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Huskies cross country athletes look forward to hosting U SPORTS Nationals in Halifax

Huskies cross country athletes look forward to hosting U SPORTS Nationals in Halifax

Led by fifth year captain Andrew Peverill (Lower Sackville, NS), a group of seven Saint Mary's Huskies cross country runners will look to have a 'home course' advantage at this weekend's U SPORTS Cross Country Championship.

"I'm super pumped to be racing for a National Championship in front of my hometown crowd," says Peverill. "I'm not setting my expectations too high, but I've been feeling really good at practices and can't wait to get out there."

The Huskies have partnered with the Dalhousie Tigers to host the U SPORTS Cross Country Championship, Saturday, Nov. 12 at The Links at Brunello Golf Course just outside of Halifax. It marks the first time in school history that Saint Mary's has hosted the Cross Country Nationals.

"One of the advantages is we don't have to travel, our athletes can sleep in their own bed and go out to the race that day with their usual pre-race routine," says Saint Mary's Huskies cross country head coach Kevin Heisler. "We've been out to the course, they've seen it, they run it, so we hope there is a little bit of a hometown advantage this year."

It is expected to be a wet and windy race, with Tropical Storm Nicole currently forecasted to affect the Maritime region on Saturday.

"Certainly not ideal conditions but that weather may also be an advantage for our athletes, who have run in the wind and the rain before. Nothing new to most of them," adds Heisler.

Fresh off his third consecutive AUS Championship and Athlete of the Year honours, Andrew Peverill will be lacing up his XC spikes one last time for the maroon and white, and looking to improve upon his previous finishes of 20th in 2022, and back-to-back 19th place finishes in 2019 and 2018.

"He is used to running with the lead group, and this will give him another opportunity to run with the best in the country and see if he can crack the Top 14, which is his goal," says Heisler.

A top 14 finish on Saturday would earn Peverill All-Canadian honours, a result that has not happened for the Huskies since Ashley Ryer placed 10th on the women's side in 2009.

"I would be lying if I told you that (top 14 finish) isn't in my mind," says Peverill. "But anytime I race, I want to win. If i'm in the top seven or five, then i'll be going for the podium."

Joining Peverill on the men's side will be second year runners Rory McGarvey (Belleville, ON), Teagan Scott (Barrington, NS), Elijah Ford (Moncton, NB) and fourth year Joseph Stewart (Halifax, NS).

McGarvey and Scott will be competing in their second straight U SPORTS Championship after finishing 110th and 113th respectively at last season's Nationals at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, QC.

"Rory and Teagan, they started a bit slower at last year's nationals and got pushed to the back of the pack, and that was a lesson for them," says Heisler. "When they went to the AUS-RSEQ interlock meet this October, they changed their tactics and had excellent races, and I think that helped them to the AUS All-Star finishes at AUS. This event will be another important step forward in their development."

McGarvey and Scott were both named AUS Second Team All-Stars this season, and McGarvey scored the first podium finish of his career, finishing third at the St. FX Invitational. Ford and Stewart have also had solid results this season, and will be looking for a quality finish at the their first U SPORTS Nationals appearance.

On the women's side, the Huskies will be represented by third year Gael Cameron (Dartmouth, NS) and first year Jacqueline Moore (Dartmouth, NS).

"Normally when we have to travel, we wouldn't take that many runners to Nationals, but this is a great chance for some of our other athletes to get an opportunity to compete with the best in the country and experience that top level of competition," says Heisler.

"I think it's awesome for them to get to experience this," adds Peverill. "Obviously this is my last year, but they are the future of this program and I'm really excited for us to have this opportunity as a team."

Saturday's competition will be held on the Links at Brunello, located at 120 Brunello Blvd. in Timberlea, N.S., and spectators can attend for free!

The Men's Race will start at 12 p.m., while the Women's Race will begin at 1 p.m., followed by Championship awards ceremonies. 

Watch live this Saturday on CBC Sports to catch all the action and cheer on your Huskies!