It was conference championship week for NCAA Division I cross country south of the border. Thirteen Canadians finished inside the top 10 within their respective conferences, with two B.C. athletes winning their conference meets outright.
Ceili McCabe of West Virginia University and Taryn O’Neill of Northern Arizona University both finished first at their meets, earning a spot at regional qualifiers. O’Neill, who is from Kelowna, B.C., won her second straight Big Sky conference individual title after running a huge 5K personal best of 16:31, helping the NAU team secure its 16th straight conference title. McCabe, a Vancouver, B.C. native, extended her winning streak to three this season, adding a win at the NCAA Big 12 Conference Championship. Both women are strong contenders for the NCAA championship in late November.
The Iona College men’s XC team, based out of New Rochelle, N.Y., has the largest contingent of Canadian runners in the NCAA, with seven. Last Friday, they won their 31st consecutive Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title. Iona had five Canadians place in the top 10: Joshua DeSouza (2nd), Ehab El-Sandali (3rd), Jonathan DeSouza (5th), Campbell Lee (7th) and Graham Baird (8th). Iona will continue their season on Nov. 12, when the men’s team takes on the 2021 NCAA Northeast Regional Championship in Boston.
Other notable top results include Calgary’s Ryan Smeeton, who was fourth at the Big 12 Championship. Smeeton represented Canada at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and is currently competing for Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Sadie Sigfstead, an up-and-coming collegiate runner for Villanova University from Edmonton, placed fifth in her Big East Championship debut. In 2017, Sigfstead won the U18 Canadian cross country championship as a 14-year-old. Ontario’s Chloe Thomas of the UConn Huskies finished seventh overall and posted a new career-best time in the 6K (21:06.9).
Gracelyn Larkin of Rosseau, Ont. placed third at the Mountain West Championship, gaining two spots on her sixth-place finish in 2020. The University of New Mexico athlete was the 2019 Mountain West rookie of the year. Stephanie Parsons from Guelph, Ont. was seventh in the same race, helping the New Mexico Lobos women’s team win the Mountain West Championship.
Canadian sub-four-minute miler from Guelph, Ont., Michael Coccia, placed eighth for Ole Miss University in a deep SEC conference. Reigning Canadian U Sports champion from B.C., Kieran Lumb, who transferred to the University of Washington, was tenth at the PAC-10 Championship.