by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
The SAIT Trojans' cross-country running triple threat of Matt Travaglini, Jacques Saayman and Daryl Ross have placed first, second and third respectively in two of the three Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Grand Prix events they have entered to date.
In the only other Grand Prix event they attended, No. 1 held September 9, 2017 in Edmonton and hosted by Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder, Saayman was the first ACAC runner to finish the 8 kilometre distance in 28:42 with Ross claiming third at 30:13. Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves Brandon Wladyko was second at 30:04.
Of the 46 runners entered 22 were from the ACAC.
The overall winner though was Matt Travaglini registered in the open category at 27:58.
Travaglini, according to Trojans head coach Ryan Edgar, was attending SAIT at the time, but "his eligibility was not signed off in time for the first race because of a transfer form that was required from his previous school (University of Windsor)."
The last time an ACAC men's running team showed such dominance in a Grand Prix event was September 26, 2015, when the Lethbridge Kodiaks took the top four positions in a 24-man field on their own turf.
Of the triple threat Edgar said: "They definitely all push each other at different times in practice and it is awesome to have them all run together. To see how hard they work through the week....it motivates them.
"They are all individuals and they have different running backgrounds and training histories and they are out to improve their own times. They are all really competitive and driven, so it is not hard for us to have them focus. The one thing for Jacques (Saayman) and Daryl (Ross) entering this year…after last year's nationals, we were four points out of getting a medal, so that is a big driver for them."
Travaglini, was a surprise addition to the Trojans roster this fall as he had stepped away from post-secondary sports for nearly two years, having last competed for the University of Windsor Lancers in U Sports.
"The university educational system was not working for me, so I moved to Alberta with my girl friend to Alberta," recalls Travaglini, 24. "I was working for a year-and-a-half and then decided to reach out to SAIT to see if there were any opportunities."
Enrolled in Bachelor of Applied Technology Geographic Information Systems, the London, Ontario native competed at the 2014 U Sport (then known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport) National Cross Country Championships held in St. John's Newfoundland, placing 24th in a clocking of 35:20.8 for the 10 Kilometre distance.
In the ACAC the men's distance is 8 k.
Asked of the difference between the U Sport and ACAC, Travaglini replied: "Other than depth at the front, probably just the level of intensity and competiveness. The U Sport system is a lot deeper.
"The ACAC offers a more balanced option between an athletic program and being able to do well in your studies. It enables the student/athlete to do both well."
Of the courses in Alberta, he said: "You guys out here are tough. In Ontario it is gloried road running. It is on golf courses and flat parks. The most you have to face is the wind. Here you like to throw in tons of hills, bridges, creeks and more hills. Running here, it is a different ball game. You have to be tough."
Of his lacing up once again as a team member: "I missed being on a team and the Trojans team is terrific. The guys and girls get along and the coaches are fantastic. Everyone knows how to work hard and push hard."
Finishing in second spot between teammates Travaglini and Ross in Grand Prix No. 3 and No. 4, Saayman said of the current situation, "To be honest it is a good feeling that there is one teammate in front of you and one behind you the whole race.
"You have to focus on your own race and at the end of the day let the results speak for themselves.
"It is awesome. The work ethic with people working very hard. For me knowing the program is working out for all of us and it is successful."
Saayman, 20, is defending ACAC men's individual champion having crossed the finish line in 27:49 at the Grande Prairie ACAC Provincial run held October 29, 2016. It was the first year of post-secondary sport for the Fort McMurray student/athlete.
The Trojans, along with five other participating ACAC schools, did not attend the Grand Prix #3 September 23, 2017 held in Grande Prairie.
Grand Prix #5 is to be staged October 14, 2017 in Camrose and hosted by University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings.
The Vikings and Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder are the only two ACAC schools to send cross country teams to the four scheduled Running Room Grand Prix events held so far.
How does this, is any, equate into winning?
To date the Vikings have won 12 ACAC men's cross country titles. The next closest of existing ACAC teams still in cross country is Lethbridge Kodiaks with eight and Red Deer Kings with seven.
Mount Royal, which won nine men's titles, are no longer members of the ACAC.
The Thunder won their only men's title in 2014-2015.
In women's archives the Vikings claim 10 banners. Red Deer Queens are tops with 14.