The Marauders cross country team traveled to Kingston, Ont., to compete at the OUA Cross Country Championships on Oct. 25, where they conquered the same course they completed two weeks ago.
There was a lot of pressure to perform on the day, as the top seven athletes from each team across Ontario were on the line and ready to go, and this time, the numbers mattered.
The men’s team finished third overall, tying the Windsor Lancers’ score of 71 points overall.
This scoring resulted in a tiebreaker, where according to OUA regulations, the prevailing team depended on the sixth runner that crossed the finish line.
“Had it been the CIS Championships, it would have been a comparison between the fifth runners, which would have given us the edge,” said Marauders runner Taylor Forbes.
The Marauders fifth runner to cross the finish line was Blair Morgan, who finished ahead of the Lancers fourth and fifth scorers.
Despite the disappointment of finishing third, however, this OUA medal performance says a lot about the Marauders men’s program which has improved immensely within the last couple of years.
The team was a dark horse in last year’s OUA Championships, where they shocked the conference when they managed to finish second overall.
Although the team has won a medal of a different shade, it still speaks volumes about what they are capable of as a team and what they will be able to accomplish in years to come.
Taylor Forbes led the pack for the men’s team, finishing seventh overall, which had him named not only an OUA All-star, which includes the top 15 runners on the day, but a first team OUA All-star as well.
“I feel great about my race. It was definitely a goal of mine to be an OUA All-star, let alone a first team OUA All-star, so I’m feeling confident about my result and ready for Newfoundland, where I can hopefully get All-Canadian status,” said Forbes.
The rest of the Marauders worked together in a pack run for the majority of the race, which was a strategy of theirs right when the gun went off.
Connor Darlington finally laced up the spikes to run with the top seven, and finished 14th overall in only his second showing of the season.
Gabriel Ghiglione reached his goal of being an OUA All-star, finishing 15th overall, just five seconds behind Darlington.
Austen Forbes finished 17th overall, and Captain Blair Morgan who was recovering from an illness finished 18th overall, just three seconds behind Forbes.
Luke Charbonneau was the sixth runner to cross the line, finishing 22nd overall, and Paul Rochus was the last of the Maroon and Grey to finish the race, crossing the line just three seconds after Charbonneau in 24th place.
The Marauders are currently ranked second overall in the CIS top ten rankings, and will have to fight off the Windsor Lancers, Laval Rouge-et-Or, and the Victoria Vikings to maintain that spot.
“The boys love a good rally, so silver at [nationals] will still be the goal as it has been all season. As a team, we didn’t race as well as we had hoped for OUA’s, but that just adds more fuel to the fire,” said Forbes.
“We love a good challenge and we can’t wait to fire it up in St. John’s.”
As for the women’s team, they managed to finish eighth overall, which was disappointing for them, as their goal was to finish sixth overall on the day.
“I think our women’s team is better than what we showed at OUA’s. On an individual level, some people had better races, some had worse; but as a team, we should have been in the top six. I think the coaches echo these thoughts,” said the junior Pan Am Games 3000m silver medalist, Maddy McDonald.
Right when the gun went off in the race, a few Marauders got caught behind the pack right at the beginning, which made it tough for the girls to make their way up to the front pack.
“This is something we will be working on at [nationals], getting into a good position off the start so we aren’t already at a disadvantage from the beginning,” said McDonald.
McDonald managed to finish 17th overall, a result that she wasn’t pleased with, especially based on her performance on the course two weeks prior, where she ran a faster time.
“Top 14 was definitely a realistic goal, but I didn’t manage to perform like that on Saturday,” said McDonald.
McDonald will get another chance to show her full potential at the CIS Championships, where she will hope to finish up with the lead pack where she belongs.
Finishing behind McDonald was Gabrielle Foran in 37th, Kierstin Myers in 39th, Chelsea Mackinnon in 45th, Madeleine Benjamin in 47th, Maxine Gravina in 53rd and rookie Erin Mawhinney in 56th.
The team will be trying to stay well rested, and as confident as they can before travelling to Newfoundland to compete.
“Our coaches were hesitant as to whether to send us to the CIS Championships or not, so our goal is to prove to them and to ourselves that we do deserve to be there,” said McDonald.
“I do believe that we are capable of competing among some of the best teams in Canada.”
The Marauders will get one final shot at glory at the CIS Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Nov. 8.