Cross-country men fourth, women fifth

Rookies put on a good show in Montreal

Queen’s runners Travis Saunders, left, and Chris Hart compete at McGill on Saturday.
Queen’s runners Travis Saunders, left, and Chris Hart compete at McGill on Saturday.

The cross-country team hit the ground running start at last Saturday’s McGill Open, held at Montreal’s Mount Royal Park.

On a humid Saturday, both the men’s and women’s teams put up good results and already showed improvements last year.

The top Queen’s runner in the women’s four-kilometre race was Amy Schneeberg, who placed 10th in a field of 119 with a time of 15:20.

Head coach Shane Lakins said the rookies made a good showing as well. The top two rookies, Michelle Nicholson and Julie McVicar, finished 57th and 60th respectively.

He said the race was a good warm-up for the athletes and a good way for coaches to evaluate the runners, especially the rookies.

“I have a much better idea after McGill of where the women are,” he said.

He said Ali Aasen has bounced back from a tough season last year and Liz Miller, who spent last year on the track team, made a strong start to her season. The two placed 34th and 35th, respectively.

The women’s team placed 5th overall.

The men’s side also impressed the coaches. Top finishers in the six-kilometre race were Chris Hartman and Justin Hall, placing 17th and 22nd, respectively, in a field of 134.

The men’s team placed 4th overall.

Lakins said it was more difficult to gauge the state of the men’s team because three of their top runners have yet to compete.

Braden Novakowski, Robert Kitts and Josh Smith, who is just back from an injury sustained over the summer, will compete for the first time this season at Western next weekend.

Novakowski was one of the Gaels top medal winners in 2005 and his collection includes two CIS medals. He brought home a silver in the men’s 4x800-metre relay and a bronze in the men’s 1500-metre run.

He said the difference between the length of the McGill race and the championships courses they will run in November also makes it hard to know where each runner sits in the field.

The men will run 10 kilometres at both the OUA and CIS championships.

Lakins said the male rookies will have a harder time making a name for themselves this year than the females.

“It will be tough to crack the men’s team,” he said, adding that the team will definitely be looking to medal at the Canadian Championships.

“There will be a good battle for the top seven spots,” he said.

The top seven athletes at the end of the season will represent Queen’s at the CIS national championships.

Before that, Queen’s will host the OUA Championships for the second consecutive year.

The races will be held on the Gaels home course at Fort Henry.

“It’s a neat course because you can stand and watch almost the entire race,” Lakins said.

He said he hopes the team will have a slight advantage, having trained all season on the course.

“Either that or they will be sick of it and dread running on it,” he said with a laugh.

The course at McGill tested the runners on several different surface types including grass, gravel and dirt.

Lakins said many of the courses they run, especially the course they will run at nationals this year, are hilly; the team has already begun training for the terrain, Lakins said.

He said the men’s team will typically run 80 to 150 kilometres per week and the women will run 50 to 100 miles per week.

Overall Lakins said he’s impressed with the performance of both teams and is anticipating an exciting season.

“I think there are just a lot of good things happening.”

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