By Thomas Becker
Cross country star Lee Wesselius has already earned a spot on the national stage, but first he'll look to cap off a stellar AUS season by bringing championship gold to UPEI.
The 23-year-old standout will lead the cross-country team to Wolfville, N.S. for the league's final invitational – a gruelling 10 km test – hosted by Acadia this weekend.
After back-to-back second place finishes at the UNB/STU Invitational and the SMU/DAL Invitational, Wesselius is hoping to finish atop the podium this time around.
"The key to my success this year has been consistency and hard work," Wesselius said. "I've managed to stay healthy and haven't had any serious injuries. I also had my best summer of training to date and have been running more than I ever have in the past."
However, the competition won't be easy, as Wesselius has been battling four other runners – St. FX's Alex Neuffer and Angus Rawling, Dalhousie's Cal Dewolfe and Saint Mary's Andrew Peverill – for that No. 1 spot all season long.
"There are five of us this weekend that all have a shot at the title, so it's going to come down to who's feeling the best on race day and who's the strongest mentally once things get tough," he said. "I felt I've had a good build up going into the race so hopefully I can put things together come race day."
Wesselius' strong performances have been recognized by the U Sports brass and following the conference championships, the River Glade, N.B. native will gear up for the U Sports Championships hosted by the University of Victoria on Nov. 11.
"It's always nice when you get the opportunity to duke it out with the other top guys in the country and see exactly where you are," he said. "The past several months have all been centred on having a good race at U Sports so hopefully I can perform well once I get there."
Despite earning a spot at nationals, Wesselius isn't letting the success get to his head. Instead, he's been training the way he usually does and is keeping true to himself and his abilities to ensure the best possible result.
"I haven't done anything out of the ordinary to prep for this weekend. I just continued to log the miles and put in tough workouts. For the past couple of weeks I've focused more on pace work and while I hope to run well this weekend, the main focus is on nationals."
Overall, the season has been a success across the board. While Dalhousie and St. FX remain the class of the conference, UPEI has been very competitive with the likes of UNB and Saint Mary's said head coach Colin MacAdam.
"This is still a new program and the team has achieved many of our goals, but the men's team is focussed on getting to the podium."
On the women's side, Emma Moore has shown tremendous improvement this year. And her strong times – finishing in the top half in all her races – has rejuvenated the program, as MacAdam intends on adding to the roster to build a competitive team that's sustainable.
And with Moore and Wesselius headlining UPEI cross-country, the sky is truly the limit for this growing program.
"UPEI athletes who finished in the top 30 last year are in the top 20 this year," MacAdam said. "And I attribute this improvement to the presence of Lee and Emma and the example they set in training and competition."