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First foot forward The McMaster cross country team gets set for the long season ahead

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The Canadian Interuniversity Sport top ten cross country rankings were released, with both Mac’s men’s and women’s team sitting safely within the top ten after finishing second and fourth at the Western Invitational.

On the men’s side, McMaster is currently ranked sixth in the country, led by team veteran Connor Darlington. The fifth-year runner posted the fastest time for Mac at Western, running 25.01.7 and finishing fifth. Despite landing just off the podium, Darlington ran the seventh fastest time in the history of the invitational, a testament to the pace set early by this year’s field.

Jeff Tweedle finished one spot behind Darlington, crossing the line sixth, while Nick Kondrat finished 13th to round out a tight top three for the Marauders. An ill Gabe Ghiglione and second-year standout Christian MacGillivray also delivered strong performances to secure the silver medal for the men’s team.

Host team Western were the eventual winners, but Mac still finished ahead of powerhouses Guelph and Windsor, who currently outrank the Marauders on the CIS top ten.

The women’s team sits eighth on the list, with long-standing heavyweight Guelph atop the rankings with 95 points. The Mac women also face some established programs from the likes of Western and the University of Toronto, but are determined to stay competitive.

“The [Guelph] women’s team has won the last 10 years,” said fourth-year Emily Nowak. “Toronto is really good, they have a lot of strong middle distance runners, [and] you can add schools like Queen’s and Laval in there too.”

“What I’m hoping to see from our team is that our spread from 1-7 gets closer and we run as more of a pack as the season goes… with that hopefully come OUA time we can try and compete for a medal again.”

At Western, Nowak posted Mac’s lowest time, coming in at a solid 18.07.1, followed by Maddie Benjamin three spots back at 18.14.6. Newcomer Rachel Faulds, second-year Kristen Kuhn, and fifth-year Sarah Haliburton rounded out Mac’s scoring runners in a dense woman’s field.

For Faulds, Western was her first taste of an OUA meet after transferring from West Virginia to compete this year. Thus far she has proven a great addition to the team, placing herself in Mac’s top three scorers in both competitions.

“She has fit in extremely well,” said coach Paula Schnurr. “She is a very low-maintenance athlete, and she is very talented. We are a team that has a lot of experience, and Rachel is another piece that can add to that experience factor.”

Both teams will be back in action on Oct. 15 at the Canisius Alumni Classic in Buffalo. It is the Marauders’ last meet before championship season, as they try to fine tune their performances leading up to the Ontario University Athletics championship on Oct. 30.

“Last year, both teams medaled and were third at the OUAs,” said Schnurr. “That was the first time both teams medaled at the same OUA championships and that was a big deal. I would say that’s the goal for both teams to medal again… I am pretty optimistic we will be able to match what we did or improve at the CIS level.”

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