback Thursday is recognizing the 2008-09 women's cross country team. Check out their season recap below!
There was a sense of change in the air as athletes and coaches gathered at the annual Dalhousie training camp for the start of the cross country season. A new head coach (only the third in the history of the program) was taking over after the successful leadership of Dan Hennigar, who after nine years had decided to move on. Fortunately, for the athletes the new coach was no stranger. Heather Hennigar, a native Nova Scotian, former national team member and an assistant coach with the team since 2002, was named to the position.
An era was over, but optimism was high among the runners that this was the beginning of a new age of excellence at Dalhousie. Reasons for high hopes in the squad were the return after a year’s sabbatical of Janice Ashworth, a three-time CIS silver medallist individually and a member of the 2004 team that captured the team banner at the CIS championships in Guelph, and the return of 2006 CIS team bronze medallists Caroline Schlosser, Rebecca Reeves and Stephanie Bennett.
Comprising the rest of the core team were StFX transfer Kaitlyn Watters, Crystal Deschambault, rookie Valerie Christie and middle distance specialist Celia Peters.
The first meet of the season was hosted by StFX in Antigonish. It proved to be a thrilling duel between the hosts and the Tigers, with Dalhousie emerging the winner by a single point. Christie, the rookie, was perhaps the best surprise of the day, finishing in third place and establishing herself as the rookie to beat in the AUS. Also pleasing for the coaches were the efforts of Anna-Sarah Eyrich, Erin Ready and Shannon McCarey, who provided great depth as the fifth through seventh Dalhousie runners.
Next up on the schedule was the meet in Point Pleasant Park hosted by Saint Mary’s. This was familiar turf for the Tigers and they were looking for a dominating performance. They delivered. Led by team co-captain Janice Ashworth, who ran to a thirteen second victory, the fine performances of Caroline Schlosser, Kaitlyn Watters and Stephanie Bennett (3rd, 4th and 9th) were complimented by a breakthrough race by Rebecca Reeves (6th). Dalhousie easily won the team title by a nine-point margin.
An important test for the Tigers was an interlock meet in Quebec, hosted by Laval. This would be the course of the CIS championships and it was critical to test out the terrain and competition to be at their best in November. They would be missing two top runners however. Stepping up to lead the team with a well-paced race was Kaitlyn Watters in 20th place. Not far behind was Valerie Christie in 23rd. The other scorers were Stephanie Bennett, Crystal Deschambault and Celia Peters, who ran great tactical races to finish 39th, 43rd and 48th.
The AUS championships were in Moncton on a very challenging course of wet grass and steep hills. The heavy favourites were the StFX women who were looking for their third consecutive AUS title. Dalhousie had been looking to challenge, but had met with some misfortune in the two weeks before the championships. Veteran Janice Ashworth, was unable to complete the season for personal reasons. With their strongest runner gone, the Tigers were in a tough situation, but battled mightily and came up with a second place finish. Caroline Schlosser led the way, running with the leaders almost to the end and finishing fourth. Kaitlyn Watters and Stephanie Bennett came across the line less than a second apart in sixth and seventh. Crystal Deschambault, Valerie Christie, Rebecca Reeves, and Celia Peters finished 9th, 12th, 14th and 19th.
The Tigers had not automatically qualified as a team for the CIS championships in Quebec, but as they had proven themselves competitive against some of the top teams in the country during the season, the decision to send them was an easy one. On November 8 the Tigers pitted themselves against the best of the nation, and came up with some remarkable performances. Caroline Schlosser ran a gutsy race to come in 20th, while Kaitlyn Watters continued her breakthrough season with a 71st finish. The incredibly dense field of athletes was a detriment to Dalhousie, who could have used another front runner. The strong efforts of Valerie Christie 81st, Crystal Deschambault 85th, Celia Peters 86th, Rebecca Reeves 88th, and Stephanie Bennett 90th, solidified the fact that what was supposed to have been a rebuilding year for the Tigers had turned into another example of Dalhousie overcoming setbacks and exceeding their season’s goals. 2009 will be an interesting year as Dalhousie returns nearly everyone to the roster and will look to add significant recruiting talent to the line-up.