Runners take their mark
BY IAN ROSS
The regular season has become ancient history for the Western cross country runners. It will be now or never for the Mustangs when they take on the rest of Ontario at the provincial championship in Windsor this weekend.
Ranked no. 1 in the country and failing to lose against any Canadian competition all season, the women's team has made great strides and appears set to capture their first title in four years. Six of seven runners are returning from last year's Ontario University Athletics title race, giving the club a solid level of national experience.
Head coach Bob Vigars is optimistic the women will cross the line early and often at the meet. In addition to their performance thus far, he cited part of his reasoning on the fact that their high ranking and increased expectations have not effected the team's focus.
"Fortunately with the women they never read the paper," Vigars said. "Over my years in coaching, I have noticed that there are differences between them and the guys. They don't get as easily heady as the guys."
Lacking this additional stress, Western will look to Robyn Hurley, Becky Martyn and Kristina Farr to finish strong against some tough competition from Guelph and Queen's.
Guelph coach Dave Scott-Thomas, who led his team to a national championship last year, admitted it will be difficult to dethrone the Mustangs.
"Western is the strongest without a doubt," Scott-Thomas said, "We would need an exceptional day to beat them."
While the women enter the meet as the favourites, the men will be looking to pull off a huge underdog upset. Ranked fourth in Ontario, the team will need a great effort from its front five to place in the medals. Western athletes Jim Wardle, Charles Murphy and Jason Eddy will need to run the race of their lives with a group of young, inexperienced runners rounding out the top five.
"We would love to pull off a couple upsets," Murphy said, "but we really want to make sure we stay in the top four."
On paper, Guelph, Windsor and Queen's should finish the race in a tight battle for the men's overall championship according to Queen's coach Shane Lakins.
"The guys side is so deep with talent. Not a lot separates the top three teams," Lakins added.
The winner and losers will be known on Saturday after the runners take their mark at Malden Park in Windsor. The women get started at 1 p.m., while the men begin at 1:40 p.m..