Woodland a threat to repeat at ACAC Cross-Country Championship
The RDC men’s cross-country running team isn’t as deep as last year, but they do have an ace up their sleeve.
Defending champion Devin Woodland is back and is a definite threat to finish in the medals at the ACAC championship, which is hosted by Concordia University College, Oct. 26 in Edmonton.
“Devin is in his fourth year and is one of the top runners in the conference,” said RDC head coach Brian Stackhouse. “He won the high school senior championship when he was in Grade 12 in Three Hills and has been near the top every year in college.”
Woodland, who transferred from Grande Prairie prior to last year, went into last year’s ACAC final ranked just behind Solomon Ngetich, who is one of the string of runners from Kenya to attend the college.
However Woodland and RDC teammate Kieran McDonald took advantage of the cooler weather and finished one-two ahead of the Lethbridge star.
“Lethbridge has another strong Kenyan runner (Edwin Kaitany) this year and it will be interesting how he runs once the weather gets colder,” said Stackhouse, who doesn’t have McDonald this year after he moved to the University of Alberta.
Woodland is the only returnee on the men’s team while Stackhouse has four runners back on the women’s side — Laura Friesen, Anna Duda, Catherine Alcorn and Sidney Moss.
The men’s team has only had four runners for the first two ACAC Grand Prix meets of the season.
Noah Arychuk of Rocky Mountain House, who placed ninth in last year’s high school provincials, has been the second best runner for the men with Tyler Nelson and Kevin Buckel and Kyle Friesen also on the roster.
“Noah has been solid for us, but when it comes to the team standings we’re a little thin when it gets to our fourth runner and down,” said Stackhouse, who expects the team to finish around sixth.
Meanwhile, Jordanna Cota of Hunting Hills, is the leading runner on the women’s team. Cota, who placed in the medals at the high school provincials, has placed in the top 10 in her first two ACAC races.
“Most of our women fit in the mid-pack except for Jordanna,” said Stackhouse.
Cota would like to follow in former RDC star Jodi Nesbitt’s (nee Sanguin) footsteps, something that excites Stackhouse.
“Jodi was a special athlete and I’m pleased to see Jordanna wanting to follow in her footsteps, but they are big footsteps.”
Like Nesbitt, Cota is from Red Deer and is in nursing, which could keep her at RDC for four to five years.
“She could transfer to the University of Calgary, but competing at the college level is right for her now and she gets to stay at home. Down the road you never know.”
There are also several other strong first-year runners on the women’s team including Emily Maplethorpe and Robyn Hebert from Wetaskiwin and Samantha Debree from Lacombe.
“Those three, along with Jordanna, could be our top four runners, or four of our top six,” said Stackhouse, who likes the way Friesen, who is the team captain, and Duda have competed so far. Catherine can fit in there, but she’s been battling some injuries.
Other women on the team include Brianna Green of Ponoka, Nicole Wilson of Red Deer and Rachel Sherban of Red Deer, who will likely compete in the indoor track season.
“Overall I’m pleased with what we have,” said Stackhouse.
“We have some good recruits and good vets, who will compete at a high level. But it will be tough this year as there’s 11 colleges and several of them are really good.”
Stackhouse feels the women’s team will be at least fifth in the rankings.
l The third and fourth Grand Prix races go Oct. 5 at Concordia and Oct. 12 in Camrose . . . The Canadian championship is Nov. 9 in Etobicoke, Ont. . . . Nesbitt, Lori Leduc, Duda and Kevin Soley are assistant coaches.