By Alex Cyr
Angus Rawling finished 68th at the 2016 U Sports Cross-Country Championships. Nobody batted an eyelid.
The Calgary native could rejoice in the fact that he had improved his ranking from the 2015 championship by nearly 30 places. But, the business student at St. FX was sorely unsatisfied. A clean bill of health finally came his way and, not even four months later, he shocked the conference by winning the AUS (Atlantic Canada) 3,000m title.
Then, Rawling took off. A consistent summer of training culminated to a 14:16 5,000m sixth-place finish at the 2017 Canadian Track and Field Championships. Carrying that fitness over to the cross-country season, he won his second AUS title, this one in cross-country. He enters the U Sports Championships, set for Nov. 12, hungry for more.
Alex Cyr: How has your training been going over the last few weeks?
Angus Rawling: Training has been going pretty well. I’ve been a bit inconsistent with injuries, but I’ve managed to grind through the workouts. I can’t complain, because this build up has been better than those from the last two years. All in all, it’s been good.
AC: In less than a calendar year, you’ve managed to lower your 5,000m personal best from 14:53 to 14:16. Since that race at senior nationals, you seem to have ascended to a new level of competition. To what do you attribute this improvement?
AR: I think the jump was just a culmination of a lot of learning experiences. Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a runner. That came with just learning more about the sport in general. For example, the disappointing race I had at the Canada Games this summer became a learning experience. I’ve become a better racer because of it.
AC: Despite gaining that experience, you still enter the competition as somewhat of a dark horse given your age, your level of experience and the fact that you have yet to race against most of the contenders. Is there some fun in assuming the role of the underdog?
AR: That was the role I got to play at senior nationals. I like to fly under the radar, because it makes me put less pressure on myself. That’s usually how I race best. Also, I don’t mind not having raced against many of the contenders. I got to race against guys such as Yves (Sikubwabo) and (Danny) Racine once at Interlock. I was pretty banged up at this point of the season, so I still don’t really know where I stack up against them. If that makes me the underdog, then that’s fine with me.
AC: The X-Men are in the middle of a momentous change of the guard, with coach Bernie Chisholm retiring at the end of the year, while three-time Olympian Eric Gillis is currently learning the ropes. Has this unique collaboration benefited your training in any way?
AR: The training plan has been pretty consistent over the last three years, so I think that helps with the transitions within the coaching staff. But one thing I get to benefit from this year is the knowledge Eric has of the sport, and what it takes to compete at the next level. Along with Bernie, he has played a big part in making the guys get to the end of the season healthy and fit.
AC: You are going to represent the X-Men at the U Sports Championships, and for the first time in years, they are not sending a full team. Does this fact change your mindset leading up to the race?
AR: The experience for me this year will be different from the other ones I’ve lived at U Sports. Over the last two years, I was working to be the fifth or sixth man on the St. FX team. This year, I am reaching higher. I can focus on my individual strategy without thinking about where my teammates are. But I will definitely miss the team atmosphere.
Getting to know Angus
Boys do facial hair, do you have any rituals? Obviously I grow facial hair for U Sports, even if it’s scraggly *fondles beard*.
XC Spikes of choice: Nike Vic 4, the sock ones. Whatever [Regina’s Adam] Strueby’s wearing.
Pre-race meal: Pasta of some sort. Cheap carbs. Icelandic glacial water.
Professional runner: Eric Gillis. I think I’m obligated to say that.
Pump up song: I have a weird taste in music. He Drinks Gas by Donovan Woods.
Hard with hills, or fast and flat? Mixture of both.
Who are you looking forward to see at the U Sports Championships: Oh, obviously Russell Pennock. But I’m offended I wasn’t his only choice.
Race Motto: Just bury yourself.