Sports

History in the making

SAIT runner breaks 30-year individual gold medal drought

Gold medal cross-country runner Jacques Saayman poses for a portrait at SAIT in Calgary. Saayman recently ended the Trojan's 30-year individual gold medal drought by coming in first at provincials in Grande Prairie. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/SAIT)

Gold medal cross-country runner Jacques Saayman poses for a portrait at SAIT in Calgary. Saayman recently ended the Trojan’s 30-year individual gold medal drought by coming in first at provincials in Grande Prairie. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/SAIT)

Headed into the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Cross-Country Running Championships, Jacques Saayman knew history was at stake, though it didn’t cross his mind until after the race. 

Saayman broke a 30-year gold medal drought to win SAIT’s first men’s individual cross-country provincial championship since the 1986-87 season.

Saayman finished the eight kilometre run with a time of 27:49.

Although he knew about the drought, Saayman didn’t give much thought to it in order to stay focused during the race. 

“I don’t like to worry too much about the race until I line up and get ready for business,” Saayman said. 

“After crossing the finish line, it was a good feeling.” 

Saayman ensured that he kept his strategy before and during the race the same as he had all season long. 

This proved to be crucial for the first-year runner. With each race throughout the year, he improved his time and placing. 

“I ate ramen noodles all week long and listened to country music before the race,” Saayman said. 

“It’s a matter of not changing anything and having fun with it.” 

As the provincial championship race came closer, Saayman knew the race would push him to run the best race he has ever ran, but he also kept calm and collected. 

“Nobody is going to give you the race,” Saayman said.

“It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other and just sticking with it.”

Saayman, who is originally from Fort McMurray, Alta had his parents cheering him on from the sidelines, who made the drive down to Grande Prairie to watch their son make history. 

“It’s a far drive for them,” Saayman said.

“Having both my parents there was amazing.” 

In addition to Saayman winning gold, the men’s team also had a strong finish, winning the gold medal overall—their first since the 2012-13 season. 

Throughout the cross-country season, the men’s team dominated the Grande Prix races, which then carried through to the provincial championships. 

“Seeing how the team came together was really good,” Saayman said. 

“So many guys showed improvement.”

Co-head coach of the Trojans cross-country teams, Ryan Edgar, was thrilled when Saayman won the race, and also when the team won the championship. 

Edgar knew that over the course of the season, Saayman was developing his skills, and it was just a matter of time until he had a breakthrough run. 

“We knew he was improving,” Edgar said. 

“This was the inevitable result.” 

Edgar pointed out how the first place finish puts SAIT’s name on display for cross-country and for Trojans athletics as a whole. 

This was what Edgar and other co-head coach, Bre Langley, had envisioned since the pair took over coaching duties. 

“Our five to 10 year goal was to build the program up,” Edgar said. 

“We wanted to build it so that people associate SAIT with strong athletics.”

These strong finishes are putting the rest of the ACAC on notice, and Edgar hopes that it garners attention from new runners or those who show interest in cross-country. 

“We want to get more people who are runners at SAIT to come out for cross-country,” Edgar said.

“We have the advantage of being in a bigger city and school. They just need to come out and be a part of it.” 

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