MARKHAM, ONT., (Nov. 9, 2018) — Bring on the snow, the mud, the hills and the flats. It's cross-country running at its finest, and Matthew Travaglini is ready for anything,
The SAIT Trojans men's cross-country runner will defend his Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national title Saturday afternoon amidst the wet and cool conditions at Seneca College's King Campus just outside Toronto.
"It's going to be slippery, but we were talking today about how we had snow in October in Alberta. Running in cold, wet, muddy conditions is not new to us," said Travaglini, who won the CCAA individual gold medal last year in Montreal. "When we saw snow throughout the season, our coaches told us to embrace training in it because Nationals is not going to be pretty. . . As a group, we're pretty tough, so we're going to be able to handle whatever Toronto can throw at us."
Following the team's practice run on Friday, many of the runners decided to go shopping for longer spikes to put in their shoes. Travaglini, a former mountain running national champion, already had some packed away for just such an occasion.
He knows that because of the conditions, it won't just be about the running.
"That's the beauty of cross-country; it's a grinder's sport," he said. "It's physical toughness and mental toughness that wins races, and I like to think I'm pretty mentally strong."
It's not just himself that he is running for. At last year's nationals, his placing helped the Trojans men's team to their first-ever CCAA medal – a bronze.
Saayman was the CCAA bronze medalist last year.
"Last year was our first time running with each other, but now we have run together during the indoor track season, met up over the summer to put in miles, and then were together throughout this season," Travaglini explained.
"We have spent the past few months motivating each other because we knew we were good, but we also knew we would have to put in the work."
Because of their combined efforts, the men's team go into the event as the favourites, ranked No. 1 in the country by the CCAA. But, Travaglini says living up to that ranking is what's important.
"When they came out, the first thing everyone on our team said is that the rankings don't mean anything. We still have to prove it," he said. "In practice, in runs, everyone has done the work, so it's going to be exciting to see what happens."
Mann is coming off a silver medal finish at the ACAC Championships a few weeks back, and placed ninth at this same event a year ago to earn a CCAA All-Canadian nod.
Co-head coach Bre MacEachern is eager to see how Mann will do this time around.
"Having that experience from last year will definitely be helpful. We're expecting big things from Emilie," she said. "We will push her and tell her that she needs to be up with the top runners, because she has the ability to contend for a medal."
Danard finished ninth at the ACAC Championships, and will race in her first National Championship event. MacEachern says they have seen Danard come a long way in her first season on the trails, and wanted her to get the opportunity to see the level of competition that they will be looking from her down the line.
"Ann's excited to see where she compares to the rest of Canada," MacEachern stated. "With her coming back next year, getting her this experience will set her up to be a leader going forward."