UTM Eagles varsity cross country has beguns its second varsity season as a member of the Ontario College Athletic Association.

The 2015 Eagles squad has 14 men and women. Since the end of August, their 12 practices have prepared them well for their upcoming meets.

Their first event was on September 19 at Fanshawe College in London. Based on the results, the team has shown improvement from last year. The top runner for the men’s team is Haseeb Malik, a first-year computer science student. Malik finished 11th out of the 69 participants; as a result of his performance, the men’s team landed fifth place overall.

“This is the highest UTM has placed since it first started participating in the OCAA,” says Malik. “My goal is to finish in the top 25 individually in the men’s 8-km.

“Our women’s team is looking very strong with the track and field runners like first-year Katie Hill and returning runner Ayah Abdeldayam,” he adds.

Women’s runner Katie Hill, a first-year majoring in sociology, expresses her enthusiasm for the team, saying, “It is a fantastic opportunity to represent UTM’s varsity cross country team at such a competitive level.”

When doing an extracurricular activity such as a varsity sport, it is understandable that students will face some difficulties in balancing academics and their extracurriculars. Both Malik and Hill are first-year students that are not only going through a big transition from high school to university, but are also faced with the challenges of balancing schoolwork and cross country.

“As a first-year student, it can be difficult handling school work and training while trying to adjust to a new school environment. However, the team and coaches are both engaging and understanding and help guide managing training and classes,” says Hill.

Malik emphasizes that teamwork is essential when it comes to time management. “Considering most of our team are first-year students, having student athletes that are also trying to balance their time and studies is beneficial because we can communicate strategies and tips between each other that may be useful,” he says.

According to both runners, the varsity cross country team introduced them to a way to socialize at UTM, making the adjustment to university enjoyable.

The team trains Monday and Thursday evenings. Returning runner Ayah Abdeldayam, a third-year biology student, says, “Being on a running team can have its difficulties because a lot of the running you have to do is on your own time. Aside from the twice-a-week practices, we are expected to run on our own for the other days as well.”

With this type of physical exertion on the body, injuries are part of the challenges athletes face in this sport. Malik says, “We run a lot of mileage during practice and outside of practice—I run about 70–80 km a week in total.”

Abdeldayam is an injury-prone athlete and tends to get injured a lot; these injuries prevented her from going on to nationals, and she only raced at provincials.

“I’ve been having trouble with shin splints, and do cross-training to prepare for races,” she says. “The team, coaches, and the athletic department are very supportive.”

Malik says that in case of injury, “we have the athletic therapist at the clinic in the RAWC available for us if aid is required”.

The cross country team is scheduled to head out to St. Lawrence College in Brockville on Saturday and to Seneca King Campus in Toronto on October 24. Based on the results from those two meets, the coach, Adam Hassen, will select his final six men and six women to compete in the OCAA and CCAA championships.

The OCAA championship will be held at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie on October 31. The CCAA championships (top five teams and top 25 individuals) will be at St. Lawrence College in Brockville on November 14.