by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor
Three Lancers were named CIS all-Canadians for their top-ten individual finishes at the 2015 CIS cross country championships in Guelph this past weekend with two of them earning a spot on the podium with an individual medal.
In the overall team competitions, the Lancer men finished fifth overall with 123 points while the women placed 14th.
The women’s race was first and Windsor’s Stefanie Smith had a memorable performance, finishing the six-kilometer course in 20:25.4, good enough for and a place on the podium with a CIS individual bronze medal draped around her neck.
After finishing 61st and 22nd in the first two CIS championship meets of her career, Smith said she knew she had to be among the leaders from the start to avoid being caught in the mob of runners at the beginning of the course.
“I was really fortunate to get out to a good start because it was a narrow funnel at the beginning of the race,” Smith said. “So I knew I was going to have to go out hard. I was sitting in sixth or seventh for the first three or four kilometers, then I went and searched for that next gear. I was picking up the pace as others were falling.”
With one kilometer to go, Smith said she saw Lancer cross country head coach Gary Malloy who pointed to the runner ahead of her and said, ‘That’s a podium spot, go and get it.’
“Once I heard them say that I knew it was now or never,” Smith said. “I was in fourth going up the last hill and was able to catch a girl from Guelph and I could feel her breathing down my neck so I knew I couldn’t let up until I crossed the line.”
Even hours after her CIS bronze medal had been placed around her neck, Smith admitted her massive accomplishment had not sunk in yet.
“After my race I was getting so jacked up for the men’s race that I said I would deal with the rest of the day later,” Smith said.
The Lancer athletic department organized a fan bus for the event, which Smith heavily acknowledged for her level of comfort at the event.
“We were in Guelph and you would not have known it,” Smith said. “We have the most supportive team in the entire CIS so it was nice to share this accomplishment with them. It means so much just to have that extra support and we were the loudest group by far.
Fellow Lancer Allie Parks finished in 20th position, crossing the finish line in 21:24.3. Chelsea Viselli finished in 81st while Sydney Hawkins, Alison Robinson and Lauren Fisico finished in 117th, 118th and 124th, respectively.
On the men’s side, Paul Janikowski was narrowly passed at the finish line but still captured an individual bronze medal with a third place finish, completing the 10-kilometer course in a time of 30:24.4. Corey Bellemore was also named a CIS all-Canadian after he finished the men’s course in 10th place with a time of 30:55.9.
The Victoria Vikes had four runners finish in the top 10 and knocked the host Guelph Gryphons off their perch as the kings of Canadian cross-country. The Gryphon men’s program had won the past 11 CIS championships.
“It feels good to finish this high but I wish I could’ve finished higher for the team,” Bellemore said. “It was a big pack of runners around the seven kilometer mark and on the last loop I fell off a bit but Gary [Malloy] just told me you can’t let anyone pass you in the final kilometer and I didn’t. At that point it’s all guts.”
Janikowski and Bellemore were followed by Shawn Master in 28th, Joseph Kagumba in 31st and Alex Ullman in 52nd. The Lancers were ranked second going into the national championships but ultimately fell 13 points short of the team podium at the end of the day. The Laval Rouge et Or took home the bronze medal with 111 total points.
Many of the Lancers will now turn their attention to the upcoming CIS indoor track and field season. The Lancer men’s team is the defending CIS overall team champions and will defend their title beginning with the annual Blue and Gold Meet Dec. 7 and 8 at the St. Denis Centre.