SEASON PREVIEW: UPEI Cross Country looking forward to a great 2023

| Athletics
The UPEI Cross Country Panthers
The UPEI Cross Country Panthers

UPEI’s Cross Country program has taken massive strides in recent years, including earning all-star selections in back-to-back seasons and welcoming runners from across the conference for their first turn as hosts of the AUS Championships.

It’s a lot to be proud of, but the team is looking to accomplish even more in 2023.

“We’re looking for more consistency from our runners this season,” said Panthers head coach Mike Peterson. “Success in our sport comes from stacking weeks, months, and years together until you are consistently relevant. That’s what we’re after.”

Peterson says the team has never been deeper with so many talented runners on the precipice of something special, and he’s excited to see what the season has in store for them.

The women will again be led by returning AUS all-star Katie Richard and her sister, Grace, who have had a strong summer of training. Stefania Angona and Maya Abou El Naja have also looked good and could be the key to pushing the team closer to the podium this season. Ella Jenkins, Sam Wittig, and Sophie MacDonald also return and give the team added depth.

“The team is feeling fit and fast this season, and we are excited to see the team’s full potential on display,” said Katie Richard. “It would be great to see a few more of our athletes finish in the top 10 at the AUS championships and as many as possible break into the top 20. That’s a goal we’re working towards in 2023.”

On the men's side, top runner Jack Roberts will lead the way along with senior Matt Kozma, veteran runners Riley Fitzpatrick and Ryan MacDonald, and sophomore standout Campbell Brown. Peterson hopes to get Benji Dueck healthy and running fast by the AUS championships.

Roberts says the team’s goal is to close the gap between their first runner and fifth runner so that they improve upon their seventh-place finish from a year ago.

“This season, we’re looking like a faster, stronger, and more experienced group,” Roberts said.

The Panthers are also excited about a rookie class that could give the teams a boost on the course. Max MacIsaac, Baley Wolfe, and Jacob Dalton already look strong on the men's side. As for the women, Nova Scotia standout Mariah Austen could factor into results as early as this season, while Anna Harris, Katie Gautreau, and Jordyn Ward are all ahead of schedule in their development.

“I’m hoping that we keep heading toward AUS success through consistent hard work and intelligent training,” Peterson said. “I think you're going to see a ton of personal bests from our group this fall.”

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