September 14, 2016…Calgary-The St. Mary’s cross-country running team opened their season this past Saturday in Edmonton, making a little Lightning Athletics history along the way.

With just their third year in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC), this season marks the first time the University has fielded both full men’s and women’s teams, with nine female runners and six males.

Despite filling a men’s team their first season in the ACAC, the Lightning were unable to recruit any female runners in 2014-2015, while the following season brought two males and two females. To be able to score as a ‘team’, a minimum of four runners per gender is required, otherwise runners score individually.

After taking over the cross-country running program late last summer, head coach Donna Dixon’s long term goal was to have enough runners to fill both men’s and women’s teams to compete in 2016-2017. Dixon had a successful off-season of recruiting, with the help of her returning runners Randi Thiessen (2nd year, Calgary, Bachelor of Education), Tanis Lefebvre (2nd year, Calgary, Liberal Studies) and Logan Pearce (2nd year, Calgary, General Studies).  Dixon also enlisted in the help of new assistant coach Chris Coy, who brings a wealth of experience as a former coach of the Calgary Olympic Track and Field Club.

Pleased with the results of a busy recruiting season, Dixon is excited about the growth of her program.

“I’m thrilled to have scoring teams of men and women this year. They are a great group of student-athletes, supporting and pushing each other.  I’m excited to see what we can accomplish as a team this season and beyond.”  says  Dixon.

Not returning this year is two-time Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) competitor Chris White-Gloria, who is now pursuing his education at the University of Calgary.

Saturday’s race was hosted by Concordia University on a challenging course at Tiger Goldstick Park in Edmonton, the first ACAC Grand Prix of the season.

First year Lightning athlete and former University of Lethbridge swimmer Brooke Whitaker (5th year, Calgary, Liberal Arts) was the first to cross the finish line for the Lightning in the women’s 5 km race at 26:36, with Thiessen coming in just behind her at 26:54.  Whitaker and Thiessen finished 20th and 21st respectively amongst all ACAC runners.

Returning runner from 2014-2015 Matthew Mundy had an incredible first race back, finishing fifth among ACAC runners in the men’s 8 km with a time of 33:17.

The Lightning will return to the course this Saturday September 17th at Canmore Park in Calgary, hosted by SAIT and St. Mary’s University. The women’s starting gun will go at 12:00 p.m., followed by the men at 1:00 p.m.

Women’s 5Km 5Km Time Men’s 8Km 8Km Time
Bethany Topping 24:37 Matt Mundy 33:17
Brooke Whitaker 26:36 Matt Holler
40:27
Randi Thiessen 26:54 Logan Pearce 40:28
Erin McQuitty 27:40 Philip Taylor-Smith 40:31
Myroslava Koval 30:09
Kim McEwan 30:10
Tanis Lefebvre 32:00
Leah Nel 42:38

About St. Mary’s University

St. Mary’s University is a Catholic post-secondary, student-focused liberal arts and sciences teaching and research institution. St. Mary’s offers Bachelor of Arts degrees, a Bachelor of Science degree, a Bachelor of Education (Elementary) degree, and courses in 35 academic disciplines. For more information, visit www.stmu.ca