Spartans open cross-country season Saturday in Seattle

Men and women who run for Trinity Western University compete south of the border this weekend.

The Trinity Western men’s and women’s cross country teams will both begin their quests to defend their Canada West championships this weekend, as the last year’s title winners open their seasons at the University of Washington’s Sundodger Open Saturday at Lincoln Park in Seattle.

SEASON PREVIEW

MEN’S TEAM: The Spartans men’s team is coming off an historic season in which it captured its first ever Canada West championship, while finishing a program-best second overall at the U SPORTS championships. This year, when the gun goes off at the national championship race in Victoria, the team will have its sights set on a repeat performance.

With the now graduated Joel De Schiffart (Nanaimo) representing the lone departure from the Spartans roster, TWU’s men’s side enters the 2017 season with high hopes.

The team will once again be led by fifth-year Declan White (South Surrey), who finished second overall at last year’s national championships and became the first Spartans male athlete to win the Canada West individual title.

Following White, the duo of fourth-year Caleb DeJong (Winnipeg) and third-year Nick Colyn (Langley) will provide the Spartans with a “top three” that will challenge the top teams in the country. DeJong finished 17th overall at last year’s championships, while Colyn was 19th, but with both athletes another year older, there is every reason to believe they could be knocking on the door of the Top 10 at this year’s championship race.

Then, there’s the effervescent Langley-based trio of James Lam, Tyler DeJong and Adam Marshall. Last year, Lam was instrumental in TWU’s impressive performance as his 42nd-place finish proved critical in the Spartans finish. Having tasted success, all three will be pushing to play key roles in this year’s squad.

WOMEN’S TEAM: The Spartans women’s cross country team has won four consecutive Canada West championships and, barring injuries, this year’s team has a legitimate shot at a five-peat. The women’s team set a new TWU standard for conference success when it became the first Spartans side to win four straight Canada West crowns and, despite the loss of both Lisa Brooking (Orillia, Ont.) and Meg Harradine (Langley), there’s plenty of optimism that TWU’s conference run will continue in 2017.

Regan Yee (South Hazelton), who finished fifth overall at last year’s U SPORTS championships and third amongst Canada West runners, is back after a strong season on the track that saw her compete at the Summer Universiade in the 1500m. While she will ease into the cross country season following an extended summer of competition, the talented runner will likely once again push for a top five finish in Victoria.

After battling some health issues last year, a fully fit Mirelle Martens (Grande Prairie), who was 29th in 2016 but was 11th in 2015, could very well push for a Top 10 finish in this year’s race.

Beyond TWU’s leading duo, the ever-improving Joanna Williams (Campbell River), who finished 38th overall last year, will be a threat to move into the top 25.

After that, third-year Mikaela Smart (Maple Ridge) could prove to be a vital piece of TWU’s puzzle. She finished 47th overall last year, but she looks primed to take a big step forward.

Meanwhile, the first-year pair of Bailey Haugan (Fort St. John) and Jouen Chang (Langley) arrive at TWU with great potential and it’s likely both will push to be amongst the Spartans top five runners at this year’s championships.

As has been the case for many years under endurance coach Mark Bomba, the Spartans women’s program will be one of the best in the country. If they stay healthy, a podium finish at nationals isn’t unrealistic and another conference title is certainly a strong possibility.