by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor
A first-place performance from Lancers veteran Stefanie Smith in the women’s race plus a seven-runner effort from the men’s cross country team led to an overall team title and some early season success for Windsor at the 2015 Western Invitational this weekend in London.
After Smith finished the women’s five-kilometer circuit in first place for a gold medal, the Lancers men’s team finished the race tied for first with the McMaster Marauders with 58 points. The Lancers stables of seven men all crossed the finish line within 1:09 of each other and were given the win as their top two displacers finished higher than McMaster’s next displaced runners by one spot.
Windsor also saw strong individual performances with fifth-year runner Paul Janikowski placing second overall. Janikowski captured the silver medal finishing the eight-kilometer run in a time of 24:45, which would have been a course record, had it not been for Queen’s runner Alex Wilkie.
Janikowski said he was very happy with his silver medal performance at the Western Invitational after a few years battling injuries.
“It was nice to finally get back into the swing of things and be able to compete for the top spots,” said Janikowksi. “Fortunately I was able to dip under the previous course record but was beaten by Alex Wilkie, who had a great race himself. As for the team, I was super impressed with our finish. We had to go to a tiebreaker, which was decided by our sixth runner. So it turned out to be a nail biter.”
Joe Kagumba also finished in the top ten in eighth place in a time of 25:24.
The Lancers then saw consecutive finishes from Michael Pesce in 25:49, Shawn Master in 25:50 and Jordan Collison 25:52 who finished fifteenth through seventeenth.
Displacers Matt Hall and Taylor McArthur finished the race in 20th and 22nd with times of 25:53 and 25:54, respectively.
Corey Bellemore, who was Windsor’s top runner last year, sat out the race and other schools did the same. Janikowski said McMaster’s squad sat a couple of their top runners and Queens was missing a strong runner as well but added it was a good chance to see what they were up against.
“It’s still early in the season so I love what I see already,” Janikowski “We still have a lot of young guys fighting for the top seven spot on our team to compete at OUA’s and then onto CIS but right now I can’t be prouder of our team but we still have a lot of work to do to achieve what we want.”
Smith said prior to the women’s five kilometer race the coaches strategized and set a goal to hang on to the lead pack as long as possible. After three kilometers the individual race was in full force. Smith pulled away late and crossed the finish line 12 seconds before her next competitor.
“There were four of us working together for most of the race then with two kilometers to go me and another girl broke away,” said Smith. “With one kilometer to go things got going pretty quick but I was just able to hold her off. She made me work for every step though, a real fighter.”
Smith said the runner-up was a high school student. Not a senior, mind you. Brogan McDougall of Regiopolis Notre Dame in Kingston, Ont. is hardly 15 years old. McDougall was the 2014 OFSAA midget girls individual cross country champion and Smith said she shows no signs of slowing down.
“She’s only in grade 10 and she’s showing some serious potential,” said Smith.” “There’s a lot of promise for Canadian distance running.”
In terms of team results, head coach Gary Malloy and the team was pleased with the effort despite the flu bug hitting the women’s team.
“We were missing a few key girls due to sickness and even some girls racing weren’t 100 per cent,” said Smith. “Everybody really stepped up and you could feel the energy and confidence rise in the group.”
Transfer Allie Parks placed eighth overall in a time of 18:15 while Chelsea Viselli placed 16th in 18:49. Other Lancer scorers included Sydney Hawkins in 19:59 and Lauren Fisico in 20:43.
The Lancers will next run in the Don Mills Invitational Oct. 3 in Waterloo, ON on the same course where the OUA conference championship meet will be held less than a month later.