Runners to invade Odell Park

School pulls together to organize national championships

Nov. 12 will mark a day two years in the making for STU’s Cross Country team.

The program, still in its infancy (the ACAA only brought Cross Country back as a sport in 2007), will host the Canadian Colleges Athletics Association National Cross-Country Championships. From the 12th to the 14th, nearly 300 athletes will be competing in Odell park, on a course that coach Scott Davis has been refining since STU was awarded the nationals in June 2009.

“I am most proud that we were able to use the event as a way to fund the establishment of a permanent race course with markers every 100m in Odell Park,” he said. “ We train at it almost daily, and we know every nook and cranny of the course. We can use this knowledge to our advantage in preparing our race plans.”

By no means has Davis been organizing the event on his own, though. The athletics office only has three full-time staff. As hosts, STU has been responsible not only for getting the course ready, but for publicizing the event and even making arrangements for visiting teams to stay in Fredericton.

“The closeness of the STU community has been great for preparing for this event,” says Davis. “Its not at every school that you would get such help and support from virtually every department. From communications, to recruitment, to student life and conference services, athletics, alumni, and beyond.”

One of the people who has worked with Davis to make this event a reality is athletics co-ordinator Jennifer Burry. TheAQ caught up with her while she was in the middle of unpacking promotional materials for the event. The boxes were stacked in a corner of the J.B. O’Keefe gym and oddly stamped “fragile, handle like eggs. Do not drop, shake or punch.”

“Two years is a long time to plan something, so it’s exciting to finally see names on the rosters and it’s exciting to have the posters everywhere, the final stages are bearing fruit. So it will be really good to sit down on Sunday and say ‘finally.’”

While Davis, Burry and others have been taking care of the logistics, the runners have been making sure that they are ready when the day comes.

According to their coach, the Tommies season goals are top eight for women and top 10 for men. In cross country, teams try for the lowest overall score, with lower numbers awarded to higher finishes, so a large team can do well, but still score more points. The minimum team size is 6, but a school can enter more than one team.

Davis is concerned that the large contingent STU has in this race will skew the goals slightly.

Fourth-year GRID and English major Sarah Murray has been on the STU team for three years. She comes from a cross country skiing background, but decided to try her hand at cross country running once she got to STU. This is her second national competition.

“There’s a little more assurance as an athlete being the host, since the host team can enter as many athletes as they want. Knowing that you’ll be going all the way to nationals makes it easier to plan the season. Coming from skiing, nationals was a series of five races, but this one is like the Olympics basically, just one chance.”

That one chance is what Scott Davis has been preparing his athletes for.

As hosts, there will be friends and family visiting for the races. The distractions of home that go away on the road will be present right up until race time. Both Davis and Burry are hoping for a large crowd to cheer the runners on, since the event will be a residence challenge. At the end of the day though, Davis says what he’s looking for is simply the best effort his athletes can give.

“As long as the athletes are focused, and make the best of the home course advantage I will be proud. They are starting to believe in themselves what I have been seeing all season. I’m excited to unleash them on the course next week.”

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