Cross country season ends with championships in Guelph

Five TRU racers compete at CIS national championships

Tony Kiprop racing at the CIS nationals in Ontario. (TRU Athletics)

Tony Kiprop racing at the CIS nationals in Ontario. (TRU Athletics)

Another season is in the books for the TRU cross country team, and for a team that competed in the CIS for just the second year, it was a season of growth and experience gained.

Five runners were selected from the WolfPack’s roster of 20 athletes to journey out to Guelph, Ont. and compete in the CIS national championships that took place on Saturday, Nov. 14. There are no official qualifying times in cross country, so TRU head coach Carmin Mazzotta made the call on who would be attending nationals based on the runners’ performance throughout the eight runs and multiple practices that the team participated in throughout the semester.

Rachel Lobay and Alesha Miller were the two women of the WolfPack that ran in Ontario, competing in a field of 144 runners over a distance of six kilometres. Lobay finished a team high 63rd on the day, with Miller crossing the line in 133rd. Mazzotta was very pleased with his top finishing runner saying that Lobay “had such a great season and exceeded expectations,” while also pointing out that as a first-year competitor she still has a lot of room to grow and improve.

Tony Kiprop, Brennen Smith and Conlan Sprickerhoff were the male representatives of the WolfPack at nationals. They ran a 10 kilometre race in a field of 150 runners. Kiprop finished 133rd, Smith in 137th and Sprickerhoff wound up 141st on the day.

It was just the second race of the year that Smith wore the orange and black of TRU as he competes for the team despite the fact that he lives on Vancouver Island. A competitive triathlete, Smith is eligible to compete for TRU because he is enrolled in Open Learning classes and also competed for TRU at the B.C. championships that took place in Nanaimo.

It is an unorthodox coach-athlete relationship to say the least, as Smith trains in Victoria primarily under the tutelage of Carolyn Murray with Mazzotta being in contact with Murray to check in on Smith’s progress. The biggest reservation that Mazzotta had about letting a runner on his team that lives almost 450 km away was “how is this guy going to blend in with the team as we go to meets? But the more I was in contact with him I thought it would be fine, he’s a good guy.”

With Smith only being in his first year, Mazzotta says that as the relationship grows he “may be in a bit more contact with him about the training specifics of what he’s doing,” but that right now he’s a believer in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Men’s captain Sprickerhoff had what Mazzotta called “an off day at the wrong time,” but he also feels that Sprickerhoff was the most consistent of all of TRU’s runners this season and that he is poised to come back stronger in 2016.

That is a sentiment that can be extrapolated to the team as a whole, with many of these runners still having multiple years of eligibility left to run. This is a team that can take the lessons learned from a year of tough competition and use them to return stronger and faster in 2016.