It’s not often that the running community in this country experiences a shake-up. That’s why the news coming out of Montreal that two of Quebec’s most prominent clubs have merged is exciting news.
Montreal Endurance, which was borne out of founder John Lofranco’s desire to build a diverse training group for his collegiate cross-country runners at Concordia University, will join forces with McGill Olympic. Montreal Endurance, which was only loosely affiliated with Concordia’s cross-country program, cut ties with the school last month, and now will form one mega-club with over 100 members beginning in 2013. McGill Olympic is varsity coach Dennis Barrett’s multi-purpose off-shoot of his group. This new club will look to build talent of all ages, from juniors to masters, in both track and field as well as distance running.
Canadian Running reached out to Montreal Endurance’s John Lofranco to talk about what brought on the merger and what Montrealers should expect out of their new juggernaut organization.
Canadian Running: Tell us a little bit about the merger and what that will mean for both clubs going forward?
John Lofranco: Both groups had some needs: Montreal Endurance was looking for institutional backing that it wasn’t getting from Concordia. We had a vision of a club with a strong junior development program, a full-service varsity program, and a post-collegiate group. We were working with half a varsity program (cross-country, no track) and a strong post-collegiate group, probably the best in the city (based on provincial cross-country championships: both senior men and women were the highest ranking teams from Montreal). McGill has a full and successful varsity program, and a nacent junior group, but the post-collegiate side was lacking. It would have been too much for me to grow our club alone, and Dennis Barrett had his hands full with the varsity side, in addition to putting on 5-6 meets per year. Now we can combine our energies, and focus on our strengths.
CR: What will be the focus of this new club? Will there be a recreational or masters component in addition to a varsity/developmental component?
JL: Our first priority is going to be to build the junior group. That will be our base. Some of our collegiate and post-collegiate athletes will give back by coaching the younger athletes. The varsity and senior age-groups have been successful so far, so we will look to keep that momentum going. As far as recreational/masters running, we have some representation there, and it’s another area we want to build. The idea is to have a real “cradle to grave” athletics program at McGill.
CR: What sort of ramifications will this merger have on the Montreal and Quebec running scenes?
JL: I think it will give runners in Montreal a strong anchor. There are many good road running clubs, and some good kids groups, but there is a lack of continuity. People start out in one club, and move to another that better meets their needs later on. That’s fine, but we hope this strengthened McGill community will foster links between all the age groups. Kids can learn from the grizzled road vets, and the road vets can learn from the kids. I think this will break down some artificial barriers in the scene.
CR: What brought on the merger?
JL: As I said, our club wasn’t getting the institutional support it needed. On the other side, Dennis wanted to expand, but lacked the resources. Ours’ is a very close community, so we talk a lot, and the more Dennis and I spoke, the more the answer became clear.
CR: Are there any specific changes or new plans in the works for this new group?
JL: We want to build the numbers at the junior level. I think that’s the most important thing. Both of us have had success at what we’ve been doing so far, so it’s not so much doing new things as it is doing them in concert, all pushing in the same direction.