CCAA Cross Country Wrap-up

Podium sweep (from left) Red Deer Kings Mathew Hope, bronze, 28:01; SAIT Trojans Matthew Travaglini, gold, 26:19 and Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder rookie Leonard Chesoo, silver, 27:22
Podium sweep (from left) Red Deer Kings Mathew Hope, bronze, 28:01; SAIT Trojans Matthew Travaglini, gold, 26:19 and Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder rookie Leonard Chesoo, silver, 27:22

by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips

ACAC Making History at CCAA Cross County

Prior to the start of the 2018 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Cross-Country Championships, hosted by Seneca College November 9-10, 2019 at Oak Ridges Moraine just north of Toronto, Ontario, two videos were posted on the championship website.

They were titled "Men's Course Walkthrough" and "Women's Course Walkthrough" respectively.

The walkthrough was a virtual fast-forward video with the women's 6 kilometre distance lasting 1:38 while the men's 8 k course slightly longer at 2:15.

What the walkthrough did not show was the snow or hail.

A steady fall of snow which blanketed the course Saturday.

A large contingent from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) was in attendance with University of Alberta Augustan Vikings, Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves, Lethbridge College Kodiaks and Red Deer Kings and Queens sending both sexes while SAIT Trojans were represented by their men and Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder by their women.

ACAC runners are used to snow at this time of year in Alberta, so it was no real surprise that it was a podium sweep for the ACAC men in individual competition with SAIT Trojans' Matthew Travaglini defending his CCAA title (26:19) followed by Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder rookie Leonard Chesoo (27:22) and Red Deer Kings Mathew Hope (28:01).

It was the exact order of finish also at the ACAC 2018 Running Room Men's Cross Country Championships held October 27, 2018 in Vermillion.

Matt Travaglini (SAIT Trojans)
2018 CCAA Cross-Country Running Champion

Of the repeat win, Travaglini said in a media release posted on the SAIT Trojans website: "That sounds pretty damn good. That was the goal this season. I knew there was going to be a bull's-eye on my back, and today I made sure my back was all anyone saw."

"I was smiling for the last 800-metres. It's been a lot of hard work and hard miles put in this season."

Moving from Kenya to Edmonton this fall, Thunder runner Chesoo was a full minute behind the SAIT sensation and Thunder head coach Matthew Norminton says this is just the beginning.

"He (Leonard Chesoo) had a really good run today. He tried to go with (Trojans) Matthew Travaglini but Matt ran a really good race and just beat him. He is in a class of his own.

"For his first year Leonard did great and hopefully he had another four years with us and we can build on that. It was kind of sleet and almost hail at one point, but being in Edmonton since the fall he has had a chance to get used to that sort of weather. He has a good attitude and despite the weather he just shrugs his shoulders and goes out after it."

The weather was a huge factor as attested by comments from Red Deer coach Kari Elliott during an interview/.

"The weather and course conditions were factors. It had snowed and rained on Friday and that area had received rain 28 of the past 30 days. The course was wet, slippery and hard to gain traction, and some runners went down. By the time of the men's race, it was snowy and windy. Times were not super-fast."

Of the ACAC men's triple medal Norminton commented: "I think it bodes very well for our conference. We certainly went out today and proved it."

With the CCAA Cross Country nationals held since 2002, this is the first time that a CCAA Conference has swept the men's podium.

Last time a conference went gold, silver and bronze on the CCAA Cross Country men's or women's podium was in 2013 when the ACAC swept the women's platform with MacEwan's Lesley Koopman and Vanessa Trofimenkoff first and second followed by Marriya Jenkins, Concordia University College of Alberta.

Other runners in the men's Top 10 were Jacques Saayman of the SAIT Trojans (28:33) in 10th.

Saayman ran his way to a bronze medal last year.

Trojans would earn silver in men's team with Daryl Ross, 23rd, 29:39 and Brant Lauweryssen , 29th, 30:06 adding to the final totals of the top four runners.

Rounding out the Trojans men's team were Matthew Hebert, 70th, 31:20 and Jemmy Lee 89th, 32:26.

"Second place is absolutely stellar," said Trojans co-head coach, Ryan Edgar in a media release. "It was close between first and second. . . The guys did awesome in very tough conditions. We're very proud."

SAIT Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the last CCAA Pools October 30, 2018.

Trojans had a bronze medal last year in team competition in Lionel-Groulx, Quebec.

The other ACAC schools in men's team were the Red Deer Kings, 6th; University of Alberta Augustana Vikings, 12th; Lethbridge Kodiaks, 15th and Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves in 19th.

A total of 20 men's teams from coast-to-coast-to-coast participated.

Last time the ACAC captured the men's team gold was in 2009 with the Lethbridge College Kodiaks.

There were 119 runners in the men's field.

Sophia Nowicki (Lethbridge College Kodiaks)
2018 CCAA National Cross-Country Running Champion

In women's CCAA running, Lethbridge Kodiaks' Sophia Nowicki ran a 23:32 for a gold medal....four seconds faster than Simone Plourde of André-Grasset Phénix.

Nowicki captured a bronze last year at the CCAA finals.

In a prerace interview with the Lethbridge Herald, Kodiaks coach Bertil Johansson read into the crystal ball when he said: "Come Saturday, we're going to growl. We're going to have the teams ready to fire and they're going to go crazy on the course."

It was a great sendoff for Johansson as after 32 seasons with the Kodiaks, he is retiring, having guided the team to more than 100 individual and team ACAC and CCAA medals.

The next best ACAC finisher in the women's 6 k event was SAIT Trojans' Emile Mann in 5th at 24:01.

"My goal was top 5, and top 5 it is," said Mann in an interview. "I was nervous about the footing and the possibility of losing a shoe out there, but it was fine. All year, we've dealt with snow, rain, mud. . . I was ready for whatever conditions there was going to be."

Mann was running as an individual as SAIT did not qualify as a women's team.

The only other ACAC racer to crack the Top 10 was Red Deer Queens' veteran Jillian Stewart at 24:30.

In women's team event the Kodiaks would earn silver with the four best times of Nowicki, Emily Spencer, 13th, 25:15; Salma Moreira, 24th, 26:16 and in 29th Janelle Graham 26:26.Rounding out the team were Rebecca Sweeney (27:28) and Brooklyn Vogel (28:22).

The Queens, sparked by Stewart also featured Shayla Sklaruk, 19th, 25:43; Shaelyn Moltzahn, 20th, 25:49; Caitlin Debree,, 26:46, 35th; Deshann Velentine 27:38 and Teagan Shapka 29:29.combining for a CCAA bronze medal.

"We are really pleased with the results and are so proud of our RDC runners," said Elliott. "The course was congested and it was a battle out there. For our rookies especially, it was an eye-opening experience."

It was no trick or treat as the Kodiaks were ranked No. 1 in the last CCAA Polls October 30, 2018 while Red Deer Queens were No. 2.

SAIT had a women's team silver last year.

Last time the ACAC captured the women's team gold was in 2014 with the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves. That same year the ACAC took silver and bronze also with SAIT and Lethbridge respectively.

There were 117 runners in the women's field.

The 2019 CCAA Cross Country Championships will be hosted by the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves.