how far both Keon Wallingford and Angela Mozzon have come
was right near the top of a handful of highlights from
the 2023 OUA Cross-Country Championships in Waterloo as
Laurentian Voyageurs teams finished ninth (women) and
tenth (men) respectively in fields of 17 entries from
across the province.
A highly touted North Bay product who
took the OUA by storm as a rookie in 2019, Wallingford
placed 31st at the provincial showdown that year and contributed
nicely to an L.U. men's entry that earned a birth at nationals.
But far beyond the challenge that Covid-19
would pose a year later, Wallingford would battle the
dreaded injury bug in the ensuing seasons, fighting his
way back this fall to a 21st place finish on Saturday
and a season-best time of 25:17.
"It's almost hard to put into words
what Keon was able to accomplish today," noted Laurentian
head coach Darren Jermyn. "He had been injured for
a full year, dealing with an ongoing shin issue, so he
didn't have the typical summer mileage build and training
base coming into the season."
"He has worked extremely hard to
be physically ready to race at the elite level again -
but perhaps what is more impressive is his mental toughness
on race day."
Yet it was a very soft-spoken 22 year
old fifth year student (but only year three of eligibility)
who looked ahead last week as he and his team put their
finishing touches on pre-race workouts at the Laurentian
"I definitely have some personal
goals but I don't have any huge expectations," said
Wallingford last Monday. "This is kind of a remain
healthy season and continue to run. But I am a competitor.
I like to compete and do well."
The OUA championship race provided a great
end to the university XC season for young man who still
must make some key decisions before next fall - though
the question of still running, in some way, shape or form
is not one of them.
"I'm actually not entirely sure of
what I am doing yet, academically," said Wallingford,
who is contemplating doing a masters in psychology but
also considering applying to law school. "I still
have two years (of eligibility) after this."
"If I stay at Laurentian or go to
another school that has a running team, I will continue
to run. Even if I don't go to a school with a running
team, I am still going to run, probably for Track North."
Wallingford led all of the Voyageurs'
men in Waterloo, followed by local product Brandon Radey
(57th - 27:17 - 30-second PB), Seamus Doherty (63rd -
27:29), Cameron Date (70th - 27:55) and Patrick Leroux
(78th - 28:11).
On the women's side of things, St Benedict
Catholic Secondary School product Angela Mozzon showed
the way for the Laurentian ladies for a second straight
year, improving two spots from her 2022 OUA performance
(35th in Waterloo - 31:19).
"Angela's eight kilometre time has
improved by over five minutes since she came to Laurentian,"
noted coach Jermyn. "She is really a prime example
of what we can achieve with our program and the support
we have from the university."
Also helping the Voyageurs' women jump
one place up in the standings this year were Meredith
Kusnierczyk, who took full advantage of a flat, fast course
to run the fastest race of her varsity career (50th -
32:15), as well as Kristen Mrozewski (53rd - 32:24), Sarah
Booth (66th - 33:46) and Charlotte Grenier (72nd - 34:26).
In Mrozewski, Grenier and Booth, the team
should have some building blocks for 2024 (other might
return as well), with the latter finishing her fourth
and final year of Outdoor Adventure Leadership but tacking
on a year of Concurrent Education at the tail-end.
"When I am in my school year, if
I don't have sports, I don't do well academically,"
said Booth, a native of Peterborough. "I need it."
Varsity sports, however, were not a given
for the daughter of life-long runners - but one who never
really embraced it consistently until she arrived in Sudbury.
Thankfully, the university process does have time on its
"When I came here, I didn't reach
out right away because of Covid and stuff," Booth
recollected. "But I knew one of the previous runners
(Sarah Thackery) and eventually decided to reach out to
"He asked me: are you fit?"
Booth continued. "I said fairly fit - then I came
out and realized that I was fit, but not THAT fit. This
is a huge difference. I think I actually found Covid really
helpful. Because we didn't have any races, I just trained
the whole time."
"That was nice because in the following
year, I could actually be competitive."
Many are the examples of those who have
experienced similar journeys to that of Booth and Mozzon
and Mrozewski, a hockey recruit of a now-defunct program
when she initially enrolled at Laurentian.
"It's nice to have that ability to
have what Darren calls a practice squad," noted Booth.
"It's great for just getting into it because Darren
cuts back on the workouts. Just being able to have that
conversation with Darren about what you can do to work
your way into this and not getting injured is the biggest
Following the traditional post-race visit
to Dairy Queen, the team will now shift their focus to
the indoor season, with the OUA Championships set for
February 23rd to the 25th in Windsor.