STU cross country team embarks on journey to ACAA championships

Still of Sebastian Rubi, Carlos Lapucci, and Daniel Calvo after competing for the Cross Country team. This past September 30th, 2023 at Holland College. (Submitted: Sebastian Rubi)

The St. Thomas University cross country team attended their first meet of the season at Holland College on Saturday Sep. 30, officially qualifying to participate in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletics Association (ACAA) Championships for the first time since 2020.

The women’s and men’s teams competed in six and eight kilometre races, respectively. 

For the first time in years, the cross country team saw a soaring increase in its numbers, going from two athletes last year to 12 this season. 

One of the standout athletes of the day was second-year student Isobel MacLean, the top female runner on the team.

MacLean revealed she was nervous, considering she had not competed in the sport since high school, but the support from her fellow athletes moved her to push forward with the competition.

“The girls, we kind of all ran together,” said MacLean. “We supported each other the whole way through, and the boys were cheering us across the finish line.”

MacLean pointed out the significance of mental performance in cross country running. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the fittest one out there, cross country is actually a really difficult sport, because it’s so mentally draining,” she said. 

“As long as you have a good attitude going into it and coming out, that’s all that matters.”

Head coach Nick Larade, now in his sixth year at the helm, expressed how impressed he was with the team’s effort to begin the season. 

Still of the St. Thomas University Cross Country team, after competing at Holland College. (Submitted: Sebastian Rubi)

“We had a fairly new team, so for a lot of them this was their first race,”  said Larade. “But with running, you push yourself a little harder than you thought, just seeing that you’re capable of more than you believed.”

Larade reflected on the challenges they’d overcome in their journey in previous years since the team tried to navigate a highly competitive sport with a small roster.

“The pandemic led to a significant decrease in the number of cross country athletes on our team,” he said. “We struggled to meet the minimum requirements to compete in championships.”

With the increased number of members, Larade has great expectations for upcoming seasons. The season opener was not just a standalone event, it marked the first step in the team’s journey toward the ACAA Championships on Oct. 28.

“It’s all about making sure that everybody’s healthy and that we can put together their best run at the championship,” said Larade.

He encourages St. Thomas students to join the cross country team in the future and keep the program growing in the upcoming years.

“Running just has a lot of benefits for you, outside of running itself. It’s good mentally for you, helps keep your focus on school and teaches you a lot of valuable skills, too,” he said.

“There’s no real sport out there quite like cross country.”