Cross country program shines at NAIA championships

It might have been a cold day on November 19 in Elsah, Illinois, but it was a day to remember for UBC’s men’s and women’s cross country teams, as both made history at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championships.

The women’s team claimed the championship title for the fourth time in the last five years, while the men’s team earned a third-place finish — the best in team history. Initially, the men’s team was first place according to unofficial results until an error was discovered in the timing equipment, which put the team in third place.

Although the change in the results was somewhat of a disappointment, UBC head coach Laurier Primeau remained impressed with his teams’ overall performances and efforts.

“[The men’s team was] ranked number one for a good chunk of the year and even with a mile to go, we were leading in the race and just faltered in the last 1,600 meters,” said Primeau. “I think they’re already all hungry for 2017.”

For the women’s team — which had placed second at best and 12th at worst throughout the season — the NAIA championship saw the team’s best performance in 2016.

“[The women’s team] never had a number-one ranking all year and they really performed on that day. It was an all-around team effort,” said Primeau.

Fourth-year Natalia Hawthorn was the standout athlete for the women’s team, finishing sixth in the race with a time of 17:23.75 to earn All-American honours for the fourth time. Primeau was especially impressed with Hawthorn’s spirit given that she had just recovered from a recent injury at the time.

“Three weeks before the national championships, she was coming off of a flight injury and for her to be that fit in three weeks, I think, speaks volumes,” said Primeau.

The other female athletes who received All-American honours were Nicola Symonds, Brianna Cairns and Madelyn Brunt.

On the men’s team, the best performances came from Jesse Hooton and John Gay, who finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Still, Primeau agreed in the end that the results were a reflection of the cross country program’s overall team performance rather than a specific athlete.

“It speaks volume not to a single person, but the depth of that [cross country] program,” said Primeau.

With most of the team’s athletes set to remain on next year’s rosters, Primeau is hopeful that the cross country teams will have another successful season when they hit the racetrack again next September.

“There are a lot of returning athletes who understand what our program culture is trying to be, so we’re excited about the future,” said Primeau.