By: Nathan Cooper
This week’s Flashback Friday features the 1997-98 men’s cross-country team.
Back Row (L-R): Al Yarr (Head Coach), Scott Simpson, Chris Evers, Pat McGrath, Alan Wright (Associate Coach), Rob Archibald (Trainer), Dan Hennigar (Assistant Coach)
Middle Row (L-R): Matt Richardson, Richard Menzies, Curtis Archibald, Mark Gardiner
Front Row (L-R): Jamie Blanchard, Tim Lindsay, Trevor Boudreau
The Dalhousie Tigers men’s cross-country team has always been highly competitive in the AUAA. Since 1972, the Tigers have won an astounding 19 Atlantic Championships. The Tigers were on a very hot streak in the mid 90’s as they took four consecutive titles from 1993 to 1996. This streak was killed by the Memorial Seahawks in 1997.
The Tigers were all set to go for the 1997-98 season and thoughts of another Championship were lingering in Coach Yarr’s mind.
It was early September, when the 1997 season began on the mosquito infested marshes at the Université de Moncton. The Dalhousie men dominated the AUAA competition, by placing both their “A” and “B” teams ahead of UNB, UdeM, SMU and St. FX. Jamie Blanchard led the way for the Tigers, finishing the 8km race seventh with a time of 26:02. Rookie Scott Simpson finished his first ever university race only 14 seconds behind the leader.
Two weeks later the Tigers were off to Antigonish to compete in the Saint Francis Xavier Open. This was the first opportunity for the Tigers to run on the AUAA course. It was also the first race that the Tigers would race against the reigning AAUU Champion Seahawks.
Although several key runners were missing, the Tigers team ran very well, placing four runners in the top ten. Leading the way for the Tigers once again, was sophomore Jamie Blanchard. Jamie finished the race sixth with a time of 33:21. Co-Captain Tim Lindsay placed 7th, Matt Richardson 9th and Brian York was 10th. The solid effort was not good enough to defeat the Seahawks but earned the Tigers second place and set-up what would be a very exciting AUAA Championship.
The next race of the season was back at home. On October 11th, the Tigers were set to host the Dalhousie Open at Point Pleasant Park. This time, the Tigers would not be denied. Blanchard continued his extraordinary form, crossing the finish line first at Point Pleasant. The Tigers had six runner finish in the top ten, including Co-Captain Trevor Boudreau finishing fourth.
On October 25th, it was back to Antigonish for the AUAA Championships. This time around, Dalhousie was running at full strength and ready to face to reigning champions. Memorial had their best team since the mid 80’s and the Championship was a battle to the end.
After 2.5km the Dal men were down eight points but then rallied and slowly began picking off Memorial runners. Several courageous sprint finishes earned Dal some valuable points, but the Tigers eventually had to settle for second.
Jamie Blanchard was yet again Dalhousie’s top finisher, placing second overall. Scott Simpson ran a very impressive race, finishing directly behind Blanchard. Simpson’s impressive season earned him AUAA rookie of the year.
The Tigers were headed to London, to compete in their final race of the season, the CIAU Championships at Western University. Over 130 athletes were competing in the race at London golf course. To no surprise, Blanchard was once again the first Tiger to cross the finish line, finishing 25th overall and defeating the AUAA Champion, Scott Young, in the process.
The Tigers took many positive learning experiences from the 1997-98 season. The team was losing two valuable and talented captains in Trevor Boudreau and Tim Lindsay. Blanchard, Simpson and Boudreau were named AUAA All-Stars.