By Kirk Jessome
Despite a number of fresh faces on its championship roster, the Tigers women’s cross country team was able to come together and claim their seventh consecutive AUS banner this season.
Led by fifth-year transfer Catherine Thompson, the Tigers roster was a new-look squad comprised of young runners and veteran transfer students. Joining Thompson in their final years of eligibility were Emma Moore and Kamylle Frenette who capped off their careers with great seasons, while Jessica Needham had a breakout season in her second year of eligibility.
Also joining the team was a large group of first and second-year runners including Emily Hamilton, Renata Kingston and Lauren Lowther who stepped up to the start line for their first seasons in the AUS.
AUS coach of the year Rich Lehman talked about just how new the group was as teammates, and to the conference.
“The seven athletes we had on the line at the conference championship had never run a step together until our training camp in August,” explains Lehman. “Not a single person on our roster had ever scored on a championship team.”
With the cancellation of the SMU/DAL Invitational due to Hurricane Dorian, the Tigers opened the season at the StFX Cross Country Invitational. There, Thompson emerged as the Tigers top finisher in the race, earning a third-place finish, with Hamilton and Kingston not far behind, crossing the line in fifth and sixth place, respectively.
The team took home a second-place finish behind StFX, but their performance was strong enough to rank them in the 10th spot of the U SPORTS Top 10 ranking.
In the final tune up ahead of the AUS championship, the squad competed in their first eight-kilometer race of the season at the AUS/RSEQ Interlock meet hosted by l’Université de Montréal.
Once again, Thompson was the top finisher for the Tigers, crossing the line in 13th place while Hamilton was just a few seconds behind her in 20th. Rounding out the point scorers for the Tigers were Needham (30th), Moore (46th), Kingston (47th), Lowther (50th) and Frenette (56th).
The Tigers were able to battle to a sixth-place finish as a team in a tight competition that included three of the top five schools in the U SPORTS Top 10.
It all came together for the Tigers at the AUS championship. Thompson once again had a great performance to earn herself a bronze medal, while Hamilton and Needham both finished inside the top 10 at 6th and 8th. Thompson and Hamilton earned AUS all-star honours.
With all five of the Tigers scorers finishing in the top 20, they were able to bring home what Coach Lehman calls his most memorable AUS banner yet.
“They had nine weeks to come together as a team to win a banner, and the fact that they did it still blows me away. It was probably the most fun and rewarding experience I’ve ever had as a coach.”
Two weeks later, the Tigers ended the season with a 14th place team finish at the U SPORTS championship hosted by Queen’s. Thompson led the way for Dalhousie, crossing the line in 51st place with Hamilton seconds behind in 53rd.
With a developing young roster, the Tigers can only continue to get better from here.