It’s east to Ontario for the TRU WolfPack cross country team.
Head coach Carmin Mazzotta will be taking a three man, two woman squad to the CIS Cross Country Nationals in Guelph, Ontario. The race goes Saturday, Nov. 14.
“I am really looking forward to getting out there and seeing how our athletes perform,” said Mazzotta.
“They are a small, dedicated group. The reason we are bringing a small team is that I want to bring athletes that will be competitive and be in the mix. This year, there are huge fields, more than in previous years. On the guys side there are about 180 runners. On the women’s side, about 167. I want to see our athletes in the Top 100. Top 75 would be amazing. These are the top university runners in the country.”
Mazzotta said the large numbers of runners at the event are due to the fact Guelph is the epicentre for Canadian distance runners.
“The amount of Olympic and world class middle- and long-distance runners who train and live in the Guelph area with the Speed River club is pretty incredible. Add to that, Guelph has been the powerhouse in CIS cross country running for years.”
The WolfPack squad for Nationals consists of Rachel Lobay (Kelowna) and Alesha Miller (Vernon) on the women’s side with Conlan Sprickerhoff (Williams Lake), Tony Kiprop (Eldoret, Kenya) and Brennen Smith (Victoria) running in the men’s event.
“We have done all the hard work,” Mazzotta said about his athletes' training. “I tell them we have built the sculpture, we have done the finishing touches and now it is just a matter of getting ready for Saturday. It is just a matter of getting fresh. Having the proper sleep and recovering from the training.”
The TRU coach has taken a look at the course via Google Maps.
“It looks flat and fast,” he said. “We will preview it on Friday. We have been training the last while between Riverside and Pioneer Park, Mac Isle and the fields around Charles Anderson Stadium, getting our legs moving and doing faster intervals than we did earlier in the season.”
As far as any of his athletes exceeding expectations on Saturday: “I don’t want to put undue pressure on anybody but I do think that Rachel Lobay has had an outstanding season for us. She has won two of the three races she ran. She beat all the UBCO runners the two times she raced them. She has been in the mix with some of the the top runners from the coast schools. With her, you go to nationals and there are a lot more schools there. There is a lot more pressure. It is her first time being there. She has the capability to run and be in that mix. I could see her in the top 75.”
He continued “For Rachel, for Conlan, for Brennen and even for Tony, all of whom we get back next year. These athletes will be in the mix. It is a great learning opportunity.”
The host Guelph Gryphons are the defending men’s and women’s team champions.