Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
SEATTLE – Rookie Kiana Row ran one of the fastest 5K races in MacEwan women's cross-country program history, finishing second amongst university competitors at the John Payne/Curtis Sundodger Invitational on Saturday.
Clocking in at 17:56.40, she was just off the pace of winner Olivia Stein (17:23.70) from the University of Seattle.
"She's consistently coming out and performing," said head coach Drew Carver of Row, who has topped MacEwan's contingent in three-straight races to start the season. "She's hitting every number I want every time she races."
"The end result is it's the first time in all my groups of runners that I had four athletes who were able to run five kilometres under 19 minutes," said Carver. "That was pretty solid. I haven't had anything come close to that."
It's a positive team performance for MacEwan as they build towards the Canada West championship in Calgary Oct. 26.
"Because it was a 5K race, we didn't want to take the approach of starting off easy and working our way through the crowd," said Carver. "I said 'I want you up front right away.' All four girls went after it.
"They got out front and generally had a really fast pace right off. They hit the first-kilometre split exactly where I wanted and then they maintained that speed pretty much throughout."
It helped that Seattle had a strong team that continually pushed the pace.
"It was one of those things where they were running turn for turn with somebody," said Carver. "It made it so they couldn't just get out front and run relaxed. They had to go."
Race strategies differ – often Carver will coach his athletes to run more relaxed at the start and pick off racers later – but it was positive for him to see his squad able to maintain a fast pace over a sustained period of time.
"They didn't have a terrible fade which I've seen many times before when an athlete goes out with a slightly more aggressive pace they normally can handle," he said. "That was really good to see. The girls had a bit of a lag, but not much. They hung onto it pretty solidly.
"That sets us up for our next race where we're going to go in with a different (strategy). We're going to run more relaxed in the first part and then make a dramatic change halfway through the race. "
That will be this Saturday in Camrose when the Griffins will join an ACAC field of runners at the Augustana Open.
Kiana Row finished second among university competitors on Saturday (Linda Miller photo).