In the midst of a dominant season, Queen’s Men’s Cross Country is thriving on mutually driven success instead of results.
At the helm of the team is Head Coach Mark Bomba, who began his tenure with the team only two years ago and has created a winning culture built to last.
“Our motto this year is ‘team needs over individual wants,’” Bomba said in an interview with The Journal.
This philosophy translated well to the Gaels in their first meet this season at the Bob Vigars Western Invitational in London, where the team saw a first-place win. At this tournament, Jude Wheeler-Dee, ArtSci ’25, finished fifth, and Miles Brackenbury, Con-Ed ’24, finished sixth.
“We ended up beating Guelph in that race because our sixth person beat their sixth person,” Bomba said. “The top athletes get a lot of the notoriety, but it’s those fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh people which are the biggest factors.”
“The philosophy we’ve created is that our eleventh person pushes our tenth person, and our tenth person pushes our ninth, and it moves up that chain.”
Although Bomba believes in the value of team success, it’s the leaders of the Men’s team that have bought into the team-first mentality and put it into practice.
“Our motivation this year is to ‘play for Gold,’” Brackenbury told The Journal. “I think that’s a double entendre. Yeah, you want to play for that gold medal, but we want to play for that gold singlet next to us. We want to play for one another and enjoy the process.”
The team embodied this motivation again on Oct. 13 when the Men’s team competed in the Bayfront Classic in Hamilton. At this tournament, Wheeler-Dee, Brackenbury, and Will Cox finished an 8km race 1-2-3, sweeping the podium with finish times spanning only forty seconds apart. Wheeler-Dee was named U SPORTS cross country athlete of the week on Oct. 18 for his performance.
“We use the team aspect to our advantage. We utilize that pack mentality,” Wheeler-Dee said. “When we work out, we work out together, and that effortlessly translates into racing. I use it as motivation.”
“If I see one of my teammates making a push or going a bit ahead, I can put my trust in them that they know what they’re doing, and that’s something I should do as well,” he said.
Through their successes and podium finishes, the Gaels are ranked third in the nation and are setting prestigious goals for the year ahead. Despite this, the pressure of winning doesn’t affect their goals, as the team doesn’t define themselves through successes and failures in results.
“As long as we’re putting in the work and supporting one another through the highs and the lows, that’s a success.” Brackenbury said. “From a results perspective, we should be top two in the nation this year and we want to be number one. If we fall short of that and we did everything we could, that’s not a failure, it’s delayed success.”
Wheeler-Dee shared his outlook on failure versus success and how it relates to the program as a whole.
“It’s about keeping everything in perspective and trusting teammates who have competed before. Failure is relative—a big thing for our program is longevity. We want to be competitive now, but also when we’re gone,” he said.
“We want that foundation to be there and [for] the core values we have to stay and progress so we can be good now, and in five years, and even ten years. If we can walk away with knowledge, that’s the least we can do.”
Looking to continue their successful campaign, their next race takes place in Waterloo at the OUA Championships on Oct. 28.
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