Gee-Gees prepare for first tournament of the year

The Gee-Gees cross-country team is gearing up for their first meet of the year, the McGill Invitational, set to take place on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The 2016-17 season proved strong for the Gees, and there will be multiple student-athletes looking to build on last year’s strong finishes. Now in her fourth year with the Gee-Gees, Katie Phillips will be looking to make it to the national tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Phillips had the best finish for the Gees last year, placing 25th at the national meet.

The top male finisher last year was Alex Berhe, coming in 61st at the national meet. Berhe is currently entering his final year of eligibility with the Gees.  

Training for a cross-country meet can be a challenge, since every course is different. According to Ph. D candidate and second-year Gee-Gee Jennifer Dumoulin, “You never really know what you’re getting and there’s so many things you can’t control. So you can’t control the terrain. We often don’t know before we hit a course how hilly it’s going to be. We do get to see the course usually the day before our meet or before we race it, in the morning.”

Dumoulin added that the weather poses further uncertainty to every meet.

“It could be super sunny in Ottawa and we’ve been training in warm weather, and then all of a sudden we hit Quebec City or Sherbrooke or something and it’s pouring rain, or really windy. And that changes not only the conditions that you’re running in—in terms of the temperature—but also the terrain itself.”

The cross-country season consists of a number of invitational tournaments in October, with the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship coming on Oct. 29, and nationals, for those who qualify, on Nov. 11. Of note this year is that the women’s race has been extended from 6km to 8km.

However, if there’s one cross-country event to mark your calendar with, Dumoulin says it’s the Gee-Gees home meet on Oct. 14.

“We had our home meet in October of last year, and we spent part of a day organizing a event for local high schools, and they come out and they do their things in the morning, and then in the afternoon we run our event.”

“We started on a path around a playground and we ended up going uphill. We were on the track. For a little bit we were on the beach. We were on some flat grass. They set up obstacles like hay bales. So it was a race that was meant to be competitive, but it was also a lot of fun.”

While the rigours of training and the unknown environment may not make cross-country seem appealing to everyone, Dumoulin maintains that for her it’s the challenge that makes running enjoyable and worthwhile.

“It’s exciting to tackle something without really knowing what you’re getting into, and I think it allows you to grow as a person and as an athlete to take on those kinds of challenges.”