It did not take long for StFX's newest track and field coach, three-time Olympian Eric Gillis, to see his 3000m school record get erased. History was made on Saturday, February 10th when Angus Rawling bested all 3000m runners but seven in a field of 167 at the Boston University Valentine Invitational meet, thanks to a clocking of 8:08.06. The mark bested Gillis' school record of 8:11.27, set in 2004 at the same meet. The world-class marathoner's time was previously perceived as all but mythical, as the only athlete to run within ten seconds of it had been Connor McGuire in 2013.
Rawling, a business student and Calgary native, is having a year for the ages. After He claimed the AUS cross-country individual title in October, and went on to place 10th at the U SPOSRTS nationals in November. Now, thanks to his new 3000m personal best, which is faster than the U Sports standard, he has automatically qualified for the U Sports track and field championship of March 7-10, in Windsor, Ont. He currently ranks second in the country in the 3000m, behind only Jack Sheffar of Western University.
Though teammates and competitors alike were stunned by his most recent performance, Rawling, who notoriously sets impressive goals, believed he was fit enough to rewrite the StFX record book. "I knew there was a chance that if I got in the right race, that Eric's time would possibly be in reach," he says. The "right race," however, must be written with an asterisk. Usually, runners perform their best when racing against faster competitors. In Rawling's case, he led the second heat as soon as the pacer stepped off the track with almost half of the race left to run. "The pacer took us through the mile on 8:16-8:18 3000m pace," recalls Rawling. "I knew I had to close fast to have a chance at the record."
And close fast he did. The X-Man co-captain's second half of the race was clocked at 3 minutes and 58 seconds, a speed that even Gillis - who was in Antigonish anxiously waiting for results to be posted - admits to be impressive. "He looked like he was moving well," says Gillis. "That fast close permitted him to beat most, if not all, collegiate runners in the field." Post-collegiate and even professional runners were permitted to race against varsity athletes in this race. "I knew he was fit enough to dip under my record, but to capitalize on fitness is always impressive."
While Gillis was watching from home, StFX cross-country head and assistant coaches Bernie Chisholm and Kevin Grant had travelled down with Rawling, and got to witness history. Chisholm had given his athlete a few words of advice in the moments leading up to the race. "We chatted before the race on the importance of being patient. It was imperative for Angus to not have to do all the work. Once he saw the pace fall off, only then did he take the lead. He looked good and I feel that he can go a bit faster this winter." Chisholm added that Rawling's success is in part due to his exemplary attitude. "He is a fantastic young man and an Academic All-Canadian – he is very easy to coach."
It is that attitude that makes Rawling aware of the work required to achieve his goals. "This race was a culmination of great years here at StFX," he affirms. "In my first and second year, I was surrounded by a great group of fast guys that I got to chase in workouts and races. Eventually I caught up to them, and we got to race as equals. They helped me get better and improve. Now, many of those guys are gone, but I have a new mentor in Eric. He has helped me make the little changes in my training and lifestyle that have permitted me to improve. Now I know better how to set myself up to be successful."
Though Rawling is pleased with the weekend's result, he is already looking ahead. "This race secured my spot at U SPORTS and was a stepping stone for what is to come. Now, it's about performing when it matters."
Courtesy Alex Cyr