The University of Saskatchewan’s cross-country team started the 2018-19 season strong on Sept. 15 against their provincial rivals the Regina Cougars. The Huskies team showed strong individual performances as well as an improved group dynamic, with the majority of the team finishing within seconds of each other.
Courtney Hufsmith, a third-year marketing student, was the first to cross the finish line in the women’s 6 km race at the Regina meet. Hufsmith had a successful 2017-18 season, finishing third in Canada West and 11th in U Sports. To Hufsmith, the support of the team is necessary in performing well at the meets.
“It’s always good to have someone pushing you. As a teammate, if you are pushing each other, you are probably going to end up being better,” Hufsmith said. “I’m feeling really good about this season — I think the team is looking really good this year. We have a lot of new faces, which is really nice.”
Among these new faces is Dezeray Wapass, a first-year kinesiology student and Huskies rookie. The Regina meet was her first race at the university level. The new recruit from Big River First Nation placed ninth at the Cougar Trot. Wapass says that her support system played a big part in her early success.
“It went really well. Having the team and my family there as well made me more confident and more comfortable, less intimidated,” Wapass said. “Everyone’s so nice. It’s great to be on a team that shares the same passion and love of running.”
Jared Welsh, a fifth-year regional and urban planning student, also believes that team support is important for every runner to improve. Welsh placed eighth in the men’s 8 km race, the first of the men’s team to cross the finish line in Regina.
“In the workouts, we work well together, and we are able to keep each other motivated and make sure that nobody’s slacking off — that shows in the races. In the middle of the races, if we are running near to each other, we encourage each other to do our best,” Welsh said. “It’s easier to work together as a team than individually.”
This season, both the men’s and women’s teams aim to improve. Welsh discusses his personal and team goals for the year.
“My personal goal is to run a personal best time in the 10 km [race],” Welsh said. “As a team, hopefully, we have better results than in previous years and gradually improve.”
Hufsmith is also looking to build on last season’s success and aim higher this year.
“Personally, I’m running for the title this year at U Sports — I think I have the support system to do so, under best circumstances,” Hufsmith said. “As a team, we all set a goal of improving at least five spots at nationals, so if we end up sending a team to nationals, that would be the ultimate goal.”
With group morale running high and a shared determination for improvement, the cross-country Huskies are looking ahead to the new season with optimism.
The cross-country Huskies’ next race is the Sled Dog Open, happening on Sept. 29 at Victoria Park.
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photo: Courtney Hufsmith / Supplied