McGill’s cross-country squads opened their seasons on Sept. 17 at Parc Mont Royal. The weather was cool and sunny as the women started the day, with their race kicking off at 12 p.m. The six-kilometre race went into the mountain and included four repeats of a one-kilometre loop before spitting back out into the park and finishing right beside the starting line.
Third-year medical student Ann-Rebecca Drolet was the Martlets’ first finisher, edging out a Sherbrooke runner to come in 12th overall with a time of 23:11. Thirty seconds later, the Martlets’ second finisher, second-year Sophie Rashid-Cocker, crossed the line, finishing 21st overall.
Rashid-Cocker felt a home-course advantage, despite the difficulty of the terrain.
“It was definitely nice for us because we practice on that loop a lot. It was a pretty hilly course, I guess that is expected when running on the mountain, but there were two sizable hills every loop, which definitely added up,” said Rashid-Cocker in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
Even after training on the mountain, Rashid-Cocker admitted that the first meet of the season was a gruelling feat.
“Personally, it was a little tough. I feel like 6k is always a shock to the system your first time going all out, so I definitely felt myself getting drained as the race went on,” said Rashid-Cocker. “But coming down the home stretch, everyone is super lively and I feel like I got my extra gear to get a strong finish.”
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the team from getting the correct permits to race the normal loop and forced them to run a course that just went straight up and down the mountain. This season also welcomed schools such as Queen’s University, and larger teams from Laval and Sherbrooke, which Rashid-Cocker appreciated as it felt like normalcy had returned.
At 12:50 p.m, the men set off up the mountain, with nine runners donning the Redbirds’ uniform. Last season’s rookie of the year, Matthew Beaudet, did not run in this year’s McGill Open, as his summer season only recently came to a close. PhD student Jack Stanley was the first finisher for McGill, coming in seventh with a time of 19:14.
Stanley was content with his performance in the season opener and eager to improve.
“The first meet of the season is always super exciting and it is always good to do it at McGill because there is lots of hometown support,” said Stanley. “For me, I felt pretty good, I felt fit. I think my summer training paid off. I didn’t quite have a kick at the end but that’ll come as the season goes on.”
Other notable performances on the men’s side were the Redbirds’ second finisher, fourth-year Noah El Rimawi-Fine, who finished just three seconds and four places behind Stanley, and first-year Jerome Jacques, who finished in 13th place, two places behind El Rimawi-Fine to close out McGill’s top three.
While he didn’t compete in the race officially, fourth-year Henry Wellenstein completed the entire six-kilometre course while juggling three balls. Although his place was not recorded, he finished in the middle of the pack, a truly impressive feat.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Stanley explained that a strong performance at the USports Championships is the ultimate goal.
“I think we have a really solid team this year, so it’s good to practice with these guys. The goal as a team is definitely to finish as high as possible at USports, and I think we can do that this year.”
The men and women both race next on Oct. 2 in Ottawa.