During the 2020-21 academic year, a record 198 varsity student-athletes earned U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian honours by achieving a minimum GPA of 3.50 while participating in a varsity sport. All 10 members of the 2020-21 men’s cross country are included in that number.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, head coach Rich Lehman knew he’d have to adjust tactics to keep his team motivated without a competitive season.
“We stressed the importance of internal motivation and coming out of the pandemic in a better spot then when we entered it,” says Lehman.
Based on the results the team achieved during the 2021-22 season, it looks like that approach paid off. With eight of the 10 members returning from the 2020-21 season, the Tigers won their second consecutive AUS championship with Will Cox finishing in third place. Nick Robertson and Hudson Grimshaw-Surette finished sixth and seventh, respectively, joining Cox as AUS all-stars. Two weeks later, they headed to Quebec for the national championship, earning a seventh-place finish with Cox once again leading the way with a 30th place finish.
“The fact that we defended our AUS title, improved our national result by six spots and had 100% of our team earn Academic All-Canadian status tells me we achieved our goal,” adds Lehman. “Maintaining a high academic standard in an online learning environment requires the same type of discipline and task orientation as training for endurance sport, and I'm proud of the way our guys did both through the pandemic.”
During a typical cross country season, which runs from September to November, athletes usually run eight times per week in training and have a competition every two weeks leading up to conference and national championships. Without competition during the 2020-21 season, the focus was on a slow and steady build. Robertson was in his third year of a major in kinesiology last year and was the newly minted captain of the team.
“We weren’t forced to rush training last year,” says the two-time Academic All-Canadian. “But it was tough to keep everyone motivated to keep hitting almost the exact same training week after week with no competition in sight.”
Like many during the COVID-19 pandemic, Robertson had to focus on time management in order to be successful. Cross country is mainly an individual sport and athletes typically have already established some habits that can make the adjustment to online school a little easier.
“Ordinarily, I would have to focus on scheduling my training around school, but last year I ended up shifting my schoolwork around when I would train,” adds Robertson. “As team captain, I also started checking in on the rest of the team to ensure everything was going well for them.”
Teammate Aidan Goslett was finishing his first year of school at Dalhousie when the pandemic set in.
“My first year (2019-20) was great both academically and athletically,” says the Toronto, Ont. native. “I was prepared for a greater workload coming out of high school and study hall was a great way for me to get work done and meet other student-athletes. It was refreshing to come to Dal to train with a group of like-minded guys and get individualized training. Team trips created some great memories and helped me feel part of the team right away.”
Transitioning into 2020-21 was difficult for Goslett as most everything changed for him so soon after finding his groove the year before.
“Academically, it was difficult to remain organized and motivated as all of my classes were online which took away from in-class discussions and the social aspect of classes. With the majority of them being asynchronous, it was easy to forget about certain classes, especially as other classes began to get busy, however after a few months I was able to adjust,” says the third-year commerce student. “Athletically, the most challenging aspect was staying motivated when there was no competition in sight, but Rich (Lehman) and the rest of the team were very encouraging and supportive.”
The two-time Academic All-Canadian attributes embracing change as a key factor in success.
“It was already really difficult to manage time as a student-athlete balancing classes, studying, training and competition,” he says. “COVID forced me to adapt and change the way I do things in order to be successful, and I feel like we made the best of situation.”
Looking back, Robertson takes great pride in what he and his teammates were able to accomplish.
“I’m really proud of the guys on the team,” says the Charlottetown, P.E. native. “We all worked really hard to make the best of a tough situation and it’s great to see it pay off.”
As a group, the 2020-21 men’s cross country team had student-athletes in four different faculties – health, graduate studies, law and management. The average GPA of the team was 3.95.
Meet the other eight members of the 2020-21 cross country team.
Fifth-year kinesiology major Hudson Grimshaw-Surette earned his fourth-straight Academic All-Canadian in 2020-21 and is on-track to do the same this year. A Dean’s List student, the Yarmouth, N.S. native is a 16-time AUS medallist in track and field and a two-time AUS cross country all-star.
Fourth-year Blair Miller is currently in his second year of a combined JD/MBA in the Schulich School of Law. A Dean’s List student and member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, the Halifax, N.S. native is also a four-time Academic All-Canadian.
Halifax native Alec Freeman is a three-time Academic All-Canadian who graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with Sexton Distinction in May 2020. A three-year member of the team, he is currently working on a Master of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering.
Harmon Grimshaw-Surette has been an Academic All-Canadian in his first three years in kinesiology. The Dean’s List student is also a captain and AUS all-star with the track and field team. The Yarmouth, N.S. native hopes to pursue a career as a physiotherapist.
Third-year kinesiology major Will Cox earned his first Academic All-Canadian honour last year. The Dean’s list student is an AUS all-star who hails from Ottawa, Ont.
Toronto, Ont. native Daniel Rosen earned his second-straight Academic All-Canadian selection in 2020-21. The Dean’s List student is in his second year of a major in accounting and also competes on the track and field team.
Jonathan Goodridge was an AUS all-star in both cross country and track and field. A three-time Academic All-Canadian, the St. John’s Nfld. native is majoring in finance.
Caledon, Ont. native James Cromack also graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce. in the spring of 2021. An AUS all-star, this is his third Academic All-Canadian selection.
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