The McGill cross country team competed on Oct. 12 in the RSEQ-AUS Interlocking Meet, hosted by the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) at Parc Maisonneuve. A total of 316 runners representing 15 teams competed in the men’s and women’s eight–kilometre categories. The nationally-ranked Martlets finished third overall with fourth-year runner Elizabeth Hirsch claiming an individual second place.
The Martlets were impressive in the season’s first eight–kilometre run. Hirsh, McGill Athlete of the Week, capped off a 29:16.5 effort with a podium finish, her third over the last four races. Accompanying her in the top ten was third-year Sandrine Veillette, who finished with a time of 30:19.00, fourth-year team captain Chloe Fleurent-Gregoire (placed 14), and third-years Laura Carlton (19) and Brianna Mendes (28), taking home a total of 68 points for McGill.
“The first [eight-kilometre race] of the season is: c’est impressionnante; it’s not [necessarily] a struggle but requires focus,” Fleurent-Gregoire said after the race. “[The] first [four-kilometres are] okay, the [next two] you can fall asleep [because] it’s four repetitive laps. But the last [two-kilometres], [you] step it up and show what [you] have.”
Despite missing out on what would have been their fourth successive first-place finish, the Martlets put on a competitive display against the nation’s top teams. They fell just short of the Laval Rouge et Or, who recorded 67 points, and the Queen’s University Gaels, who took 49.
The McGill Men’s team, however, endured a tough loss as the team failed to build upon an improving trend of overall finishes. First-year Henry Wellenstein, who finished in 39th place, fifth-year Simon Bernier (58), first-year Noah El Rimawi-Fine (63), second-year Oliver Cyr (79), and third-year Jeremy Obrand (117) combined for a total score of 250 to finish in tenth place at the meet.
Wellenstein, who has been McGill’s brightest spark for a fourth successive race, was enthusiastic about his performance.
“This is my first year [on the team], so I’m kind of just going with the flow,” Wellenstein said. “A lot of work goes into running at the race-pace. We do a lot of interval [runs] where we’re slower than the race-pace [and] faster than the race-pace, […] but its [also] about pushing hard physically and mentally [to win].”
The team, coached by 32-time conference Coach of the Year Dennis Barrett, remains positive about improving their times ahead of the provincial championships.
“It’s my first [eight-kilometre race] since last year so it was definitely more difficult, but Coach [Barrett] is always on me about improving my cadence, to take more steps per minute,” Hirsch said. “He wants us to start out in the front [and] be confident about it [….] That is what I did today. It was scary, but [we] need to challenge ourselves.”
The cross-country team’s next challenge will be the provincial championships in Quebec City on Oct. 26, followed by the highly anticipated Nationals in Kingston on Nov. 9.
Moment of the Meet:
Fourth-year runner Elizabeth Hirsch started the race at the front of the pack, displaying confidence as she kept control throughout the run to eventually take home the silver medal.
“[We’re] a very different team compared to last year, […] but what’s cool about McGill is that we have a lot of depth. It’s not just three [or] four girls but ten girls that are all strong [runners], so we’re always competitive. We’re really hoping to win it this year.” – Martlet captain Chloe Fleurent-Gregoire on improving upon the team’s fifth place finish at last year’s Nationals.
The Martlets (68 points) narrowly missed out on the second-place finish to their rivals, the Laval Vert et Or (67).