Cross-Country / Track, Sports

McGill cross-country finishes season strong at U Sports Nationals

On Saturday, Nov. 12, the McGill cross-country team headed east for the U Sports Championship meet in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With the aftermath of Tropical Storm Nicole hitting the area early on Saturday, the weather was absolutely abysmal. Heavy rain and winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour were reported by the race announcers as the runners laced up to get going. While first-year Sophie Courville and third-year Ann-Rebecca Drolet were the only runners for the Martlets, the Redbirds represented McGill as a team after placing second in the RSEQ championships.

The men’s eight-kilometre race set out first, with the Redbirds’ top runner, third-year Matthew Beaudet, settling in at the top of the pack right from the get-go. 

Mitchell Kirby of Queen’s University made the first big move of the race, separating himself from the front pack and taking an early lead around 10 minutes in. Kirby didn’t hold first for long, though, as the chase pack, including Beaudet, quickly caught up to regain the lead. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Beaudet explained his strategy for this year’s race.

“My goal for the race was to finish on the podium, so I ran pretty aggressively instead of adopting the more conservative strategy I ran with last year where I was just aiming for a top 10 finish,” Beaudet said. “I was in the lead group of four which had a good lead 7.5 kilometres into the race.” 

Unfortunately, with around 500 metres to go, things took a turn for Beaudet and he was not able maintain his pace to finish with the top pack, instead falling back several places.

“I hit a wall and had trouble breathing and finished pretty slowly and got passed by a bunch of people there to finish 10th,” Beaudet explained. “Although the final placement was disappointing, I was happy with how I ran as I know running with confidence and taking risks will eventually pay off.”

Other notable performances on the Redbirds’ side included third-year Tom Secheyron’s 27th place finish, and Noah El Rimawi-Fine and Jack Stanley’s 55th and 57th place finishes, respectively. Fourth-year Felix Bedard rounded out the Redbirds’ top five to put McGill in ninth place overall, the same place in which they qualified. 

With rain continuing to flood the course and winds so strong you could barely stand, the women’s eight-kilometre run kicked off at 1 p.m. 

A large front pack formed, led by runners from Université Laval and the University of British Columbia. Leading the Martlets was Courville, settling into the front half of the competition. 

Courville, a physiology and mathematics student, explained how despite the weather, her first U Sports experience was exhilarating.

“It was not easy because of the rain which made the course extremely slippery, and huge gusts of wind, but with all the spectators it helped a lot,” Courville said. “It is one of the highest levels I have ever raced so it was interesting to measure myself [against] older and more experienced runners from around the country.”

While Courville was pushed towards the back at the beginning of the race, she quickly found her stride and made the most of her circumstances to gain places.

“[I] was able to move up gradually during the race and make my way to 62nd which I was pretty content with,” the first-year continued. “I think as a first U Sports experience, I couldn’t have asked for better and I am excited to level up and be more competitive in the next years.”

Courville and Drolet worked together throughout the race to finish 62nd and 89th respectively, roughly 45 seconds apart. 

“[I] worked with Ann-Rebecca […]for a fair portion of the race which helped to have a mark in this new field,” Courville said. “She also did great and as the captain of the team led us all season to having a great race today.”

With the winter months steadily approaching, the McGill runners will move indoors and switch to the track. Their first meet of the indoor season, the McGill Open, will take place on Nov. 26.

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