Cross-country goes the extra mile

Runners make Canada proud at the Lehigh Invitational in Pennsylvania

The cross-country team proved it could hang with the best of them, going toe to toe with top American Division One schools at the Lehigh invitational in Pennsylvania last Friday

Robert Kitz was once again the Gaels top finisher, placing 17th in a field of 300 runners with a time of 24:49.

It was the largest field of competitors the team will face this year.

Braden Novakowski, in his first race of the season, crossed the line 26 seconds later finishing in 50th place.

Head coach Shane Lakins said the toughness of the men’s race can be judged by the fact that an average of three people crossed the finish line every second.

“I think that really puts it in perspective for a lot of people,” he said.

The men’s team finished 16th overall out of 40 teams.

On the women’s side, captain Amy Schneeberg also repeated as the Gaels’ top female finisher, coming in 82nd in a field of 237 with a time of 22:37.

The women’s team also posted three lifetime personal bests. Victoria Swan, Leslie Sexton and Charlotte Aust all upped their usual speed and began the race on pace with their captain.

“It was something they planned on but also knew it was something they had to do,” Lakins said. He said that the American runners always seem to run more aggressively out of the gate than most of the Canadian competition the Gaels see.

Swan, Sexton and Aust finished 104th, 129th and 132nd, respectively.

Michelle Nicholson, the only Queen’s rookie in the field, was recovering from an illness but showed she too could perform under pressure.

“It can be pretty intimidating for a rookie,” Lakins said. “I thought she bounced back [after Western] really well.”

The women’s team finished 24th overall.

The men beat several big name teams like Yale and Lasalle and Lakins said both teams showed definite improvement over last year’s races.

Queen’s was the only Canadian school at the meet.

“Almost everybody was faster than they were last year.”

He said this race was an important one for the Gaels and the timing of their training fits well with the timing of the race.

“We knew this race would be really high calibre and it’s at a time in the season when it makes sense to have a mini-peak.”

Lakins said the team’s depth will continue to be a great asset. Apart from the top finishers on each side of the team, he said most of the runners are around the same level. He said this allows the team to “pack run.” The runners help each other keep morale high as well as push each other to perform better.

“It’s nice to have a teammate beside you and know their hurting just the same as you.”

Lakins said next week will be the team’s most intense training week, followed by a trip to Clinton, N.Y., to compete at Hamilton College next weekend. Everyone who didn’t race in Pennsylvania will go to New York.

The Queen’s Invitational meet will be held the week after that on Oct. 14 at RMC. The course is designed to allow spectators to watch almost the entire race from one spot and students and alumni are encouraged to come out and cheer the runners on at Fort Henry Hill.

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