Luc Bruchet has a national championship to add to his resume.
On Saturday at Vancouver’s Jericho Park, the South Surrey runner slogged through the mud and rainy conditions to edge the rest of the field in the senior men’s division of 2013 Canadian Cross-Country Championships.
At nationals, Bruchet – an Elgin Park Secondary graduate who now runs for the Point Grey Track and Field Club – won the 10-km race, crossing the finish line in a time of 31 minutes, 38.39 seconds, nine seconds ahead of Vancouver’s Chris Winter, who won silver.
Aaron Hendrixx of Parkhill, Ont. took bronze.
Bruchet was considered one of the podium favourites heading into Saturday’s race, having represented Canada twice in 2013 – at the NACAC Cross-Country Championships in Jamaica, and at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships.
And though he knew he’d have a shot at the podium, Bruchet figured his roommate, Kelly Wiebe, would be the man to beat. Wiebe, however, had been battling injuries heading into the race, and pulled out after the first of five laps of the two-km course.
“We’d both been training extremely hard, were both really fit. Even our coach (Richard Lee) told us before the race that he couldn’t pick one of us to win,” Bruchet said Tuesday.
“But unfortunately, Kelly was dealing with some injuries, and I was able to win it.”
And though he’s thrilled to have captured the title, Bruchet admits the race did not go according to the pre-race game plan he’d mapped out with his coach.
The original plan, Bruchet explained, was to hang back in the early stages of the race, conserving energy, before making a late push for the lead.
Instead, the fifth-year UBC student found himself in the lead early.
“I wasn’t trying to push it that fast, but it just kind of happened,” he said. “I had about a 25-metre lead on Chris (Winter), but by the six, seven kilometre mark I wasn’t feeling very good, and I knew the gap had closed. I thought I’d kicked (ahead) way too early.”
At that point, Bruchet said he slowed “almost to a jog” and let Winter catch up to him. The pair ran side by side for about a lap, before Bruchet, feeling energized, burst forward for the stretch run.
Bruchet, a middle-distance runner with a year of track-and-field eligibility left at UBC, said his track-and-field experience helped him on the final lap.
“We were running together, and I could tell Chris was breathing pretty hard that last kilometre.
“And being a 1,500-m guy (in track), I think I had a bit more speed than a lot of the guys, so I just went for it and pulled away.”
The national cross-country title caps an impressive year for the South Surrey runner, who has excelled on track as well as the trails. Last May, Bruchet won a gold medal in the men’s 1,500-m at NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Marion, Ind.
But despite his accomplishments – both on the trail and the track – this year, he said he’s still coming to grips with his championship run Saturday.
“(Winning) was definitely a goal at the start of the season,” he said.
“But it’s still kind of weird to call myself a national champion.”