UTM participated in its first OCAA competition as the Varsity Eagles last month at Seneca’s King City campus for the varsity cross country team’s third meet of the year.
After a quick round of tryouts in the second week of September and only five weeks of training, the nine members that formed UTM’s first venture into varsity braved the fall temperatures to announce their arrival in the OCAA.
“I think the team did extremely well,” says head coach Adam Hassen.
Hassen came to UTM over the summer after the varsity athletics program was announced. With five years of coaching experience as an assistant at George Brown, Hassen understood the level of competition at the OCAA level and brought his expertise to UTM.
The main concern going into the meet was the lack of training compared to other colleges. Since UTM is a university in a league mainly consisting of colleges, which begin training in middle or late August, there was a slight disadvantage for the Eagles in terms not only of assembling a squad but also of preparing them for this level of competition.
“I was very happy with their performances,” says Hassen, who admits that since this was UTM’s first foray into the OCAA he did not have high expectations. “I just wanted our name to be out there; I wanted everyone to finish and achieve personal bests, and most of them did.”
Despite this being UTM’s first race, there were performances worthy of mention.
First-year student Lauren Brewster placed 22nd overall and was the top female athlete for UTM with a time of 23:31, which was good enough to qualify for nationals in Calgary. Although she has qualified, Brewster will not attend, based on recommendation from her coach, who believes there is still some preparation needed before participating at the national level.
“My focus right now is building up my mileage and focusing on getting my speed up,” says Brewster, who is majoring in management. Brewster’s ultimate goal is to improve her speed for next season so she can qualify once again for nationals and represent UTM.
Sam Dumcum finished 76th overall and second on UTM’s men’s team, less than 30 seconds behind UTM’s Yi Han. Dumcum was lucky enough to be invited by Seneca in early October to participate in a race, which allowed him to prepare for the obstacles he’d encounter during the run: hills.
He echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying he was proud of his teammates for finishing with such strong times in their first OCAA outing and is excited about the future of the program with so many first-year runners on the team.
The team will be participating in some indoor track meets during the winter and could participate in spring races. In the meantime, Hassen looks to focus on strength in order to have his team ready to compete against the elite in the OCAA.
“It was a great start to our program,” he says. “With all of our runners returning next year, I guarantee better performances and results.”
This article has been updated from the print version. It originally read that it was the team’s first meet of the year, but it was the third.