Core Sports

Leading The Pack

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Seth Marcaccio of Fanshawe was the 2016 OCAA Men’s athlete of the year and a double gold medalist (Photo Courtesy Sean Tilden)

The foundation that Fanshawe’s cross country is built on

BY: BRETT MCGARRY

It’s the end of a cross country season at the final competition and Fanshawe’s Jordan Kadlecik is entering his final kilometre. He’s been trailing the two leaders for the majority of the race. The sweat is dripping down his face, muscles screaming. As the course straightens out he realizes he isn’t as far away from his competition as he thought. This is where his training kicks. He gets his second wind and powers forward. He picks off his competitors one at a time. He’s on home turf in the Fanshawe Conservation Area and by a margin of less than three full seconds, he’s won gold in front of a cheering home crowd.

It’s a clean sweep for Fanshawe on the podium this past season, gold medals in every race, but this is far from new for Fanshawe. The sheer success of Fanshawe’s cross country team has been unparalleled for nearly a decade. Since the 2009/2010 season, Fanshawe has taken the OCAA banner home in all but one season, sending athletes who’ve meddled at nationals every year.

Is there something in the water in London that has contributed to a long line of provincial championships? Maybe some local plant growing in the reeds of the Fanshawe Conservation Area giving speed to these athletes?

The answer might not be as extraordinary. According to Chris Caddey, lead runner for the Falcons at the last CCAA meet where they won team silver, it comes down to plain old hard work.

“You have to fully commit to the program,” Caddey says. “If you believe in the training, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Few athletes in the OCAA have had as much experience as Caddey and even fewer have first-hand knowledge when comparing cross country programs. He has been running in the OCAA for five years at three different schools, finishing his career at Fanshawe.

“I’ve seen a lot of different school programs and Fanshawe is very unique. The coaching staff put so much effort into their athletes. Even in the off season we are being contacted about training every week,” Caddey says. “I’ve never been treated like this at other schools.”

The training is intense to say the least. Athletes keeping up in the post season is seen as an integral part of success.

“We get contacted in April about sending weekly training logs and if you’re not feeling the best you go over it with the coaches. It’s very thorough,” Caddey says. “If you’re not getting ready for cross country they give you a set of mileage in a week and specific workouts they want you to do.”

Being dedicated to training seems to be more than just a decision for a cross country athlete, to succeed it becomes a lifestyle. It takes dedication and commitment in spades.

Seth Marcaccio’s commitment to the program and his sport put him on the path to becoming a provincial and national champion and being named the OCAA Athlete of the Year in 2016/ 2017.

“You know going into the sport it is going to be painful but you just kind of have to be stubborn about it. You also have to be persistent with a sport with cross country,” Marcaccio says. “You’re not going to see massive improvements all of the sudden, you have to be consistent with it and be dedicated for putting in the runs every day.”

His commitment and dedication reflects what the coaching staff and the cross country program wants to instill in their athletes.

“The mindset going into the season is there are really only three important things, your family, your schooling and your team. So we had to keep the team a high priority during the season and that kind of helped everyone focus,” Marcaccio says.

Considering the intense tryouts, off season training and sheer commitment it takes to become a part of the Falcons seems daunting to say the least. These kinds of pressures could produce a lot of stress for a young student juggling their athletics, academics, social life and potentially even a job.

But when the going gets tough, these athletes try and have fun. Caddey explains that when a group of dedicated athletes compete for spots on a team, things can get stressful and relationships can even get toxic. This is where a good coach can create a team that is unified and develops deep bonds.

“It’s all about the experience, it’s not just running, it’s everything else we do together,” head coach Ashley VanderVecht says. “We very much are like an extended family, we get our athletes to become really close to each other.”

VanderVecht has been a vital part of the Fanshawe team for longer than she has been a coach. Before taking

he coaching job, she was the assistant coach. She even studied at Fanshawe and ran with the Falcons, along with assistant coach Sean Tilden, and associate coach John Mason, who is a Fanshawe hall of famer. She admits that few of her cherished memories came from when she was in class, they came from the relationships built while being on the team. To say the roots run deep at Fanshawe for cross country is an understatement.

All of her athletes unanimously agree that the atmosphere created by her and the rest of the coaching staff cements the bonds between the athletes which acts as a foundation for a supportive and successful team.

“It’s a great atmosphere, tons of positivity, there’s a lot of support there athletically and academically. Coaches have full time jobs but they’re always there no matter what,” Kadlecik says.

When they are not out running laps by the Fanshawe lake, these teammates can be found studying together, playing lawn games, having a taco night, etc. It doesn’t matter what they do, but they do it together.

“So usually we will practice Tuesdays and Thursdays and given our schedules align usually do something after that,” Kadlecik says. “Movie nights, go bowling, all the guys get together for Sunday long runs. You never really had to be alone for running or academics.”

How the Falcons handled the OPSEU strike earlier in the year attests to that. Despite

having a serious monkey wrench thrown into the gears of their well-oiled machine, they still laced up. Not only did they keep up with their training, they kept up with each other.

“We had this whole season here through the strike,” Caddey says. “During the strike we got the team together three to four times a week. There was nothing to do at night, so we would all study together then we all would have movie nights, or lawn games. It really was a family.”

From the eyes of an outsider, cross country may seem like an individualistic sport, but this is far from the truth.

“It’s definitely a big team sport,” Marcaccio says. “Coming from when I was running in high school, I didn’t have a team and it can be a little bit lonely. But you’re fighting for a team title too so I know whenever I’d cross the line and turn around to cheer on the guys. The team atmosphere plays a large part into cross country.”

The weight that rests on the shoulders of these athletes is immense. Runners in the program have a lot to live up to. There’s the intense training, balancing life and school and a lot of commitment. But the success of a team is built on the deeply rooted connections these runners have with each other and their coaches. Running and life become symbiotic and it is the team, which is akin to family, supporting each other that has crafted nearly a decade’s worth of accomplishment on the provincial and national stage.

 

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