It was a disappointing turnout for the Marauders cross country team in St. John’s, Nfld. on Nov. 8.
After a successful season of hopeful results and top performances from the men’s team that got them to be ranked second overall in the CIS, they finished fourth overall, which was the same result they finished with last year.
While last year’s result was disappointing because they lost by a close margin of 23 points and were so close to being on the podium, this year’s result was especially heartbreaking. The team was initially told that they finished third overall, until the final results were posted, and it was announced that they actually finished fourth.
“One of the Laval guys was missed in the results, so I guess his chip didn’t register from the chip timer,” said head coach Rory Sneyd.
Along with that crucial mistake in timing, the officials also managed to not count the sixth or seventh runners from each team that acted as displacers, and they didn’t count the entire University of Regina team.
The changes that needed to be made from the initial results were the deciding factor to the Marauder’s podium-finishing hopes, and after the changes were made, the announcers had to deliver the news that Laval beat Mac to finish in the third spot.
“Ultimately the rug was pulled from under their feet. And I think honestly, that makes it sting a bit more,” said Sneyd.
“To think that they kind of escaped and just managed to achieve the goal, and only to find out that they did not…it just made it a little more painful for sure.”
The news for the Marauders was more painful than the race itself, where the athletes faced gusts of winds that reached an incredible 110 km per hour.
This made the race extremely difficult and strategic, as running in the wind is tough, and nobody wants to be the leader of the pack.
“With a couple of the guys being triathletes, they talked about it being like a bike race, where they had to get into the peloton and get in the group and get dragged along, and you don’t want to necessarily be leading the group, and if you’re going to be catching up to a group, you want to bring some company,” said Sneyd.
“Things were looking great in the first five km. It was looking like exactly what we wanted, where the guys weren’t leading the group, and were tucked in nicely, but when the separation occurred, they were definitely on the wrong end of how things shaped up.”
In the last part of the race, the first group of about 15-20 guys began to break away from the chase pack, and they began to run much faster than the majority of the runners.
Once the lead pack broke away, even the strongest runners that were at the front of the chase pack couldn’t make up ground to catch up to them, because they were going against such a fierce wind.
“We were all just trying to stay with the pack, and some of us did it better than others,” said men’s captain Blair Morgan.
“I saw at least two people fall every lap. I went down on the last lap with a guy from Queen’s, Gabe fell…a lot of people went down.”
The men’s team faced a weird predicament, where their fourth, fifth and sixth runner on the team actually finished ahead of the first, second and third runners.
Luke Charbonneau, who is usually the sixth runner to cross the finish line for the Marauders, finished in 21st overall, while the usual fourth and fifth runners on the team, Gabe Ghiglione and Austen Forbes, finished 25th and 26th respectively.
“I don’t think we could’ve expected much more from those guys,” said Sneyd.
The Marauders’ three low sticks of Taylor Forbes, Connor Darlington and Blair Morgan, however, finished fifth, sixth, and fourth, a reversed order that came at the wrong time.
Forbes, the usual leader of the Marauders pack who finished the season being an OUA All star, ended up finishing 42nd overall.
Darlington, also finishing the season as an OUA all-star ended up finishing 50th overall, and Morgan, an OUA All-star and CIS all Canadian last year, ended up finishing 32nd overall.
“We couldn’t find any particular reasons why that happened,” said Morgan.
“We were there for more than half the race, and then we were still in the chase pack, and all of our guys were in it. And in the third lap, it hit Taylor more than it hit me. I don’t know what that happened … we just kind of lost it.”
If Forbes, Darlington and Morgan raced to their potential, and if Charbonneau, Ghiglione and Forbes raced as well as they did, the men’s team would have came home with a silver medal.
“If one of us placed in the top 20, that would’ve put us 13-15 points up, and we would’ve got Laval. So we just needed that one performance from one of us, and we couldn’t put it together, so it was disappointing to end up fourth again,” said Morgan.
Although the Marauders men’s team left Newfoundland in disappointment, Morgan is still managing to shed a light of optimism on his team and getting them to look on the bright side.
Another positive for the men’s team is the fact that not a single runner on the team is leaving next year.
The top seven will be back in action for another year, with some possibilities of spots on the current top seven being challenged by some notable recruits, and other runners on the team that just missed out on their opportunity this year.
While the men are looking to build on their current talent, the women’s team will be faced with a significant recruiting year.
The women’s team was also faced with disappointment in Newfoundland, finishing 12th overall, and missing their overall goal of finishing in the top ten.
“I think we have the talent to be more competitive. Its just a number of athletes on our team struggled in those conditions. We can’t ever mirror those conditions in practice, but I know that a number of people left Newfoundland disappointed,” said Sneyd.
“Those were conditions that I have never, ever, seen before — either as an athlete, or a coach. And it was probably conditions I hope to never see again actually.”
The Marauders will take the awful conditions in Newfoundland as a learning experience. They will have to be resilient in the 2015 cross country season to reach the podium for the men’s team, or finish within the top 10 for the women’s team.
And after a disappointing weekend, where they felt that they missed out on their opportunity to get a CIS medal or top ten finish, it just adds more fuel to the fire for next year.