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Cross country runners
The Martlets eye their fifth consecutive RSEQ title (Luke Orlando / McGill Tribune)

McGill runners start strong at annual McGill Open

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Both the McGill Redmen and Martlet cross-country teams opened their seasons this Saturday at the 2014 McGill Open on Mount Royal.The meet included 548 total finishers from 26 men’s teams and 22 women’s teams. Teams came from all across Canada, with men and women running six-kilometre and four-kilometre courses, respectively.
Rookie Santiago Bessai was the first Redmen runner across the line, finishing seventh overall with a time of 19:54, while seasoned veteran Melanie Myrand led the Martlets with a third- place finish, earning a time of 14:52.

Both teams established themselves well on their home course, with a convincing fourth-place overall finish for the Redmen and a tight third place for the Martlets, who landed just two points behind the second-place Laval.

There is a lot to be optimistic about going into the 2014-2015 cross-country season for both teams. Head Coach Dennis Barrett, in his 30th season leading McGill’s cross-country team, brings unrivalled experience as both teams push to make a statement this season.

On the men’s side, the roster is stronger than it has been the past few seasons.

“Vincent Parent-Pichette was our number one runner at [the] RSEQ [Championships] last year and had a great summer of racing on the track,” Assistant Coach Jim McDannald said. “A couple of key additions, [including] triathlete Brendon Gribbons and incoming rookie Santi Bessai, will play a big part in improving our team.”

Bessai is looking forward to an exciting first year on the team.

“I think the team is looking really good this year,” Bessai said. “We’ve got some great depth, and I think we have the potential to be very competitive in the upcoming races. I’m stoked to be a part of it.”

The Martlets will surely miss team leader Jessica Porfillio, who graduated last year, but the team welcome back Myrand, who made an immediate impact with her performance on Saturday. Rounding out the core are Jullien Flynn, Ali Barwick, Evelyn Anderson, and Georgia Hamilton as the Martlets seek a fifth consecutive RSEQ championship.

“Our goals are a top-five CIS finish for [the] ladies and a top-10 finish for the guys. If we can work hard and stay healthy, I think those goals are achievable,” Coach McDannald said. “I think we have two very competitive teams this season.”

Parent-Pichette and Gribbons finished in 17th and 18th place, respectively, with times of 20:06 and 20:09. Meanwhile freshman Ben Forestell and sophomore François Boisvert capped off the Redmen scorers in 20th and 33rd place, respectively, for a team total of 93 points.

McGill ended up 14 points behind third-place Laval and 96 points ahead of the fifth-place Sherbrooke. Western and Queen’s placed first and second.

The Martlets’ top five were Myrand, Flynn, Anderson, Hamilton, and rookie Chantal Bourassa, placing second, sixth, 15th, 16th and 35th for 74 points. Western also won the women’s section of the McGill Open with a dominant 33 points.

Coach McDannald was happy with both teams’ performances on Saturday.

“I thought we performed well,” McDannald explained. “It’s been three weeks of training, so you never know where everyone stacks up until you lace up the spikes and toe the line. The McGill Open was a solid start and something to build off of as we aim towards our goals for the season.”

Both the Redmen and Martlets race next on Saturday, Sept. 27 in Sherbrooke at the Vert et Or Invitational.

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