AUS cross country season kicks off with STFX Invitational

Photo by Bryan Kennedy
Photo by Bryan Kennedy

(ANTIGONISH, N.S.) The AUS cross country season kicked off Saturday afternoon on the campus of STFX University at the STFX Invitational meet. The host X teams captured both men's and women's teams titles on their home course. 

Former X-Men runner and 2022 AUS silver medalist Jacob Benoit (Windsor, NS), now competing with Dalhousie where he is enrolled in an MBA program, was the overall race winner in the men's 8km event. Benoit crossed the finish line with a time of 26:57 and after the race noted, "It was great to be back at STFX, it's always a welcoming feeling and great to see some familiar faces. The atmosphere is awesome, the X Open is always one of my favorite meets and it's a great way to kick off the 2023 AUS cross country season." 

With temperatures reaching over 30 degrees, it was a warm day for the runners and Benoit acknowledged the heat was a factor in the warm-up but that "the energy of being here and being in the race helped cool me down for the start of the race, but towards the end it was really warm." 

A pair of X-Men runners came in second and third places, respectively. Jack O'Connell (Toronto, ON) was second at 27:19 while teammate Joel Gallant (Wellington, PE) was third at 27:34, sprinting down the finish chute to beat out Saint Mary's Huskies runner Rory McGarvey (Belleville, ON). Joel's brother Luc Gallant (Wellington, PE) was fifth. 

O'Connell commented that his goal was just to put himself in the race and "to come away with second place, I was really happy with that." 

When speaking to his team's overall first place performance he noted, "We were third last year at AUS and I think we've looked really great in training so far, everyone is doing well, pushing hard and stepping up their game. There's lots of encouragement and positivity on the team so it's going to be great to see what happens this season moving forward, I'm proud of my teammates." 

Joel Gallant was back to racing form, having had to sit out the 2022 season due to injury and noted that he had a lot of fun out there. "I was talking with Luc [Gallant] the whole time and he said 'Go for it' so I did and it was fun," in reference to his sprint to the finish chute.  

The X-Men earned the top spot with 24 points, having placed six runners in the top 10. Dalhousie was second with 42 points, followed by Saint Mary's (102), UPEI (110) and Moncton (117). 

In the women's team standings, the STFX X-Women tallied 15 points and had the top six finishers in the race. Rounding out the team standings was UPEI in second place with 70 points, Acadia (82) in third, followed by Dalhousie (87) and Moncton (133). 

A trio of X-Women crossed the finish line at the same time, clocking in at 32:07. Mairin Canning (Antigonish, NS), Allie Sandluck (Thorburn, NS) and Eileen Benoit (Windsor, NS) – sister to men's race winner Jacob Benoit – were three top three finishers.  

The teammates ran the entire race together and afterwards Sandluck - the 2022 AUS individual champion - commented that, "We run better when we run together so that's what we did today, even staying together at the finish." 

Canning noted, "We just stayed patient, we knew our capabilities and all ran together. Once we knew we were good with a kilometer to go we wanted to finish it together." 

"We train together so it makes sense at our home race to bring it in together," said Benoit.  

STFX teammates Eve Carreau (Truro, NS) at 32:20 and Taylor Rasmussen (Brampton, ON) at 33:01 rounded out the top five placements.  

The next meet on the AUS schedule is slated for Saturday, September 23rd in Wolfville, NS when the men and women will take to the trails at the Acadia Invitational. 

Recap courtesy Krista McKenna, STFX Athletics

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