The Stingers cross-country team ran through the finish line of their 2011 season in Quebec City on Saturday.
It was a long season of ups and downs for the team, with everyone involved being proud of what they accomplished, but also hoping to improve on things in the future.
“We had a good season,” said coach John Lofranco. “Considering the men were one of only three Stingers fall sports teams to finish the regular season with a winning record, I’d say we did well.”
Individually, captain Ryan Noel-Hodge had the best season of any runner, despite having his year marred by illness. Even after some strong performances, Noel-Hodge was still frustrated with how his season went. “I seem to always be struck with bad luck,” he said.
Noel-Hodge finished sixth at the University of Western Ontario invitational, a race featuring strong competition. Unfortunately he was never able to build on the momentum. “After that result things went downhill for me. Because of a stubborn cold and conditions that deprived me of good sleep, I was unable to train properly and to race to my full potential,” he said.
Noel-Hodge believed that had he been healthy he would have been a favourite to win the RSEQ provincial title. He instead finished in ninth place, one behind teammate Sofiane Guend.
Guend was in his last year as a Stinger and described the provincial championship as his “best race”.
At Sunday’s national championships, Noel-Hodge finished 47th out of 134 runners. He was also the fourth Quebec runner to cross the finish line, which is an improvement from his finish at provincials. He was still a bit disappointed, though. “My performance was not what I had originally set out to accomplish,” he said. “But I’m walking away from this season knowing that I’ve gotten stronger, and satisfied that I did what I did with the setbacks that I’ve had.”
Guend finished in 78th while Simon Driver finished 85th, running a memorable race to close an inspirational season.
“Simon Driver ran his guts out, literally. He puked as he crossed the line,” said Lofranco. “He’s a father of two young kids and that has kept his training to a minimum, so it was pretty impressive for him to have been able to pull off the run that he did.”
On the women’s side Dominique Roy had the highest finish of any of the Concordia women, placing 34th. Roy also had an impressive third place finish at the provincial championship.
Roy has battled a diaphragm problem all season, but was commended by her coach for improving her mental toughness over the course of the year.
The 2011 season was also a great learning experience for first-year runner Molly Howes, who made the transition to cross-country from soccer.
“It’s all really new to me,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed every second, even when I’m having an off day or the workout is really tough. I feel really lucky to be part of such a great team.”
Howes finished 120th at nationals, but her coach is expecting she will only go up from there. “With a full year of running-specific training behind her, she is going to be dangerous next year,” said Lofranco.