Cross-country ready to run

Beth Wightman (above) may be gone, but the Gaels will run on.
Beth Wightman (above) may be gone, but the Gaels will run on.
Journal File Photo

The men’s and women’s cross-country teams have seemingly traded places from this time last year.

Last season, the men were a young team, and their strong group of rookies took them to a surprising fourth place finish in the OUA and tenth place at the CIS Championships.

The women, on the other hand, easily took the OUA Championship after an undefeated regular season, and ran some brilliant races at the CIS final to finish second in Canada.

Led by Beth Wightman, who won her second OUA and CIS titles, and strong veterans like Magi Scallion and All-Canadian runner Anne Barrington, this team was a powerhouse.

This season, it is the men’s team that is flush with veterans, while the women are welcoming new faces to shake things up after the departure of seven members from last year’s nine-woman team.

The teams both participated in their season-opening training camps last weekend, an event that Head Coach Shane Lakins called “mostly a team-building activity.

“This is a very social group,” he said. “There’s a lot of new leadership and new faces getting to know each other.” While the men’s team has returned in its entirety, they do have some promising young faces eager to jump in and contribute. Key among these is Kingston high schooler Braden Novakowski, whom Lakins has coached since he was in grade eight.

“Braden is probably our top recruit,” Lakins said, noting that Novakowski is a two-time national team member and world championship competitor, and was eleventh in the world in the under-17 category two years ago.

Lakins said he was also pleased with the showing by the rest of the rookies.

“They will make an impact,” he said. “The men’s team will be very strong. With the whole team back, our goal is to make top five in the CIS and challenge for a medal.”

The women’s team is also expected to perform well, but they will have to find new chemistry and renewed strength after losing so many key veterans.

Lakins, for one, is optimistic.

“We have Julie Woods, a second-year Meds student, coming back for a fifth and final year [after a hiatus], and she’s looking strong,” he said. “And, then the twins [veterans Margaret and Vera Cummings] are back, and we’ll have some new faces to challenge in races. This is a good crew.”

However, he added that while the Queen’s women’s cross-country team hasn’t been out of the top eight in the CIS for a while, it will be difficult for them to maintain that position this year.

“Ideally we’ll stay in,” he said, “but it’ll be tough.”

Lakins will be looking to the teams’ upcoming meets at McGill and Western for indications of how the season will go.

“Those meets will be good barometers,” he said. “And then we’ll have a good idea of where we’ll be in the OUA.” He called Western, Guelph and Toronto the Gaels’ “standard rivals,” indicating who will be pushing them the hardest to perform.

The two teams both travel to Montreal next weekend for the McGill Invitational, with high hopes of living up to high expectations.

--With files from

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