By Kirk Jessome
It was a big year of recruiting for Tigers cross country coach Rich Lehman, adding plenty of talent to a pair of young rosters as the men’s and women’s cross country teams gear up for another successful season on the trails.
With the graduation of Michelle Reddy, Sophie Watts and Ellen Chappell, the Tigers are now without their top four finishers from last season, but Coach Lehman has plenty of faith in the development of his returning athletes.
“I’m very confident in the group we have to extend our AUS winning streak to seven,” says Lehman. “Jessica Needham’s improvement curve has been so steep over the last eight months it’s practically a straight line. Girls like Georgia Waller and Brooklyn Rawlyk have another year of experience and will have to step up this year if we are to get it done.”
The small returning group means that there are opportunities for fresh faces to the Tigers to make an immediate impact. This includes fifth-year StFX transfer student Catherine Thompson, one of the most dangerous runners in the conference for the last few seasons.
Also joining the Tigers this season will be Lauren Lowther. Coming from a high school program with a history of producing very talented distance runners, Lowther joins the Tigers after helping the Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School team to back-to-back provincial titles with her fifth-place finish last season.
“Lauren is an extremely smart runner who shows poise in challenging situations in a way that I’ve rarely seen in a rookie,” remarks Lehman. “I won’t be surprised if Lauren is scoring for us by midway through the season.”
With some valuable pieces being added to the roster, the young Tigers team appears ready to make a run at their seventh-consecutive AUS championship title.
On the men’s team, the arrival of three new recruits has been much anticipated. All three members of the 2019-20 recruiting class come from the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association (OFSAA), one of the toughest conferences for track and field or cross country in North America.
Daniel Rosen, Will Cox and Aidan Goslett all come to the Tigers with impressive resumés in the sport. Rosen ended his high school career by placing 18th at the OFSAA championship, while Cox was able to secure a bronze medal at the national championship last season. All three will have an immediate impact on the AUS conference.
“This year was by far our best distance recruiting class since I’ve had since I came to Dal,” says Lehman. “Will, Daniel, and Aidan have shown they’re ready to compete at this level, and with the addition of transfer Jonathan Goodridge, this team is competitive down to our 13th or 14th guy.”
Returning to the roster for his third season is the Tigers top finisher last year, James Cromack. Finishing just off the podium at the AUS championship last season, Cromack will look to contend for a medal this year to help his team reclaim the conference title.
Also returning to the team are Callum Drever for his fifth and final season and third-year runner Hudson Grimshaw-Surette. Both Drever and Grimshaw-Surette have championship experience, being the only two members on the roster from the Tigers 2017 conference victory. Both runners will bring quality leadership to an otherwise very young training group.
“Hudson has been a great championship racer for as long as I’ve been watching him, and as expected when we recruited him, he has developed into a tremendous leader very early in his career,” says Lehman. “That said, we’ll also be leaning on Callum Drever who has competed in four U SPORTS championships, more than anyone else on our roster.”
The young Tigers squad is looking to reclaim the AUS title this season, and both teams will begin the hunt for the conference banner on September 21st at the AUS Invitational meet hosted by StFX.