Quite the run

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The U of R men’s and women’s cross-country deserves support

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

One team on campus that can surely run circles around their competition is University of Regina Cougars men’s and women’s cross-country team.

Members of the team kicked off their season on Sept. 17 during the host Cougar Trot. With numerous returning team members and highly-touted recruits. the Cougars look impressive out of the starting gates this season.

“The biggest returning girl would be Karissa LePage. She had a couple of injuries last year, but she is returning and she is in quite good shape this year, so that is very exciting for our team,” said Cougars head coach Bruce McCannel. “We have a couple of other girls coming back too – Kaytlyn Criddle and Katelyn Silversides – and then we have some new girls – girls who we believe are top recruits.”

While the girl’s side may have some exciting recruits, the men’s team is to have more than a few familiar faces on their roster.

“On the guys side, Kelly Wiebe and Iain Fyfe are the two most senior guys on the team and they are both key members of the team as well,” McCannel said. “We also have some younger guys that were first years last year: Michael Middlemess, Matt Johnson, and Andrew Thomas – those three guys are returning for their second year. Marc Beaten is another one that is returning, so we have six guys returning from last year who are all pretty strong, but the top couple of guys on the list are Kelly and Ian.”

With their experience on the team and undeniable talent, McCannel felt that Wiebe and Fyfe were easy choices as captains this year.

“They are very important members when it comes to leading. They have also been around for a while, so the first- and second-year guys, especially the first years, can look to [Wiebe and Fyfe] and see what they do on a daily basis that makes them good. They are very important to our team.”

With so many returning members on the Cougars this season, the adjustment process becomes that much easier for not only themselves, but also the people around them.

“The veterans on the team know Graeme McMaster [the assistant head coach]. They know how he coaches, they know his workouts well and those players are good leaders for workouts,” McCannel said. “The veterans have also been following his training plan for about four or five years now, so they know how to follow it, how to take care of their bodies and all of the little things outside of practice time.”   

About 15 members make up the roster of the cross-country team, each with a different goal in mind for the season.

“Everyone sets an individual goal and the group sets a team goal so they have the goals set and they have them for their group,” McCannel said. “Largely, we want to be competitive ever year. We want to be competitive at the Canada-West level and at the CIS level. At Can-West, you always want to finish top three. CIS is very competitive, but you want to be in the top 10 or top five if you can. Individually, I know there are some guys hoping to get medals at CIS and Canada West.”

The cross-country team is like any other University of Regina team in that they are competitive, talented, and driven. However, they are also like other campus teams in that fan attendance is low at their events.

“A lot of people don’t get to see us compete. The cross-country meets are actually very exciting,” McCannel said. “You don’t see the athletes a lot while they are on the course, but you get to see them when they come around. The track is a two-kilometre loop, so you see the athletes four times during the race. You see them at the start and you see them at the end and it actually is quite exciting.

“The atmosphere at a cross-country race is very fun. Something people don’t know is that cross-country can be very exciting to watch and so I would love to get more spectators out at our meets.

”Another thing that people forget or don’t understand is how good these athletes actually are. A lot of people have experience running. Everyone has run in high school, a lot of people go for daily jogs and things like that, but it is hard to comprehend how fast these guys are actually running. We have people running anywhere from 50-140 kilometres a week or more, and they aren’t out there jogging. They are really pushing it when they go for these runs, so it would be interesting for people to come out and watch.”

For people who still think they can run as fast as the cross-country team, or keep up with Wiebe in a race, the team has a solution for that.

“We do have an open race where the general public can run as well, so that everyone can get an idea of how fast these people are going,” McCannel said. “You look at someone like Wiebe – he is running about three minutes per kilometre and he is doing that for a period of 20 kilometres – and they are going pretty fast. That is something I think people would be interested to see and that goes back to coming out and watching.”

The Cougars finished the Cougar Trot with great results both individually and as a team. The men’s team finished first, edging out both the Saskatchewan Huskies and Alberta Golden Bears, respectively. Wiebe set a Cougar Trot record; he was able to cross the finish line in the eight-kilometre race with a time of 23 minutes 59.97 seconds, breaking the 24-minute barrier. The women’s team finished third, behind the Huskies Green team and Excel Athletica and had strong performances by LePage and rookie Avery Westberg.

The cross-country team is to be back in action on Sept. 24, when it travels to Minneapolis to attend the Roy Griank Invitational.

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