It’s been a banner year for Mohawk Collage’s cross country team, taking home three medals in the OCAA Championships. And the man who guided the squad, former Mountaineer runner Ryan Gagnon, was named OCAA Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Gagnon, from Milton, was a runner, but cross country was not his discipline. His post secondary education took him to Sheridan College in Oakville, then to Mohawk where was in the Health, Wellness and Fitness course. His first year was at the Brantford Campus, which did not have a running programme, but in his second year he managed to join the Mohawk varsity cross country team, under Andre Simon.
“It was my first year running in that type of capacity,” said Gagnon. ” It was an eye opening experience and I was kind of hooked.”
After running one year for Mohawk, it was off to Brock University where he began his undergraduate studies in kinesiology and he started running with a club as well as the Brock varsity team. He is currently in the process of completing his Master’s Degree.
This past season, his first as Mohawk’s coach, saw Gagnon’s athletes gain considerable success. Kyle Rooke won the OCAA men’s championship and Jason Laporta took the bronze. Also, Kaitlyn Pansegrau won the women’s bronze.
“I don’t want to take all the credit,” said the coach. “I think we got a little bit lucky. Kyle and Jason both came back very fit after their previous few years and they are both pretty solid runners. And Kaitlyn came from McMaster pretty fit as well.”
Gagnon says he’s taken a bit of what he learned from previous coach Simon, as well as what he liked from the Brock coaches. He then tried to put his own flavour into it.
“I know my top runners are going to do well. Then it’s a case of working with the other athletes and putting together the whole package.”
The coach notes he has to stay on top of injuries and making sure everyone has their own approach at practice, as runners are often working on different things.
“Cross country is one of the most mentally and physically demanding sports,” said Gagnon.
As for next year, he knows he’ll be losing some athletes. That’s unfortunate, but he’d like to think it was a good opening year. Still, there is a lot of potential there now. It’s then a case of recruiting.
Gagnon said he had bigger goals at Mohawk down the road, but to land a coaching position was icing on the cake for him.
So in his words;
“I plan on sticking around.”
Source: Al Craig