Story By: Jake Thomson
BLAINVILLE, QC: With big expectations, the Humber Hawks men's and women's cross country teams returned to the CCAA National championships this past weekend, hosted by Cegep Lionel-Groulx, and left very satisfied.
Although failing to produce a podium finish on either women's or men's side, they yielded a slew of incredible individual performances, reinforcing to themselves and to the rest of the country that this team can break through on any given day.
The women's 6 kilometre race started the day off. Individual champion Veronika Fagan of UBCO, got the women off to a speedy start. The Hawk's Kaitlin Shuvera, a member of the All-Ontario First Team, did not back down from the challenge, hanging in with the top 10 girls as they continued to push the pace on what was an extremely fast and flat course. In traditional Hawk fashion, the rest of the girls chose to hang on to each other and run in a group. Coming into the final stretch of the race all of the athletes turned it on. With the yells of encouragement from team captain Coby Phillips (sidelined by injury) and the entire Humber men's team, Shuvera finished 11th in a time of 22:45, one spot away from repeating as an All-Canadian. Teammate Kate Morgan was given the daunting task of pacing her teammates for as much of the race as possible and did not disappoint, finishing 66th in a time of 24:50. Maxine Cotton and Marcia Coelho were not too far behind, each outkicking at least 4 athletes in the final 150 metres. The dynamic duo finished in 75th and 76th respectively in times of 25:16 and 25:17. Patricia Rothenburg found herself in a big role in her first year with the team and came through in 93rd with a time of 25:57, being pushed by teammate Danielle Dupuis in 102nd, in 26:10. With 187 total points scored, the women finished in 11th in the final team standings. Only Fanshawe was able to better the Hawks from teams competing from the OCAA.
The men were not aware of just how deep the field was they would be facing, but they stepped up in a big way. Posting five new personal bests (PB) with the one team member just seconds off of a new PB. The men's leaders followed suit and got the athletes off to a blazing start in their 8 kilometre race. The top 4 scorers for the Hawks were separated only by only 15 seconds. Aaron Veenstra led the group, placing 40th with a time of 27:29 (PB), followed by Shawn Acrey in 49th with a time of 27:40 (PB). Jake Thomson in 50th with 27:41 (PB) was chased down by Simon Wells in 51st in a time of 27:44 (7 seconds off of PB). The team's displacers also yielded incredible results, with Chris Tomlinson placing 60th in 28:04, and Graiden Maynard in 73rd with a time of 28:30. The men came together for a total of 175 points to place 8th as a group, and the third highest placing team out of Ontario.
The team will graduate a number of athletes this year, most notably their 5th year team captains, Coby Phillips and Jake Thomson. Phillips who ended up missing most of the season due to an ankle injury will still leave Humber with a resume comparable to some of Humber's all-time greats in the sport. She collected 5 OCAA Provincial team medals (2 silver, 3 gold), an individual medal (bronze – 2014), and four straight years of being named All-Ontario. Coby also posted a 5 kilometre PB of 20:07, and when the CCAA switched the sanctioned distance for women to 6 kilometres, she quickly transitioned and found herself a PB of 27:21. Thomson will be leaving Humber as a member of a team that collected 4 provincial team medals (3 silver, 1 gold), a national silver (2013), and was a member of the first national gold in program history (2014). Thomson ended his career this weekend with an 8 kilometre PB of 27:41.