Running is a lonely sport. From early mornings to late nights, enduring wind and rain and howling cold, athletes are often only accompanied by their own shadows and beating hearts. UBC’s cross country team challenges that lonely image with camaraderie and cheer, celebrating each other’s accomplishments while pushing each other to be the best they can be. The proof is in the pudding: the men’s and women’s teams have swept their way to Canada West banners, racing past their competition in Saskatoon.
It’s been a long time coming after a 2020 season that saw only one meet. As our teams return to a full competition schedule this September, winning the Canada West title has been an important milestone. “It’s just pretty exciting that we can show what we’ve been working towards so far this season,” rookie Glynis Sim said about the win.
There were lots of individual successes to go along with the team. Sim finished third in the women’s event, and along with Joanna Brown and Lauren McNeil the women were able to finish with three T-Birds in the women’s top 10 as they finished in seventh and tenth place finishes respectively. Thomas Nobbs was able to claim first place in the men’s event. Tyler Dozzi placed second with Josh Kozelj and Spencer Hardy finishing fourth and fifth.
“We are a group that should be reckoned with across both teams,” Nobbs said. The men’s team had come close before and finally were able to claim the CanWest crown, while the women’s side completed the threepeat. “I think it’s pretty special just to get to this point, after all the troubles and challenges and COVID[-19].”
The repeating theme for Nobbs and Sim was winning as a team. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have really, really good, understanding coaches, and then also just really supportive, fun teammates,” Sim said. “It’s just a lot of fun to be able to train with all those good people.”
2021 was the first year that Nobbs was able to compete for UBC, as in 2019 he was not able to race. “I was going through some issues dealing with small little injuries,” Nobbs recounted, having been part of the cross country team for the past three years. These previous struggles pushed him as he returned to action. “That was a huge motivator to try to push myself, to find what I needed to do to be a team leader and contribute and give back to the team.”
With both the men and women’s sides wrapping up a successful Canada West campaign, the focus was shifted to the last two events of the year which are arguably even more important. The U Sports Cross Country Championships that took place on November 20 — and the Canadian Cross Country Championships happened last weekend.
The teams heads into these events while running with the wind. Despite their excellent results, there still was a chip on their shoulders to prove themselves on the national stage. “I honestly think that even throughout the season, no matter how we raced, we’ve been fairly overlooked especially going into CanWest,” Nobbs said. “I’m shooting for the team win, I’m still going to race with the same intensity no matter what with whoever on the start line.”
For Sim, it’s a similar mindset, but enjoying the ride along with striving for the win. “I think our biggest goal is just to be out there and have fun,” she said. “Be healthy, run well and follow through with our plans.”
“We do have fairly high expectations, but we don’t want to be unrealistic.”
The U Sports Championships are being held in Quebec City, with the course already set out on the Plains of Abraham. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s just part of what makes it worth pursuing. “That’s what cross country is about,” Nobbs asserted. “It’s about being tough and prevailing through those challenges.”
“I think from what I’ve seen in this group, and especially with travel squad, I think we’re ready for basically anything.”
And as UBC’s cross country team flies across Canada, it’ll be a team that arrives in Quebec to chase after the national title. In a sport where individuals compete alone, the Thunderbirds will take flight together.
Josh Kozlij has contributed to The Ubyssey. This article was published on print and written before U Sports Cross Country Championships took place, where both women’s and men’s teams finished fourth. Hardy came third in U20 men’s event, Dozzi finished eleventh and Nobbs finished ninth in men’s open event at the Canadian Cross Country Championships.