The UNB cross country team hosted the first meet of the season this past weekend, where they had a promising finish.
“It went quite well today,” said second-year Michael Colford after placing fourth in the men’s race. “Today was part of our training, but we definitely wanted to work hard.”
Going forward, Colford said the runners now have a better idea of where they are in regards to their strength,” which is valuable as they head back into practices.
On the women’s side, first-year Jenna Keilty led the V-Reds pack, placing 13th with a time of 24 minutes and 59 seconds.
“We’re very excited about our future,” said head coach Chris Belof.
This year, the team consists of primarily first and second-years. According to senior Rachel Bennett, the team is in a rebuilding phase.
“We got a couple new first-years that are going to add a lot of depth to our team,” said Bennett. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Colford shares this excitement.
“We have a pretty young team this year—lots of first and second years—so I think we’re just working to really build everyone up.”
With the majority of the team so young, Belof recognizes Bennett and Colford as team leaders.
“We’ve got some really great veterans that are returning,” he said. “Michael Colford being in his second year and Rachel Bennett being one of our upperclass-women … They’re pretty much our seniors.”
As one of her personal goals for the team this season, Bennett mentioned that it is important for her to be a leader.
“Being leaders as older athletes on the team, we just need to really commit ourselves to every practice, to push ourselves and to stay as a pack and kind of build off of one another,” she said.
Going forward, the team has several achievable goals in mind.
“We want to be better than we have been and really improve upon what we did last year,” said Belof.
UNB hasn’t won a cross country AUS title on the women’s side since 1985. Their top runner last year, Callie McGuire, placed 19th in the six kilometer race. The team placed sixth overall.
On the men’s side, the Reds haven’t won at AUS since 2001. In order to win at the conference final, they will need to break St. FX’s six year streak. Last year, runners Joshua Shanks and Michael Colford were the highest ranked UNB competitors, placing 18th and 19th respectively. UNB placed fifth overall during the 2016 season.
The young runners, Keilty and Colford, have shown through their performances this weekend that things are set to change.
“I think we are a top three program—I think we have the talent to be a top three program,” said Belof.
All of the runners have their eyes set on AUS, with the goal of proving themselves at the meet; however, some runners are shooting higher.
“It’s always been my goal throughout university to go to USports, but we’ll see how the season plays out,” said Bennett.
The meet this weekend occurred in 28-degree heat with high humidity, impeding several athletes’ performance.
“Today doesn’t really play as well as you would think,” said Belof. “It’s as hot as it can be; dehydration is at its peak.”
As the runners compete for upwards of 20 minutes at a high intensity in these conditions, loss of electrolytes and water is to be expected.
“I don’t like this weather, that’s for sure.” chuckled Bennett.
“Running in this heat definitely is a setback— but hopefully towards later October we’ll be racing in some nice, fall cool weather.”
The Varsity Reds continue their season on Saturday, Sept. 23 on the road in Halifax at the SMU/DAL Invitational. This will be the second of their three exhibition competitions before they head to Wolfville on Oct. 28 for the AUS Championship.