Solid show at CIS

Men 6th, women 12th at CIS cross country championships

The Queen’s cross country team wrapped up their season with a strong performance at the CIS championships Nov. 11 to 13 at Dalhousie University. Racing on a course along the shore in cool and clear running conditions, the men’s team earned a sixth-place standing while the women placed 12th in fields of 15 and 18 teams respectively.

Despite some strong individual races, the athletes came up short of reaching their high team goals.

“We wanted to try and medal on the men’s side, and to be in the top 10 on the women’s side,” head coach Shane Lakins said. “We ended up about where we were ranked coming in, so we did what was expected, but I think as a team we probably could have raced better. Several people had very good races, but it’s a team event.”

Leading the men at the championships was veteran Robert Kitz, a returning All-Canadian athlete. Kitz finished 23rd out of 114 competitors with a time of 31:38 in the men’s 10-kilometre race, although his performance was not his strongest of the year.

“He was a little flat,” Lakins said. “The middle two laps were a little bit off but he had a good start and finish.”

Josh Smith and Kevin Dunbar finished close behind, in 34th and 35th place respectively, with the same time of 32:06. Both men turned in their best performances of the year, exceeding their coach’s expectations.

“[Smith] had an incredible race,” Lakins said. “He really didn’t open up his season until midway because of an injury at the start of the season. [Dunbar] also had a very good race, finishing right behind.”

The women also ended the season with a respectable 12th-place finish in the competitive field, especially considering that they did not reach the CIS championships last season.

Rookie Leslie Sexton once again had a strong race for the Gaels, finishing 44th out of 127 competitors in a time of 18:27. “[Sexton’s performance] bodes very well for the women’s team down the road, for having that kind of quality in a rookie,” Lakins said. “She’ll only get stronger as she progresses here at Queen’s.”

Finishing close behind in 49th place with a time of 18:35 was Amy Schneeberg, a veteran who led the women’s side throughout most of the races this season. Jenny Harris also had the best race of her four-year Gael career, completing the course in a time of 18:50.

With their season now complete, Lakins said he and the team are pleased with the outcomes of the final races.

“We reached the goals we set as a team going into the championships,” he said. “We had higher goals initially but we had some injuries to key athletes and we had to re-adjust, but that’s part of the sport.” “I’ve always said cross-country is as much a team sport because we can’t hide someone in this sport—everyone counts.”

The future continues to look bright for the cross-country team, with hopes for a talented group of rookies expected to join the strong core of runners already on the team.

“We’ve got a few graduations we’re going to have to replace, but the really great thing is we have a better understanding of what we need to get to the next level on both sides, and we have the personnel to see that happen,” Lakins said. “We’ve identified a few things we want to change for next year, as part of the reflection process at the end of the season. We’re optimistic for next year, but cautiously optimistic.”

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