Home-course advantage led the Gaels to victory in their first competition of the season.
Queen’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams captured overall titles at the Queen’s Invitational on Saturday, while Gaels runners prevailed at the individual level. This marks the second year in a row the squad has taken both team titles at the meet.
Second-year Gaels runner Julie-Anne Staehli triumphed in the women’s six-kilometre race, finishing in 21 minutes and 46 seconds ― 14 seconds ahead of teammate Victoria Coates.
Staehli said the race’s location at Fort Henry helped give the team an extra edge.
“I think there’s definitely a hometown advantage,” she said. “We have a lot of people out here from the team that aren’t even racing. It’s awesome to have the support.”
Although they weren’t as fast as Staehli or Coates, the remainder of the top five was made up of Gaels athletes. Queen’s tallied 15 overall points in the team competition, well ahead of the second-place York Lions, who collected 50 points.
In cross-country the goal is to keep your point total low by finishing high in the race.
Head coach Steve Boyd said with the other squads not being at the same competitive level as the Gaels, the focus of the race was more on executing the team’s plan.
“The girls planned to be careful the first two-thirds and then go a little bit in the last lap and they executed perfectly,” he said, adding that the women’s team would be strong during the upcoming season.
In both races, the Gaels had a numerical advantage, sending 13 runners in the women’s race to York’s five, and 13 in the men’s race in comparison to the seven sent by the Lions.
On the men’s side, fourth-year Jeff Archer took home the individual title, posting a time of 32:08 in the 10km race, followed closely by fellow Gael David Cashin. Tyson Loney completed the top-three sweep for Queen’s.
As was the case in the women’s competition, the Gaels won the overall title with 17 points, while York took second place with 43.
Archer, an All-Canadian two years ago, is expected to bounce back this year after a less-than-ideal season in 2012.
“He’s come into this season fitter than he’s ever been,” Boyd said. “He’s trying to be All-Canadian again and it looks like he’s on track to do that.”
Boyd said that the team’s true tests will come in the next two weeks, as the team travels to Western and Guelph for meets.
“That’s when we’re really going to see what we can do,” he said.
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