Kelowna, B.C. – In the first ever U SPORTS cross country race both of the UBC Okanagan teams delivered victories. UBC Okanagan was accepted to compete in cross country at the U SPORTS level this past June after seven years in the CCAA.
The dual meet was an invitational race between UBCO and Thompson Rivers, the women raced at noon on Saturday in Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna in a six-kilometre loop. The men ran an eight-kilometre track in the park with a 1 p.m. start. The women scored 12 points compared the WolfPack's 25 and the men for the Heat finished with 14 points, TRU 12.
Veronika Fagan continued her winning ways from last year and placed first, the fourth year nursing student from West Kelowna finished the race in a time of 23:33. The UBCO team finished first, second, third before e 'Pack runner crossed. Brittany Webster, was the second (24:09), and Sierra Cooper (26:55) pulled in third. Kendra Murray (27:02) was the top TRU runner.
Heat coach John Machuga was pleased with the results noting that first year runner Brittany Webster impressed and was the only athlete to go with the early pace set by Veronika. "They ran together until shortly before half way. Brittany ran strongly to secure second place."
Webster is a first year runner for the Heat but was an Canadian Olympian in cross country skiing in 2010 and 2014
Machuga was also impressed by first year UBC Okanagan student Sierra Cooper who battled and held off with TRU veteran Kendra Murray before prevailing in the final two kilometres.
The rest of the UBC Okanagan women ran as a pack. Nikki Chamberlain had her best race in a UBC Okanagan singlet and emerged from the pack to place sixth.
Chamberlain's finish finalised the victory for the UBCO team.
Veronika Fagan was happy to get the season underway, the back-to-back UBC Okanagan athlete of the year had this to say following the race.
"It felt good to have my first race of the season and start racing it motivates me even more for Nationals and my future races and I'm excited for future races with my team and to travel with this amazing group."
"Knowing that we can compete with an established U SPORTS team and win is encouraging as a new team moving up," were her thoughts on the new league and challenge.
A national champion last year Fagan found herself pushed in the race on Saturday by an Olympian, as teammate Britany Webster finished less than a minute after Fagan.
"For the first one kilometre Brittany and I were together trying to push the pack, after that everyone raced their own race and it was pretty spread out. It was awesome to run with Brittany for the first kilometre, she has a lot of racing experience as an Olympian and knows how to push herself"
It was a great day with perfect weather but there was a five minute delay to the start of the race from a black bear wandering around on the course. The Bear was spotted at the starting line by Fagan just 100 metres from the line. Fagan didn't say she ran faster and it may or may not have affected the speed of the runners but Fagan said she was checking every corner to make sure there was no bear.
John Machuga noted that the event was helped by the generosity of the Vernon Amateur Athletic Association who provided equipment and volunteers for the race while the Kelowna Running club stepped up at the last minute and provided a needed display clock.
This race, hosted by UBCO will count for the Cup and this race was the first event on the women's side. UBCO leads the women's series 1-0. The next stage will come this weekend for the start of the 'home and home' women's soccer derby. First up, a match on Thursday (Oct 4) with a 6 pm kickoff at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops, BC.