It was a banner day for current and former members of the Track North Athletic Club at the Ontario University Cross-Country Running Championship held just north of Toronto this past weekend.
Track North alumni Ross Proudfoot, 20 of Lively, who is now competing in his third season at the University of Guelph ran to a gold-medal finish in the men's 10-kilometre event.
Proudfoot made a strong surge on the final lap of the rain-soaked, mud-filled course to pull away from the lead pack and win the race in a time of 32:06. Proudfoot's margin of victory was 16 seconds over teammate Yves Sikuwabo (32:22), with the defending national champion, Andrew Nixon, also of the University of Guelph, taking the bronze (32:23).
This marks Proudfoot's first provincial university cross-country title. Proudfoot is also the current two-time defending Ontario university indoor track 3,000-metre champion.
"It was a great day in the mud," Proudfoot said. "I felt in control over the first 7.5 kilometres and knew if I surged prior to the long 100-metre hill on the last lap, I could hold on for the win. The course was very technical and a solid test two weeks before nationals."
Jeremy Cooper, 19 of Manitowaning, a rookie competing in his first season at the University of Windsor, pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the day, moving his way through the field to finish eighth overall in the men's race. Cooper's time was 33:11. This performance was the third fastest by a rookie at the championship.
"I was definitely ready for today," Cooper said. "We have a great group of guys training hard in Windsor and I knew I would be strong over the 10-km distance. I'm excited for nationals."
Emma Tallman, 22 of Mindemoya, formerly of Laurentian University but now competing for Western University as she completes her physiotherapy degree, capped off a remarkable OUA career with her best finish at a provincial championship, placing 15th overall in the women's 5-km race. Tallman's time was 18:51.
"I'm extremely happy with my performance today," Tallman said. "It's my final year of competing at the university level and being in the top 15 in the province is very rewarding."
Proudfoot, Cooper and Tallman will all represent their schools at the CIS National University Championships being contested in London, Nov. 10.
"It was a very special day for Track North," said Darren Jermyn, a coach with the local club. "The conditions were nasty with driving rain, terrible footing on a a mud-soaked course, but Ross, Jeremy and Emma soldiered on and all had career best performances.
"Jeremy's performance really stands out as he missed most of last winter and spring due to injury and it was his first time competing in a 10-kilometre cross-country race. Look for even more from him in the future."
"We've watched these athletes train and compete since they were in Grade 8 as Bobcats in our program and seeing them excel at this level is very rewarding," said Dick Moss, long-standing coach and founder of Track North. "I guess we make them pretty tough up here."