Just one month after the 2018 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) Cross Country schedule began, George Brown College faced its final tune-up race before the OCAA Championships.
With the ground still damp from the previous night's rain, Oct. 13's Centennial Invitational was a rather nippy affair, the kind of day which well and truly announces fall's arrival.
"It was very cold," Huskies women's runner Leanne Sanders said with a laugh after the race. "Getting back into the cross country season is always exciting, and getting into these colder weather races, it's a huge change from practices. It's like adding a whole new element that we haven't been training for, because we can't train for it unless it's cold, and it hasn't been."
Whether it was the 11 a.m. women's 6 km, three lap race or the men's 8 km, four lap run which followed at noon, those aforementioned weather conditions didn't keep GBC from making improvements across the board.
The women's race saw Sanders (22nd, 26:53.5) and Huskies veteran Angelee Weathers run neck and neck throughout the course, followed by teammates Madeline Christenson (48th, 29:54.1) and Marta Kierkus (59th, 31:51.6).
Without a doubt, the combination of Sanders and Weathers gives George Brown a strong one-two punch up front. On the course, the competition between them has formed a productive partnership, one where each benefits from challenging the other.
"Angelee is very strong on her hills," praised Sanders. "That's something that I've always had to work on, so even just having her on those hills, seeing her go past me and that kind of stuff definitely helps push me.
"You change positions and you just tuck in with them and it's something comfortable, it sets you into a nice little pace. To have somebody around is really nice."
On the men's side, George Brown was paced by captain Garrick Loewen (12th, 28:22.6), followed by Jacob Dzieciol (46th, 31:07.3). Sebastian Suarez (81st, 34:30.8), Devang Joshi (98th, 38:12.6), Neil Caoile (99th, 38:31.0) and Terry Humber (106th, 42:07.9) rounded out the Huskies pack.
"We've had some big improvements by some of the guys," said Loewen, who encouraged the entire GBC squad to keep their eyes on the provincials prize. "They're starting to understand the culture of running, what it takes, how it's more of a fitness sport and less of a skill-based sport. They're starting to realize that the harder you work in practice, the better it is come racing."
Loewen also praised his head coach, Nelson Njeru, citing the experienced international marathon runner's strong training program, understanding of racing strategy and overall being "a pool of knowledge." That feeling of appreciation was mirrored by Njeru, who beamed when speaking of his captain.
"(Loewen) being of his caliber, we are very, very happy," enthused Njeru. "He's a bold runner. We appreciate his efforts to bring the team closer to winning. If they follow his instructions as the captain, and try to emulate how he's training, because he's a very disciplined athlete, he has enough endurance, he has enough experience to motivate the other runners. I value very much his inclusion on the team."
The Huskies cross country team next competes at the OCAA Championships on Oct. 27. Click here for a complete schedule and previous results.