SFU’s cross country off to blistering start

Both the men’s and women’s teams had dominant performances at the Ash Creek Invitational

SFU's Addy Townsend is looking to improve off of a strong sophomore season (Photo courtesy of Mateo De Dalmases)

By: Mateo De Dalmases

SFU’s cross country team could not have begun the season better than they did on September 8 at Western Oregon University, taking the win in both races ahead of regionally ranked teams such as Alaska Anchorage and Western Oregon.

On the women’s side, the most accurate word to describe the race is perfection. The team managed to claim positions one through five, achieving the best possible score in a cross country race, 15 points. Senior Julia Howley won the race in 16:24, with an amazing solo run that proved her confidence and strength throughout the course. Howley, who was third on this course last year, improved her former personal best by 45 seconds.

Not far behind Howley, junior Addy Townsend came in with the second overall position, with a time of 16:38, improving by almost two minutes from her time last year. Such amazing improvements by our two top runners is proof of their huge ambition this year and the excellent guidance of head coach Brit Townsend.

The third woman to cross the finish line was freshman Olivia Willet, who ran an impressive and exciting debut in her collegiate racing, showing that experience in National Collegiate Athletic Association competition is not an absolute requirement to have an impact performance. Willet’s time of 16:49 was one second ahead of senior Miryam Bassett and four seconds ahead of junior Chelsea Ribeiro, who were fourth and fifth overall: this rounded out SFU’s top five runners. Seniors Sophie Dodd (19th) and Paige Nock (21st), and freshmen Calli Charlton (28th) and Amy Morris (36th) completed the women’s squad in this very exciting season opener.

The men also took a prestigious win on the grassy course at Western Oregon University, taking down the nationally ranked No. 5 Alaska Anchorage and also beating host team Western Oregon. The race started off at a slow pace, with Alaska Anchorage leading and controlling the pace with the SFU men following right behind them.

When the big move occurred, Alaskan freshman Felix Kemboi and SFU junior Rowan Doherty took off to battle for the win. Meanwhile, the chase pack was led by SFU athletes sophomore Carlos Vargas, junior Sean Miller, senior Mateo De Dalmases, and freshman Aaron Ahl together with runners from Alaska Anchorage, Western Oregon, and other teams.

Doherty swapped the lead with Kemboi for almost two kilometres until Doherty decided to scare him with a move at one kilometre to go. Although Kemboi responded and took the win, Doherty ended in a second overall position and a personal best on the course.

Followed by Doherty, the next SFU athlete to cross the line was Quebec sophomore Carlos Vargas, who demonstrated that he had learned a lot from former teammates Marc-Antoine Rouleau and Philippe Gravel. Vargas ran a very intelligent race, taking advantage of his 800-metre speed and finishing with a very quick last kilometre, taking down athletes up until the last metres of the long final stretch. Vargas took sixth place overall with a time of 19:09.

Closely behind Vargas, junior Sean Miller and senior Mateo De Dalmases took eighth and ninth positions respectively. Both of these athletes ran strong races, with a steady pace throughout. To complete SFU’s top five, freshman Aaron Ahl came from behind and, with a spectacular final section of the race, took the eleventh overall position.

Freshmen Chris Sobczak, Dawson Ribeiro, and Jordan Wilson followed with 24th, 30th, and 35th positions respectively. Sophomore Thomas Gallagher, and seniors David Sawatzky and Jalen Sekhon placed 41th, 49th, and 72nd.

Coach Townsend’s words post race denoted optimism and she encouraged her athletes to keep focused on closing the gap between the first and the seventh runners. “My goal for the season opener was to have strong competitive efforts from both teams and they have certainly delivered”.

SFU’s cross country team will be back in action next Saturday, September 16, at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle hosted by the University of Washington.

Mateo De Dalmases competes for SFU’s cross country team.