Alison Jackson’s second-place finish led the Trinity Western Spartans over the weekend in Bellingham.
The Spartans cross-country team was competing at the 39th annual Western Washington Invitational Classic at East Lake Padden Park on Oct. 6.
Jackson started fast and never slowed as she posted a time of 21:42 in the six kilometre race, only trailing Kenyan runner Susan Tanui, who was competing for Alaska Anchorage, by 11 seconds.
With her second place finish, Jackson beat a strong field, which included the likes of UBC’s Maria Bernard, who is a multi-time member of the Canadian national junior teams, both on the trails and on the track, and Jessica Smith, who competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in the 800m.
Jackson’s result also bettered her 2011 sixth place finish when she clocked a time of 22:04 at the same event.
“There was some stiff competition on the women’s side and for Alison to place second in that field is remarkable and it bodes well for her and for us,” said Spartans coach Laurier Primeau.
While Jackson was leading the women’s team, on the men’s side it was Blair Johnston once again at the front of the pack as he finished 25th in the 10 kilometre race in 32:19. He shaved 17 seconds off the time he posted last year.
For the men’s team, it was another positive race as first through fifth it was an improved group over last year. Behind Johnston, it was Levi Neufeld finishing 49th in 33:12, Joel De Schiffart finishing 52nd in 33:14, Mihai Prajea finishing 81st in 33:56, and Chris Voth finishing 85th in 33:58.
Compared to last year, the Spartans third best runner on the men’s side was 2:26 faster while their fifth best runner was 2:11 faster. The men finished with 178 points and placed seventh out of 16 teams.
“With our men’s team, I’m really happy with the way our entire team performed,” Primeau said. “I know that for a few of them, we’re really not even focusing on tapering them off for this race. The year to year improvement is remarkable and we expect to continue that trend.”
On the women’s side, following Jackson, it was Fiona Benson finishing 21st with a time of 22:54. After Benson, it was Meg Harradine finishing 75th in 25:19, Nikki Bell finishing 92nd in 25:58, Laura Merkel finishing 111th in 28:12, Katelynn Ramage finishing 113th in 28:42, and Rachelle Briscoe finishing 116th in 29:43.
As a team, the women finished with 196 points and were eighth out of 11 teams.
“Deeper into our pack (on the women’s side), we are just better than we were last year,” Primeau said. “If we can continue to make our fifth best runner better than our fifth best runner the year before and get that progress from year to year, we will move in the right direction in the CIS rankings.”
The Spartans next race is the B.C. Championships, which will be run Oct. 27 in Abbotsford.