The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Men’s cross-country battle gale force winds at nationals

By in Sports & Health
Jaden Wood Sparrow (#218 above) was one of six U of S runners at nationals in Newfoundland.
Jaden Wood Sparrow (#218 above) was one of six U of S runners at nationals in Newfoundland.

Facing gusts upwards of 110 km/h with rain and sleet, the Huskies men’s team had a proud showing at their conference and national championships in St. John’s, N.L.

Robert Bigsby, Taryn Heidecker, Reid Balezantis, Hayden Hollowell, Jaden Wood Sparrow and Eric Mueller made up the Huskies’ team that took sixth in Canada West and 15th in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships at Memorial University on Nov. 8.

The Dogs’ first finisher, Bigsby took 17th place in Canada West and 50th in CIS overall with a time of 36:04.5. Although he wanted a better placing, Bigsby said that on race days where the weather isn’t favorable, that sometimes taking the lead isn’t where you want to be.

“‘Don’t be in front’,” Bigsby said was one bit of advice their coaches doled out before the race. “‘And stay with people and don’t let yourself run by yourself because that’s when you slow down’.”

The weather had the times coming in around three minutes off from the norm, which is quite significant in a race where the top runner, Ross Proudfoot of the University of Guelph, clocked 10 kilometers in 33:47.2.

Mueller said that the first couple of kilometers went out slower than usual because nobody wanted to take the lead.

The team’s second runner to cross the finish was Heidecker with a time of 38:28.3 and placings of 36th for CanWest and 101st for CIS. Coming one right after the other, Balezantis had a time of 38:56.1, securing 38th in CanWest and 103rd in CIS while Wood Sparrow followed at the 38:56.5 mark. Hollowell placed 40th in CanWest and 106th in CIS with a time of 39:12.5.

Balezantis said the gruelling conditions made it key for runners to stick together and break one another’s wind along the challenging course.

“Me, Taryn, Jaden and Hayden too were more closely packed together and I think it was because of the conditions. It was kind of a good motivator to stay with the pack and work up with them.”

Despite running in the worst conditions he ever raced in, the Huskies’ senior runner, Mueller, had a placing of 41st in CanWest and 109th in CIS and a time of 40:04.4. This race marked the end of Mueller’s CIS cross-country career as his fifth year of eligibility was used.

“The conditions made it tough so it was kind of upsetting to see such a slow time up on the results, but I actually don’t think I could have gone much faster on the day. It was a hard race but it was good,” Mueller said. “It was a good way to finish off the career.”

Based on the team’s performance, Mueller is confident that the team will carry on its success into the next seasons, especially as the team has shown progress in their rankings.

“The team improved over last year so we’re definitely on the right track,” he said. “There were two extra teams in CIS and we still moved up a spot.”

With two years left on the other national team runners’ eligibility and his own, Balezantis echoed this certainty and his hopes for the entire team.

“I think we’re getting stronger as a team, this year compared to last year, and I think we’ll be able to keep the momentum going for next year too.”

Looking at the CanWest results, the University of Saskatchewan managed to pull ahead of MacEwan University and the University of Alberta, neither of which had enough runners competing to place.

“We definitely did better than Stewart Cup and our previous races. But I know just from looking at the results and hearing coaches talk, this is the best CanWest has done in a long time in terms of CIS. The CanWest conference has gotten a lot stronger,” Bigsby said.

The women’s cross-country team did not send any runners to the CIS championships.

Now looking at the indoor season, many cross-country athletes are also members of the track and field team and have a number of competitions beginning in January 2015.

Photo: supplied by Memorial University Athletics

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