Expectations are running high with the Laurentian Voyageurs men's cross-country team this fall.
And while the Ramsey Tour on Sunday (September 8th) might provide some confirmation that the potential of the L.U. crew is worthy of these lofty aspirations, make no mistake - the race is not the be all nor end all for men's coach Darren Jermyn.
"The Ramsey Tour gives us a chance to see who has done their homework," said Jermyn, sitting track side at a recent team practice. "The base training for cross-country is anywhere from six to twelve weeks over the summer."
"Some athletes do have a summer track program, but they have to transition to a mileage-based program for the latter half of July and all of August. We use it more as a workout. It is a good early season test to see where you are at."
Despite the fact that the Voyageurs secured all four top-five slots directly behind race winner Eric Leishman (15:27) last fall in the form of Paul Sagriff (15:36), Liam Passi (15:49), Eric Gareau (16:02) and Caleb Beland (16:05), Jermyn is not about to predict a repeat performance.
"We don't want to put all of our eggs in one basket, so we may hold some of our athletes out of the Ramsey Tour," he said. "We will have the luxury this year of being able to choose our best seven for OUA races."
"We have 16 guys training and vying for spots. It's the first time having to do that with the men, and we're very excited with that situation."
The race itself, which features both a 5 km event as well as the half-marathon, is cause for excitement both at Laurentian, as well as Cambrian College.
Hosted forever and a day by the Sudbury Masters Running Club, primarily under the stewardship of Jesse Winters and Louis Moustgaard, the Ramsey Tour helps to provide the funding that the Masters require to continue their annual tradition of awarding scholarship funding for varsity cross-country runners with both the Golden Shield and the Voyageurs programs.
It is one of the rare events that is both a sanctioned OUA race, but also open to the general public, allowing your weekend warriors such as yours truly to run alongside some elite post-secondary talent (albeit my "run alongside" component is quite brief, perhaps for the opening five metres of the race!).
"Our athletes like it because it's short and sweet, almost a speed workout for us," noted Jermyn of the five kilometre distance that is increased to 8 kms, this fall, for all remaining OUA races the team is attending.
"I don't put a lot of stock in their overall time, but it does provide a good indication of fitness," said Jermyn. "We tell people that you need to come in to camp fit, but not necessarily fast."
"If you look at the pace that the athletes are holding over 5 kms at the Ramsey Tour, by the end of the season, they are able to run that pace over 10 kms, on the men's side."
After graduating no less than five veterans from his lineup last year, Laurentian women's X-C coach Dick Moss is looking at a rebuild this fall, one that should be led by returnees Pascale Gendron, Sarah Thackery and Heidi Tuszkiewicz, with Meghan Sippel, Kelsey Lefebvre, Miranda Boudreau, Nicole Sartor and rookies Elizabeth Drake, Ashley Valentini and Angela Mozzon rounding out the squad.
As for the half-marathon, the top five men in 2019 included Ryan Marsaw (1:28:13), Mike Banks (1:31:01), Ewan Craig (1:31:40), Robert Schinke (1:33:32) and Steve Matusch (1:45:21), while Erin DeVeber captured the women's half in a time of 1:36:18.