Historic occasion for STU Tommies cross country team at ACAA Championships

Still of the St. Thomas University Cross Country team, after competing at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus Rams. (Submitted: Sebastian Rubi)

The St. Thomas University Tommies cross country team attended the 2023-24 Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) Championships hosted by the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus Rams on Oct. 28 in Truro, N.S. 

With a brand-new team this season, the men’s team ranked sixth in the ACAA with 86 points. The women’s team was unable to rank as one of their runners did not finish the race due to an injury. 

The race marked the first time that the Tommies men’s cross country team is ranked in the ACAA championship, while this is the first time the women’s team has had more than one competitor finish the race. 

Nick Larade, head coach of the Tommies, explained that the men’s team runs eight kilometres while the women’s team runs six. Both teams had to participate in at least two of the three exhibition meets throughout the season to be eligible for the ACAA championship.

“I was happy with the way the championship turned out,” said Larade. “Athletes had a short time to prepare so in that light, they did very well.”

Larade said that he was glad to have over ten athletes for both teams, which is enough people to potentially score points in the races. 

“We were able to show up and people can see that St. Thomas was at the meets,” he said.

For Larade, the most important thing for the team was to finish the race healthy and do the best they could. 

“We didn’t have any expectations of challenging for medals where most of the people were new,” he said.

Larade’s coaching philosophy is based on consistency, especially for people who are just starting out. 

“When you have a lot of newer runners, it’s more so getting as much mileage in safely as you can and getting used to the distances involved.” 

“I’d like to see us start creeping our way up the final team results in the ACAA.”

Isobel MacLean, the highest-ranked runner on the women’s team, said the team’s bonding during the season is what she values the most from this year’s experience. 

“We run together and support each other… when the girls are running, the boys would cheer us on and vice versa,” said MacLean. 

MacLean said she found the ACAA final the most difficult race she was part of. 

“It was definitely mentally challenging more than physically challenging, but at the end of the race, that’s where my strength comes out.”

MacLean shared that her way to overcome the mental challenges was to approach other runners and give them her support. 

“When I’m running along, I try to catch up to somebody to talk to them and that’s how I go faster,” MacLean said. “I’m like ‘you’re doing awesome,’ ‘you’re doing so good,’ and that makes me feel good.”

Carlos Lapucci, the highest-ranked runner on the men’s team, said the encouragement that he got from his teammates and the atmosphere among competitors pushed him to give the best of himself. 

Still of Daniel Calvo, Carlos Lapucci, and Sebastian Rubi after competing for the Cross Country team. This past October 28th, 2023 at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus Rams. (Submitted: Sebastian Rubi)

“My teammates have been really good for me,” he said. “Runners from different universities, no matter that we were competing against each other, whenever you saw somebody, there were good vibes.”

He said the start and the finish are the most important parts of the race and at the finish line, he felt inspired. 

“It was amazing, I listened to all our teammates shouting and everyone was really excited,” said Lapucci. 

“When I closed the line, I instantly knew I gave 100% of myself.”

Related: STU cross country team embarks on journey to ACAA championships