Laurier cross country teams qualify for national championships

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“Runners, take your mark,” are the final words heard before what feels like the longest, yet shortest moment of silence before the gun shot sounds to begin the exhilarating chaos that is a cross country race. Spectators go silent, athletes are still, and it is the final chance for everyone to catch their breath before adrenaline rises and the excitement begins.

This Saturday hundreds of runners will line the start at the 2018 USPORTS Cross Country Championships in Kingston, Ontario. Laurier’s men’s and women’s teams will both be standing at that start line, and if you look closely enough you will see fifth year runner Joe Sheridan, and third year runner Sydney Pattison line the start line with the Golden Hawks.

Both the men and women’s cross country teams qualified to complete at the USPORTS championship, meaning that they placed top 10 at the OUA championship held in London, ON, on Oct. 27.

“It’s exciting to be going [to the championships] with a full team, and it’s cool that nationals is in Ontario this year, so a lot of our families get to come watch,” said Pattison of the championships being held at an OUA course.

“Everyone’s ready to run nationals, I think we’re all pretty confident moving forward,” said Sheridan of his teammate’s attitudes going into the Championship.

The Golden Hawks opened their 2018 season on this course, where Pattison and Sheridan had solid performances, and they are both hoping to repeat if not improve on their times.

This race will be Sheridan’s final race of his university cross country career of which he hopes to settle some “unfinished business” from last year’s USPORTS Championship race in Victoria, BC where he unfortunately fell during the race due to the muddy course conditions.

“I’m just trying to move past that and just finish with a really good race. That’s my mindset going in and just cap off my time at Laurier,” explained Sheridan.

Cross country is a sport that requires “mileage, carbs, and mental toughness,” chuckled Pattison as she describes what it takes to be a cross country runner. As much as cross county is an individual sport, it is also very much a team sport.

As a team, your top five to seven runners have the ability to score points in the race. With cross country, very much like golf, the lowest score wins.

The higher you place (highest being first), the less points you score for your team, the better.

“I’m not just running for me, I need to keep my position for my team,” explains Pattison. As a runner you want to be able to run a good individual race, but also hold your position for your overall team standings.

With cross country every race is different. As a runner you need to remind yourself what variables you can and cannot control. The Kingston course has a reputation of being a muddy one, and the forecast for the weekend is predicted to be both cold and rainy. Varying conditions is part of what makes cross country very much a psychological sport.

“You have to try not to think about the rain, or the mud or something like that.

Just know that everyone else is going through that too, you’re not the only one,” said Pattison expressing one way that she keeps her focus on the race.

Cross country is as much a psychological sport as it is physical. Sheridan and Pattison both shared the strategy of counting their steps to a number such as six or seven can help to control their mind while in the race in order to stay physically and mentally in competition mode.

“When [I’m] really struggling, I just find that I start doing that count in my head and trying to pull myself back into it,” said Sheridan.

The team has been tapering back their typical 15 to 18 kilometre workouts in preparation for the big day.

“[We] are focusing on recover for the race, and more about nutrition this week than mileage. Lots of carbs,” said Pattison.

Not only are the Golden Hawks recovering from the previous week’s workouts, but they are also recovering from a couple of injury issues at the OUA Championship.

“Everyone’s ready to run nationals, I think we’re all pretty confident moving forward,” said Sheridan of his teammate’s attitudes going into the Championship.

As mentioned, every race is different, and without any stress of getting a particular place, the Golden Hawks are going to focus on having the best performances that they can.

“When you get into the races it’s just who’s the toughest, who can last the longest, and who can just grind even when it’s cold out or muddy,” expressed Joe.

A season full of miles and carb loading has come down to this final race. The Golden Hawks are sure to show up in Kingston to that highly anticipated start line with grit and determination to then leave it all on the course.

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