Top News

St. F.X. cross country program finishes ‘above average’ season

Ashley Robson of the St. F.X. X-Women finished 95th, in 31.21, at the U Sports cross country championship meet in Kingston, Ontario. The X-Women finished 18th, while the X-Men raced to 16th place. CONTRIBUTED
Ashley Robson of the St. F.X. X-Women finished 95th, in 31.21, at the U Sports cross country championship meet in Kingston, Ontario. The X-Women finished 18th, while the X-Men raced to 16th place. CONTRIBUTED - Corey LeBlanc

Gillis already on recruiting trail

ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

ANTIGONISH, N.S. — When it comes to the recently-completed season for the St. F.X. cross country program, head coach Eric Gillis used the phrase “above average.”
“I am pleased with the athletes and their commitment,” the Antigonish native said.
He noted their development included personal bests and “growing confidence” in their performances.
“It has been a good year for that,” Gillis said.
The X-Men and X-Women — both second-place finishers at the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference championships — wrapped-up the 2019 campaign Nov. 9 at the U Sports national meet at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
In the men’s 10k, Antigonish native Paul MacLellan topped the White and Blue contingent, finishing 71st in the 143-person field with a time of 33.00.
Graydon Staples (90th, 33.28), Jacob Benoit (100th, 33.52), Luc Gallant (107th, 34.09), Addison Derhak (109th, 34.12), Evan Knight (118th, 34.34) and Findlay Day (123rd, 34.42) also crossed the finish line for the X-Men.
“We had higher expectations coming in,” Gillis said.
The X-Men were focused on a top-10 finish, a spot they occupied during the season in the national rankings.
“It was not our strongest race, on the whole,” Gillis said, of the X-Men’s 16th place finish in a field he described as “deep and competitive.”
He suggested their expectations may have “thrown things off a bit.”
“It is a far way off of what I thought would be a really good day; not even to where we could call it an okay day,” Gillis said. "Things didn’t come together for us.”
Gillis noted the X-Men had two weeks of strong training and brought good energy heading into the championship meet.
“It is something that we are going to have to reflect on,” he said of their performance.
Gillis said the same could be said of the X-Women and their 18th place finish.
Although they did not target a specific goal, a top-12 placing would have made them “really happy.”
That’s where they finished at U Sports in 2018, but three out of seven top runners from that X-Women contingent were not in White and Blue this campaign.
“We were running pretty strongly,” Gillis said of the X-Women’s AUS performances.
He added, like the X-Men, they did not “run a strong race, as a team.”
“There were some good individual performances, but it wasn’t enough,” Gillis said.
Antigonish native Paige Chisholm was the top X-Women finisher, placing 78th in a field of 154 runners, while clocking a 30.54 on the 8k course.
Jane Hergett (93rd, 31.20), Ashley Robson (95th, 31.21), Breanna Sandluck (121st, 32.08), Zoe Johnston (137th, 32.42), Ellen Taggart (141st, 33.04) and Aidan MacDonald (143rd, 33.12) also ran for the X-Women.
When performance falls short of expectations, he said, “it is never a nice feeling.”
But the quality training heading into nationals can be taken as a “positive.”
“We will learn from the experience,” he added.

Recruiting trail 
Gillis said recruiting is “going quite well” with the X-Women.
“Although we don’t have any commitments, in talking with other coaches at U Sports (meet), they are in a similar boat,” he added.
Gillis noted most high school student-athletes make their university choices around Christmastime. 
During the week between the AUS and U Sports championship meets, the program welcomed nine of the top Grade 11 and 12 runners in Atlantic Canada for a campus visit.
“It was really positive,” Gillis said.
On the men’s side, he explained, there has been “more individual recruiting,” including talks with a couple of runners from both Alberta and Ontario, along with local prospects.
“Again, we have no one committed, but we feel good about things,” Gillis said.
As for recruiting, the three-time Canadian Olympian said he has become more comfortable with the process in his second season at the helm of the X program.
He has struck a greater balance between the “here and now,” and everything involved with the program, along with attracting and bringing in student athletes.
“I have been able to put more of my energy into the long term,” Gillis said.
 

Recent Stories