Championship Preview: Panthers hope yearlong development yields personal bests at AUS Championships

Championship Preview: Panthers hope yearlong development yields personal bests at AUS Championships

By Thomas Becker

The UPEI Panthers look to run personal bests across the board in today's AUS Cross Country Championships hosted by the UNB Reds.

Many of the runners who participated in the two meets UPEI took part in already improved upon their times, and head coach Mike Peterson expects those splits to dip even further on the league's biggest stage. 

"My expectation is that everyone will stick to the pre-race plan and run a personal best," Peterson said. "Everyone on the team has had a personal best this season, and I'm confident they will all do it again tomorrow." 

After encouraging results at the St. FX meet in September, UPEI showed off their muscle at home earlier this month when four runners — Dan Maguire, Samuel Peterson, Daniel Godfrey and Matt Kozma — cracked the top 10 in the 8km race, with Maguire earning a spot on the podium with a third-place finish.

It's those small victories that Peterson hopes are the stepping stones to something greater.  

"We are creating a culture of doing things the right way and laying the foundation for the future," he said. "We have a very young team with everyone potentially returning, and I'm extremely optimistic about the direction we're heading in."

With the conference's top talent all returning to claim the biggest prize, the Panthers will have their hands full this time around.

On the women's side, runners to watch include St. FX's Jane Hergett and Paige Chisholm, Acadia's Madalyn Higgins, Dalhousie's Catherine Thompson and Moncton's Sophie Black.

St. FX also has the edge on the men's side. Jacob Benoit has earned a first-place and a second-place finish at AUS invitational meets this season, while Graydon Staples and Paul MacLellan raced their way to top-3 finishes. Saint Mary's Andrew Peverill, St. Thomas' Lars Schwarz and Memorial's Levi Moulton all look to upset St. FX's deep and talented team. 

For the Panthers, Tatiana Kelly and Maguire are the most likely runners to challenge the rest of the field in their respective races. But even if they can't run their way to a top-10 finish, the next best thing is that steady improvement Peterson is looking for. 

"The team works very, very hard and I think everyone we've entered could surprise," Peterson said. "I'm excited for tomorrow, but even more excited for next year and beyond."