by Duncan Forbes
The Tigers men’s cross country team kicked off their season with a second-place finish at the Acadia Invitational on September 13. They finished well behind a strong StFX squad that grabbed eight of the top 10 spots. Matthias Mueller and Jake Wing cracked the top ten for the Tigers in their first races of the season, finishing ninth and 10th, respectively.
The following weekend, the Tigers sent athletes to both the UNB/STU and Guelph invitationals. In Guelph, Matt McNeil placed 16th in his first meet of the season while Will Russell and Matthias Mueller cracked the top 25 finishing 20th and 25th, respectively. In Fredericton, Angus MacIntosh paced the Tigers with an 11th place finish.
The Tigers next race came on October 4 when they travelled to the Moncton Invitational. The Tigers fared much better this time around, finishing just three points back of the top spot, as they again finished behind StFX. Matt McNeil led all Tigers runners with a third-place finish, while Matthias Mueller finished just seconds back in fifth-place. Will Russell and Graeme Wach also finished in the top ten, placing sixth and eighth, respectively.
The Tigers ran in their tune-up run for the AUS championship the next week when they competed in the StFX AUS-RSEQ Interlock Invitational. The Tigers finished third overall, and second among AUS teams. Matt McNeil posted the lone top 10 finish for the Tigers, placing ninth.
McNeil led the charge the next weekend at the AUS championship at Point Pleasant Park, finishing second, just nine seconds back of the lead. The Tigers finished second overall with 55 points and Nick Wood and Matthias Mueller finished seventh and 10th, respectively.
At the CIS championship two weeks later in Newfoundland, Matt McNeil posted his best-ever finish nationally, placing 12th and he was named a second team All-Canadian for his efforts. Nick Wood also found himself in the top 50 in the country, finishing 42nd as the Tigers ran to an 11th place finish.
Head coach Rich Lehman says that despite not winning the AUS championship, he is very proud of the effort the Tigers put forth this season.
“The men have been taking steps every year to close the gap between us and StFX. While we’re still not quite there yet, we saw moments this year that would indicate that we’re getting close,” explains Lehman. “It wasn’t until our last race of the year at CI’s that we saw the group really show up as a whole and we just missed cracking the top ten with an 11th place finish. We need to be more consistent and better at managing our emotions in the race, but this was the best men’s team we’ve had since I’ve been coaching at Dal and we’re only getting better.”
He says the Tigers less experienced runners, in particular first-year Angus McIntosh, made significant strides and look promising going forward for the Tigers.
“We knew he would be a scorer for us in the future, but we thought he was a little too raw and inexperienced to do much this year,” says Lehman. “I thought cracking the roster would have been a good season for him, but he showed a level of maturity in races far beyond what he showed at practice and scored for us in both championship meets.”