2018 Cross-Country Running Championship Preview

2018 Cross-Country Running Championship Preview

by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips

If you were looking to predict the podium finish for the 2018 Running Room Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships, it would be, looking at this year's times?

For the men, defending champion SAIT Trojans' Matthew Travaglini (4th year, Geomatics Engineering Technology) gliding for gold in the eight kilometre distance with Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder rookie Leonard Chesoo (1st year, Bachelor of Science, Iten, Kenya) coming in with a silver. The bronze medal should go to Red Deer's Matthew Hope (3rd year, Bachelor of Education Secondary, Red Deer Alberta).

On the outside, ready to discredit the prerace prediction, are the likes of Trojans' Jacques Saayman (3rd year, Bachelor of Business Administration, Fort McMurray, Alberta) and Darryl Ross (3rd year, Business Administration, Calgary Alberta).

Saayman and Ross placed second (27:33) and third (28:27) last year at ACAC provincials to make it a Trojans' sweep with Travaglini crossing first at 26:19.

Saayman also has a ACAC gold to his credit with a 27:49 clocking in 2016.

So the question is. "Will Hope and Chesoo" break up the Trojans Trifecta?

"That's a big question," admits Red Deer Kings' coach Kari Elliott. "I have been thinking a lot about this. I would say, and Matt (Hope) would say also, he has yet to leave it all out there, so to speak, in a race this year.

"He has trained really heavy this fall and has raced on fatigued legs every Saturday. That been said, what he needs to do is to have a good prerace week... rest and taper off and then leave it all out there. The championship mindset. The words he gave to me a few weeks ago, were, that he wanted to position himself to be kind of in the fight. To have a bid for first place."

Matt Travaglini (bib #776), SAIT, leads the pack

Thunder coach Matthew Norminton still believes that Matt Travaglini is at the head of the pack.

"Matt  is the class of the field. He would be competitive with the top USport athletes in cross country at their national championships. To be completely honest, it's his race to lose and I'm not sure Leonard is ready to beat him this year. It should be an exciting race with the two Matts and Leonard at the ACAC championships.

"On the men's side, the top three ACAC runners have been dominating the open runners, including the USport athletes."

Trojans coach Ryan Edgar believes that a repeat of gold, silver and bronze may be unlikely for the Calgary school.

"Based on the Grand Prix races, we do not think that is likely. Leonard from Concordia has been close to Matt and Darryl and Jacques are doing well but not quite in that top group right now. We have been seen Leonard improving and it comes with the territory of being more comfortable about being in Canada. He looks like an amazingly strong runner.....he will be up there and challenging Matt and we will see how it goes on the day."

The women's field is tougher to predict.

Kodiaks' Sophia Nowicki (2nd year, Nursing, Bragg Creek, Alberta) is the class of the field with times ranging between 22:33 and 24:15 for the 6k distance.

Sophia Nowicki (bib #770)
Lethbridge Kodiaks cross-country runner

Nowicki placed third last year at ACAC provincials with a crossing time of 24:54.

Who will challenge Nowicki? 

Perhaps Jill Stewart from Red Deer (23:38 – 24:33).

"Jill (Stewart) is very strong on the hills and (Vermillion Running Course) is a strong hilly course," said Red Deer Queens coach Kari Elliott. "The strategy is to stay with her (Sophia Nowicki) and hang with her and be in a position in the last 500 metres. About 200 or 300 metres from the finish, is a massive hill and Jill needs to be first at that hill. She has the hunger for it."

Who will challenge Nowicki? 

Perhaps Emilie Mann from SAIT (23:32 – 24:06).

"Emilie (Mann) is a little newer to cross country and the last couple of years she has been do ultra-marathon training and hopefully the training she has down will help her through the race. There are a lot of top girls in the top seven-to-eight range, so it should be good to see," said Trojans coach Ryan Edgar.

Who will challenge Nowicki? 

Also on her heels will be Rebecca Johnson, St Mary's University Lightning (24:25 – 24:58), Elsie Nawrocki, Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder (24:46 – 25:55) along with Kodiaks' Emily Spencer (24:40 – 25:08).     

"Sophia, like Matt Travaglini, is the favourite heading into Saturday's race, however she's not quite as far out front as him with respect to the other ACAC runners," said Norminton. "With the absence of the non-ACAC runners (the club and USport athletes), it will change the dynamics of the ladies race more than the men's race given that the open runners are the ones that have been setting the pace so far in the women's Running Room Grand Prix events."

At last year's Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Cross Country Championships hosted by Collège Lionel Groulx in Ste-Thérèse, Quebec;  Trojans' Travaglini and Saayman had gold (24:18.1) and bronze (25:23.8) medals respectively placed around their necks for the men's side while Sophia Nowicki raced to a bronze (22:01.8)  for the women.

The 2018 ACAC Cross Country Running Championships are slated for October 27, 2018 at Vermillion Running Course and hosted by Lakeland College Rustlers.