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Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017
Surprisingly rapid re-loading of L.U. cross country program
2016-10-30
by Randy Pascal

The Laurentian Voyageurs women’s cross country team rode a senior wave of success one year ago, putting together the best season, from a team perspective, in program history. But with graduation removing three top-end runners from the mix, and injury sidetracking another, expectations coming into 2016 were somewhat more subdued.

All of which makes the realistic shot that the ladies plan to take at making a return visit to nationals all that more improbable. “I thought we would have at least a year where we would have to catch up a little bit, your typical rebuilding year,” noted head coach Dick Moss. “I’ve been truly pleasantly surprised.”

Understandably so. While there are certainly some traditional elements of the natural progression of post-secondary athletes at play within the team, there are also a handful of unconventional newcomers – perhaps none more unconventional than Jenny Bottomley.

A fifth year Concurrent Education student at Laurentian, the 21 year old native of Newmarket was “quasi-recruited” by team member Michelle Kennedy roughly a year ago, while running on a treadmill.

“She got me in contact with the coach, and I started training with the team,” said Bottomley. In and of itself, the jump from recreational runner to top five team member would defy traditional logic. But throw in the fact that the Sports Psychology undergraduate major had no previous serious running experience, in track and field or cross-country, and it’s clear that Bottomley is beating the odds.

“I competed in summer and winter biathlon, through the cadet program, throughout high school, and played rugby, but no serious running,” she said. “It was a huge jump. The mileage was something that I was definitely not used to. But with the summer of training, the coach had said that a reasonable goal for me would be to break twenty minutes (for a 5 km run).”

“I was able to do that, so I have to make some new goals now.” Teammate Megan Crocker, now in her third year with the team, has followed only a slightly more traditional route to success than Bottomly.

A student in the Outdoor Adventure & Leadership program, Crocker joined residence floormate Nicole Rich as basic “walk ons” to the team back in 2014, with both young ladies now among the regular point producers, for the Voyageurs.

“I was a multi-sport athlete who would do a bit of everything,” explained the 21 year-old native of Mississauga. “I would just run to keep fit for those sports. Running only became a primary sport once I got here.”

Still, there is something to be said for the benefit of simply tackling the schedule that a well experienced coaching staff sends your way. “I hadn’t run more than a 25-minute run, so just the act of running every day, that kind of commitment to getting out and doing it was the biggest challenge,” said Crocker. “Eventually, when I got into the program and followed it properly, then I saw the improvement.”

“With our program, we usually find that third year is where the runners start to really put things together,” Moss agreed. “You get two years of good training, and in second year, they really get the hang of running at the OUA level. In third year, things really click.”

Throw in the veteran presence of Marissa Lobert, and the continued development of sophomores Nicole Hessels and Jessie Nusselder, and maybe, just maybe, a berth at the CIS Championships in Laval on November 12th is not that far-fetched after all.

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