Trinity Western cross country teams looking to take that next step

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Sept 18,2014(ISN) – LANGLEY, British Columbia – Entering their fifth year competing in Canada West and the CIS, the Trinity Western cross country teams are once again looking to take that next step forward as they aim to continue to compete right alongside the best in Canada. With both teams possessing as much talent as the Spartans have ever seen, there’s no reason to believe this year’s teams can’t continue to push into the upper echelon of the CIS.

The Spartans open their cross country season this Saturday in Seattle at the University of Washington’s Sundodger Invitational at Lincoln Park.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW

WOMEN

Key Returnees: Fiona Benson (Dawson Creek, B.C.), Meg Harradine (Langley), Sarah Inglis (Falkirk, Scotland), Alison Jackson (Vermilion, Alta.), Regan Yee (South Hazelton, B.C.)

Key Additions: Hannah Gaensler (Seven Sisters Falls, Man.), Marita DeSchiffart (Nanaimo, B.C.)

Key Departures: None

2013 Canada West Finish: 1st

2013 CIS Finish: 4th

Last CW Championship: 2013

Last CIS Championship: N/A

The women’s cross country team made TWU history last year as they won the Spartans first ever Canada West cross country championship. While creating conference history, the team also finished a school record fourth overall in the CIS. But for TWU, there appears more to come.

This year, the Spartans are aiming for yet another leap forward. This year, the team is gunning for a podium finish at the national championships. And with their entire team returning from last year, plus a few key additions, the Spartans appear primed to do just that.

“Our women’s team is very good at the top end and we’re aiming for our best finish this year,” said Spartans coach Laurier Primeau. “But that’s not necessarily how we like to think about it. We like to think about putting seven athletes on the line and having them run the best they can possibly run on the most important day of the year and that day is Nov. 8 (at the CIS national championships).”

Last year, TWU saw its top five finishers all earn Canada West all-star honours with three earning First Team nods – Alison Jackson (1st in the conference and 5th overall), Fiona Benson (5th and 21st) and Regan Yee (7th and 24th) – and two nabbing Second Team awards – Sarah Inglis (8th and 29th) and Meg Harradine (14th and 59th).

The addition of Hannah Gaensler and Marita DeSchiffart also adds depth to the Spartans team and both will no doubt play roles in this year’s success.

Individually, the Spartans will also looking to retain its grasp on the Canada West Athlete of the Year award. Trinity Western has produced the conference’s top finisher in each of the past two championships, with Jackson winning in 2013 and Benson nabbing top spot in 2012.

MEN

Key Returnees: Joel DeSchiffart (Nanaimo, B.C.), Blair Johnston (White Rock, B.C.), Levi Neufeld (Winnipeg), Mihai Prajea (Calgary), Declan White (South Surrey, B.C.)

Key Additions: Caleb de Jong (Winnipeg), Tyler DeJong (Langley)

Key Departures: Chris Voth

2013 Canada West Finish: 2nd

2013 CIS Finish: 7th

Last CW Championship: N/A

Last CIS Championship: N/A

While the men’s team hasn’t quite yet had the overall success that the TWU women’s team has garnered, this is a squad that is still very much on the rise.

The Spartans men have long had quality depth on their roster and this year will be no different as they look to improve on last year’s result at nationals.

“Our men’s team is very strong across the board,” said Spartans coach Laurier Primeau. “Our expectation of the men is not different from the women in that we want to improve on our best finish ever at the national championships and we’re well-positioned to do that. We feel that we’ve added a bit of depth and that some of our athletes who were unable to compete at the top level last year due to injury or illness are back and they’re healthy.”

Last year, the team finished seventh overall at the national championships and, while losing Chris Voth – the Spartans third best finisher in 2013 – to graduation will require others to step up, the talent is certainly there to get TWU to the next level.

Six out of the Spartans seven finishers at last year’s CIS championships are back and each of them has the ability to produce a better result this time around.

Look for Joel DeSchiffart and Declan White to once again lead the charge with fellow returnees like Levi Neufeld and Mihai Prajea aiming to once again slot in amongst TWU’s top five.

However, the biggest story to watch could well be the reemergence of Blair Johnston. In his second year with TWU, the now fourth-year Johnston was the Spartans top runner as he finished fourth in Canada West and 13th overall. Since then, he has battled health issues and at last year’s championships, he finished 27th in the conference and 80th overall. This year, it appears he’s returning to form and if he continues on his current upward trajectory, the Spartans will be a team to watch out for this fall.

The first-year duo of Caleb de Jong and Tyler DeJong will also give the Spartans more depth this year and mark the next wave of talent that will lead TWU in years to come.

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