HAMILTON, Ont. – The Ryerson cross-country team travelled to Hamilton on October 13 to compete in one of the final races in the build-up to the OUA Championships at the end of the month.

Sylvie Antoun led the Ryerson women, running sub-four minute kilometres and crossing the line in 39th place. Not far behind Antoun was Melinda Marghetis, who finished in 46th place.

On the men’s side, Michael Konstantopoulos was the first Ram to finish, placing 47th in a time of 23:05. Valerian Gomes and Aaron McQuaid were right behind Konstantopoulos in 58th and 62nd, both averaging sub-3:30 kilometres.

The men’s and women’s teams both fought hard on the unforgiving seven kilometre course, but despite the teams’ gritty, tough battles, both ended up placing last in their races.

It’s easy to look at a results list, see last place finishes for both the men and women, and to declare the race a failure. It’s easy to compare Ryerson to Western, McMaster and U of T — teams which had athletes finish in the top 10 in both races. They’re all on the same list, right? They’re all in the same race, aren’t they?

Yes, on paper and on the course, Ryerson is in the same race as all of these other schools, but the other teams toeing the start line have such a head-start in the race happening off of the course.

This year marks only the third season of Ryerson cross-country. The teams that are beating the Rams have been around for many more years. They have had season after season after season to establish themselves as legitimate contenders, to build strong programs and to attract some of Canada’s top runners.

But none of this is to say that the Rams are not improving.

Konstantopoulos’ quick race in Hamilton lowered the Ryerson seven kilometre record by almost 30 seconds from the previous team best of 23:32, set by Mike Park back in 2015.

Gomes made big strides in Hamilton as well, shaving a whopping 34 seconds off of his seven kilometre personal best and moving him into third on the Rams’ leaderboard for the distance.

As for the women, Antoun, Marghetis and the rest of the team have all improved significantly over the course of the season.

In their first race of the year at Western, the Ryerson women averaged a 4:24 per kilometre pace as a team. In Hamilton, they dropped that team pace to 4:11 per kilometre.

The Rams may be behind most other teams in Ontario, but they are improving at an exciting rate, gaining speed and momentum every day. Ryerson just started a little late and needs to make up some ground.

The rest of the field is already a kilometre or two ahead, and they’re not slowing down. But cross-country is a long, tough process. The start is important, yes, but it’s a long way to the finish line, and a lot can happen before someone breaks the tape.

So, Ryerson will just keep on running.

They’ll keep on chasing those long-established teams for as long as it takes to catch up to them.

The Rams will keep fighting for that spot — any spot, first or last — on the results list — proud to fight no matter the outcome.