© — Submitted photo
Deer Lake’s Melissa Hardy has been gradually carving a name for herself in just two years competing at the varsity level with the St. Francis Xavier University X-Women running team.
ANTIGONISH, N. S. — Melissa Hardy has the championship crown she wanted so badly.
The Deer Lake native, star of the St. Francix Xavier X-Women’s cross-country running team, claimed the gold medal in the six-kilometre race at the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championships held Saturday in Moncton, N.B. with the top runners in Atlantic Canada vying for bragging rights.
Hardy, who was fourth overall at the AUS championships one year ago, posted a final clocking of 22 minutes and 52.45 seconds to win the race. Ellen Chappell of the Dalhousie University Tigers nabbed second spot in the women’s showdown with a time of 23:06.09., while Dalhousie’s Natalie Sachrajda placed third with a time of 23:14.72.
“I had it set as a goal that I wanted to win the individual title and it felt great to cross the finish line knowing I was the first one,” Hardy said Monday.
Hardy was pleased to win the crown, but she was disappointed that the X-Womenhad to settle for second place in the team event. Last year, Hardy won fourth place at the AUS and the team won gold as a group so she would have prefered a better result for the team this time around.
“Both years are good, but if I had to make a choice I would pick last year,” she said of comparing the two outcomes.
She entered the race with a handful of runners who could make it tough for her to win the title and it panned out that way with Hardy not sure of her chances until the last 400 metres of the race.
“There was somebody on my tail pretty much the whole time,” she said.
Despite winning the race, Hardy’s final clocking wasn’t a personal best time, but she was OK with how things unfolded when she realized times posted by other runners were also slower with a challenging course awaiting them.
“It was a very challenging course in that it was all grass and multiple long tough grass hills throughout the course,” she said. “So, although I wasn’t overly pleased with my final time the guys race as well they had slow times so it made me feel better knowing it wasn’t just me and it was across the board.”
Caroline McIlroy, star of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Sea-Hawks women’s contingent, finished in fourth place after crossing the finish line in 23 minutes and 28.15 seconds.
MUN’s female cross-country roster for the AUS championships included Emily Hickey in 25th spot (26:58.28), Amanda Wilkins in 28th (27:01.57), Justine O’Leary in 33rd (27:20.35), Stephanie Pomeroy (27:56.56), Alana Loveys in 44th spot (29:20.10) and Jessica Besaw in 45th (29:44.09).
On the men’s side, John Kuto of the Saint Mary’s Huskies continued his domination in the men’s 10-km race with a final clocking of 32:42.62. Matt MacNeil of the Dalhousie Tigers finished 26 seconds behind the winner with a time of 33:07.67, while Riley Johnston of the St. Francis Xavier X-Men came in third with a time of 33 minutes and 17.14 seconds.
Jordan Fewer of the MUN Sea-Hawks cracked the Top 10 in the men’s race, finishing in 10th spot with a time of 34:35.93.
The MUN men participating in the 10-km race included Connor Bolton in 18th spot (35:40.33), Mark Hayward in 20th (36:26.44), Matt Power in 26th (37:27.75), Corner Brook native Jon Allan in 28th spot in his AUS championships debut (37:27.82) and Mike Scott in 34th spot (38:41.42).
Hardy and Kuto will represent the AUS at the Canadian Intercollegiate Sport (CIS) cross-country running championships Nov. 9 in London, Ont.