UBC’s Okanagan campus fielded its first real cross country team since becoming the Heat and this year sent ten athletes to the CCAA Championships hosted by Thomson Rivers University on November 12th. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished 13th out of 14 teams represented at the championships across the four CCAA conferences. The PACWEST conference finished last compared to the other three, with an average time of 29:38 (2:28:11 total) for the men and an average of 21:51 (1:49:17) for the men. The men’s race was 8km while the women’s was 6km.
Still, for the Heat’s inaugural run- figuratively and literally- they had a good showing and solid team effort. “They did well as a team and actually placed quite well together,” commented coach Nathan Reiter after both races had finished.
David Harbocian led the men’s team with a 29:29 finish of the 8km race, placing 55th overall. Aurelien Schilles was close behind alongside fellow teammate Alex Hansen, who both finished 29:52 and 30:01, respectively for 62nd and 63rd. Within the same pack of runners at the finish line was Garrett Anstett and Cameron Kroeker, who finished at 65th and 67th, but both finished with a time of 30:08. Matt Redekopp came in shortly after at 73rd with a time of 30:33 while Matt Banfield brought up anchor for his team at 101st and 32:41. There were 112 runners and a final time of 39:05 for the men’s race.
“The guys had a great same day team running,” said men’s coach Nate Reiter. “They came within fifteen spots of each other, which is what we were looking for. They ran really tough in the second half of the race.
Ashley Yip was first across the finish line for the women’s team, finishing 33rd overall with a time of 20:51. Shayla Milan followed shortly after at 21:37 to place at 49th. Samantha Hayter came in at 22:04, good for 61st and Britney Hearn wrapped things up for the Heat at 67th to record 22:13.
The course was at MacArthur Park in Kamloops, and consisted of a loop on the field behind the MacArthur Island Sports Centre. The loop was 2km long, and so the women completed three laps for their 6km and the men four for their 8km. The course was nearly entirely flat with only a few dips and small hills.
Comparing the race to a tougher terrain experience at the PACWEST championships, Ashley Yip commented that “provincials was a shorter race and had a lot more hills … so we could actually have a game plan for the race. This one we pretty much just had to hammer hard.”
“I’m used to hilly cross country courses. The pace today was quick,” Matt Banfield commented after his race. His sentiments were echoed by the rest of his teammates, as both teams admitted that the course was challenging with its faster pace and use of a few “sharp turns” and bottlenecks that created a “funnel effect”, according to Sam Hayter.
Despite an unfamiliar terrain for the course and cold conditions for some, all of the runners enjoyed their time and were happy for the opportunity. “It was tough, but I did enjoy it,” Banfield concluded.
The story of the Heat’s cross country for this season was a quick one, taking place over only approximately seven or eight weeks in total. Coach Nate Reiter details a brief history of how it all came together: “Nikki [Reiter, women’s coach] and I moved out to Kelowna in August. We were previously living in China and decided to come to Kelowna when Nikki got hired on as a Lab Coordinator for the Human Kinetics program. We both competed in university athletics [Nate at U of Windsor, Nikki at McMaster] and wanted to continue to be involved in sport. We both coached with the Windsor Legion Track and Field Club and wanted to continue coaching.
When we arrived in Kelowna we made a few contacts, including Rob Johnson. Some students approached Rob about cross country and we were put in contact with Brian Rhodes. At first he had a small group (3-4 athletes) but this quickly grew after word travelled. By the end of the seasons the group was around 15-20 athletes. We were fortunate enough to receive the support of UBC Okanagan and were given the opportunity to compete at the CCAA championships.”
Reflecting on the season past, he added that “Based on the limited training, the athletes performed well. However, we are optimistic about our athletes’ progress with another year of training.”
Nikki also added that “the opportunity has been really great, and we just want to give the Athletics Department a big thanks for letting us be here today, and for giving our athletes this great experience. I think they are a little humble, but they are also ready to get ready for next year.”
The runners have echoed their coaches’ gratitude, and give thanks to their coaches for the opportunity as well.
“I give a lot of credit to our coaches, who are new but really stoked on the program,” said Matt Redekopp after the race.
Many of the runners will be returning to UBC’s Okanagan campus next year for further studies, and when asked if they would participate on the team again, the unanimous answer was “absolutely.”