October 28, 2016…Calgary, AB – With three Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Grand Prix races under their belts, the St. Mary’s Lightning cross-country running team has their sights set on the ACAC Cross-Country Championships taking place this Saturday in Grand Prairie.

While this is the third season the program will enter the championship race, this year marks the first time the institution will send both a men’s and women’s team to compete Saturday, an exciting achievement for second year head coach Donna Dixon and first year assistant coach Chris Coy.

xc_snowguys“It’s an important milestone for the St. Mary’s Cross Country program to have both men’s and women’s teams at Provincials for the first time. I think they will be competitive and can improve on their current team rankings.” says Dixon.

St. Mary’s only entered the ACAC cross-country running scene in 2014 with a four-man running team, followed by the 2015-2016 season of two males and females, making this season a remarkable one for the team with a solid group of 15 runners competing for the Lightning.

This year’s squad features three returning runners from last season, as well as second year runner Matthew Mundy (2nd year, Okotoks, General Studies) who is returning after one year hiatus after competing in 2014-2015 for the Lightning.

Mundy, along with teammate Karan Matusin (1st year, Calgary, General Studies) have made an impact on the men’s side, with Mundy finishing all three races in the top 10, while Matusin had 11th and 7th place finishes in his two competitions. In their final race of the grand prix series, it was Matusin who finished ahead of Mundy by two seconds getting the 7th place and edge over Mundy’s 8th place finish. Returning runner Logan Pearce (2nd year, Calgary, General Studies) also had a strong performance in Camrose, moving up in the field to finish 28th and help the men to a 5th place team performance.

On the women’s side, Randi Thiessen (2nd year, Okotoks, Education) and Tanis Lefebvre (2nd year, Calgary, Liberal Studies) are returning for their second year competing for the Lightning, while former University of Lethbridge Swimmer Brooke Whitaker (5th year, Calgary, Liberal Arts) will cap off her fifth and final year of eligibility competing for the Lightning this year. Whitaker and Thiessen have rounded out the top two runners finishing in the middle of the pack for all three races this season.

Dixon has been thoroughly impressed with her women’s team effort this year, especially given the majority of the team is made up of athletes new to the sport.

“We have a solid group of nine female runners although many of them are new to cross country running.” adds Dixon.

xc_snow171With their sights set on some top finishes for a trip to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Nationals in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, Dixon feels her team is prepared for their biggest race of the year Saturday afternoon, and hopes to see their hard work payoff.

Dixon, Coy and their group will board a bus to head to Grand Prairie Friday morning, where they are hoping to avoid winter wonderland like race course conditions.

“We had snowy conditions in Camrose but the team ran well anyway. So even though snow or mud in Grande Prairie would make the course more difficult to run they are ready for the challenge.” Dixon said, after being asked if the weather would play a factor in her team’s results.

“Everyone has been training consistently and gaining fitness every week and I expect they will all put in their best performances of the season at Provincials.”

Saturday’s race will be held at Wapiti Nordic Ski Trails-Biathlon Stadium in Grand Prairie. The women’s race is set for 12:00 p.m., followed by the men at 1:00 p.m.