Cougars cross-country athlete’s performance at CIS championships helps team finish third in Canada West and seventh in CIS
Kelly Wiebe won a bronze medal at the CIS cross-country championships last weekend in Sherbrooke, Que.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the medal he was looking for.
“I’m happy that I was able to capture a medal, but it’s the same placing as last year which is somewhat disappointing because you always want to improve,” a clearly dejected Wiebe said on Monday. “Overall, I’m pretty happy, but I think I could have had a better race. It just wasn’t my day really.”
Wiebe finished the 10-kilometre course in a time of 32 minutes 15 seconds, finishing behind a pair of University of Guelph Gryphons runners Kyle Boorsma (31:53) and Alex Genes (31:39).
“I was leading for about the first six to seven kilometres,” noted Wiebe. “The plan before the race was to try and break from the field with three kilometres to go in the race. It was up a pretty big hill. I got to the top and I kind of hit the wall. I think I made my move a little too soon for the course.”
Though he didn’t claim the gold, Wiebe was still recognized for his success this season. Wiebe, who finished first in four of five Canada West races this season, was named the conference runner of the year, a conference first-team all-star and a first-team all-Canadian.
“I think it was a good performance [by Kelly],” said Cougars cross-country/track and field head coach Bruce McCannel. “Kelly is disappointed, because he wants to win. I think that’s a good thing – to want to win. He’ll probably tell you that he’s a little disappointed he didn’t win, but he’d still be satisfied that he’s the third best in Canada.
“I think that the top three guys were very competitive with each other, to the point where whoever had the best day would win. Kelly didn’t have his best day. To be good enough to not have your best day and still get third is pretty impressive.”
McCannel was impressed with the performance off all the Cougars athletes at the meet. Iain Fyfe, who McCannel noted was hoping to get in the top 15, came in eighth at 32:54. Fyfe was named a CIS second-team all-Canadian. Rookie Matt Johnson had an impressive 32nd place finish at his first CIS championship with a time of 33:57. He was named a conference second-team all-star. Dale Wig (42nd, 34:21), rookie Michael Middlemiss (94th, 36:03) and Marc Beaton (102nd, 36:23) were the other men competing. Lisa Benz, the lone woman for the Cougars at the CIS championship, finished the five-kilometre course in 20:31, which put her 87th.
The Cougars finished third in the conference and seventh in the CIS.
“I was very happy [with our finish],” McCannel noted. “I think they did outstanding. For a young team, they performed very well. Points-wise, I think we actually did better this year than last year when we won Canada West.”
McCannel notes that assistant cross-country coach Graeme McMaster deserves a lot of credit for the team’s success.
“Graeme has built a fantastic group of guys,” McCannel said. “They feed off each other. The new recruits come in now and see the high level of the veterans. They work hard to be up there. Graeme has created a group that can contend each year.”
The Cougars were not able to send a women’s team to the meet. The team is still a work in progress, says McCannel.
“Our women’s team is where our men’s team was a couple of years ago,” he said. “There’s a couple of good athletes, but we need the depth. We’ve got a group of five girls right now, but three of the five are pretty much first-year girls. We need to keep that team together and have some new recruits come in. Hopefully, the women can achieve as a team what the men have soon.”
The Cougars’ outlook is high for next season.
“We’re in a really good spot,” said McCannel. “We’re going to miss Dale, but a bunch of guys are back. All of them with another year of experience will help. If these young guys keep progressing like they have been we’ll be in a really good spot next year. For the guys, that is a great position to be in. You just want to be able to contend.”
For Wiebe, as disheartened as he may be, the goal remains the same heading into next season.
“Next year is my last year, so there’s no doubt that I’m going to come back stronger,” declared Wiebe. “There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to win gold next year. I think if I keep doing what I’ve been doing I’ll be that much stronger.”