The Early Years
Although the term has largely fallen out of use, a “harrier” is a cross-country runner. In 1929, Gord Young coached the first cross country team at UWO, the Western University Harrier Club. In 1935, Western hosted the intermediate intercollegiate championship in which the over five mile course started and finished at Western's Little Stadium. Not only did Western act as host of the event but they also won the champion- ship. In the following years, led by the great athlete Terry Ferris, Western went on to win the intercollegiate championships in both 1936 and 1938.
One of the most memorable harrier events took place in 1938. In that year, the Mustangs faced off against the University of Detroit in a relay race to celebrate the opening of the Blue Water Bridge connecting Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario.The Western relay team started on the Ontario side and raced toward the City Hall at Port Huron while the Detroit team raced from the Michigan side to Sarnia’s City Hall. Unfortunately the University of Detroit came out on top.
After placing second in both the 1950-51 and the 1951-52 seasons, Western reached the top in 1952-53, winning the senior championships with an impressive perfect score. A five man squad of Gord Brown, Lorne Buck, team captain Rich Hobbs, Mendel Smith and Bruce Waller placed first through fifth for a perfect score, setting an inter- collegiate record. It wasn’t until 1970 that the cross-country team won another senior title, although they did have many individual successes.
In the 1963-64 season, Hylke “Hike” van der Wal competed on both the Western cross country and track and field teams. In his only season at Western, Hike placed second at the Ontario University Championships and qualified for the nationals. Hosted by Guelph, Hike also placed third at the inaugural Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union Cross Country Championships.