The TRU cross country team officially got their season underway Sunday Sept. 27, taking part in the Kamloops leg of the Dirty Feet Trail Series. Six of the eleven men on the team took part in the 10 km run, while seven of the nine female members of the team competed in the 5 km portion of the event.
Many of the key contributors have returned from last year’s team, including the women’s captain Alesha Miller and the men’s captain Ryan Pidhirniak.
There will be one major change for the team this year however, as former assistant coach Carmin Mazzotta steps into the head coaching role for the 2015 season. Cross country is another TRU Athletics program that has recently made the jump from the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) to the top tier of University athletics Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
This brings with it a whole range of challenges and one of the changes that Mazzotta wants to bring to the program is in their approach to recruiting.
“The goal in the next few years will be to start recruiting and building a program where we draw in more high school talent,” Mazzotta said.
Mazzotta, himself a former university level runner, also sees room for improvement in how the team is currently monitoring the level of iron in their blood throughout the gruelling season.
“We have a standard physical. It’s a very basic physical. It’s kind of an archaic model,” he said.
Top level runners compact the red blood cells in their feet during the course of training and racing. This can cause them to develop an iron deficiency and in some cases anemia.
“Female runners are much more prone to anemia than people in other sports,” Mazzotta said.
Especially important in this process is a protein called ferritin, which circulates in the blood stream and releases iron for red blood cell synthesis when necessary. Keeping a runner’s ferritin level high is important.
“When you don’t have a high ferritin level you have no energy in your system, you can’t really go to the well,” Mazzotta said.
Over the course of a 10 km run, a high ferritin level can shave minutes off of an athlete’s time.
Due to a lack of a formalized CIS cross country schedule, the WolfPack team will be competing in community runs throughout the fall, hoping to record times that will impress Mazzotta as he will be choosing which athletes from the team will be making the trip to Guelph to compete in the CIS national championships that take place on Nov. 14.