The McGill Redmen and Martlet cross country teams began their seasons last Saturday morning at the 2016 McGill Open. 550 runners total representing 24 men’s and women’s teams from universities and CEGEPs across Quebec competed on the Mount Royal course. McGill’s François Jarry and Mélanie Myrand both took home gold in the men’s six-kilometer and women’s four-kilometer races, respectively. Their contributions were enough to lead the Martlets and Redmen to first- and second-place finishes, continuing McGill’s dominance on their home course in recent years.
Last season’s RSEQ Athlete of the Year Myrand won the race in 14 minutes, 24.8 seconds, finishing a whole 22 seconds ahead of the second place runner. The nursing graduate student and Lachine, Quebec native was followed by Martlets Charlotte Jacquemin in fourth place, rookie Sofia Butseva in seventh, Elizabeth Hirsch in 18th, and Ashni Bhoolaton in 20th place to round out McGill’s scorers for a total of 50 points. The Laval Rouge et Or’s 75 points earned them second place while the University of Montreal came in third with 94 points.
“I thought our women represented very well, the ones that were able to run,” Head Coach Dennis Barrett said. “Mel was way ahead of the field and that was very nice to see. We had a big surprise with Charlotte […] who came to the team only recently [….] She performed very well on Saturday.”
The Martlets’ victory was even more impressive considering a number of runners—including captain Georgia Hamilton—were sidelined with injuries and unable to race.
“The problem with cross country [is that] if you get hurt during the season you don’t get much time to recover,” Barrett said. “Hopefully we can get these girls back in fairly good shape before the conference championships [at the end of Oct.] That’s our goal going forward.”
Laval was entirely dominant in the men’s race with all five of their scoring runners finishing in the top seven for only 23 points. McGill scored a second-place 97 points with Redmen runners coming in first, 11th, 23rd, 24th, and 38th. Jarry, a fourth-year physical and health education student won the race in 19:05, just 15 seconds short of the course record. English-major Santiago Bessai–who came in first at the same meet as a rookie last season but was battling an illness on Saturday–finished 11th in 19:53.
“On the men’s side Laval is quite strong, ” Barrett said. “[…] But two of our best runners were out and Santiago was sick and probably should not have raced but he did. [Redmen captain] Ben Forestell was out [because] he was sick. Jeremy [Briand, 2015 CIS rookie of the year,] is coming off a stress fracture to the hip and he’s not ready to race yet.”
Coach Barrett and his teams are eager to compete this year and boast increased depth compared to previous seasons, making a RSEQ conference title entirely attainable.
“[For the Martlets,] the goal is to try to reclaim the conference championships.” Barrett said. “I think we have the girls there to try and get the banner back [….] Then we’ll take the team to the CIS championships and see what we can do there.”
Laval presents a difficult opponent for the Redmen but at full strength the team hopes to be able to give them a run for their money.
“[At the conference championships] our goal is to run the best that we can and break up that Laval dominance.” Barrett said. “Hopefully with Ben and Jeremy [back from their injuries] we can do some damage.”
McGill's next meet is on Sept. 24 at Sherbrooke University.
The Redmen and Martlets switched podium positions from last year’s McGill Open, when the Redmen dominated the race for a first place team finish and the Martlets came in a close second place.
Moment of the Race
McGill’s François Jarry managed to out-kick a pair of Laval runners at the end of the men’s race to claim gold with a time of 19:05, just ahead of the Laval runners’ identical 19:07 times.
“The start was rough since there were so many runners,” said François Jarry, winner of the men’s race. “There was a lot of pushing and I almost tripped. However, I managed to move up to the head of the pack and lead the race. During the final lap, two Laval runners passed me [but I knew when to start my] final acceleration since we practice on the course often. I initiated the final push on the big hill and they were never able to catch me back.”