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The ultimate U Sports Cross-Country Championship predictions

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This Saturday are the 2019 U Sports Cross-Country Championships in Kingston, Ont. The championships are a culmination of months of gritty cross-country training in a race to see which teams and individuals end up on top.

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Last year saw the Calgary Dinos men and Laval Rouge et Or women take the championship, two teams who hadn’t secured a win in years, or in Laval’s case, ever. Both teams are returning with strong squads but several other schools have rosters that could stand in their way of becoming repeat champions. Here are team and individual predictions for the top finishers in Saturday’s race.

Laval women post-race 2018. Photo: Maxine Gravina

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Women’s team picks

Queen’s Gaelsfirst place

The Queen’s ladies are the top pick for this year’s championship title. Branna MacDougall looked very strong at the 2019 OUA Championships and while younger sister Brogan wasn’t in perfect form, the sisters managed to go two-three and win the team title. Even if Brogan doesn’t end up racing on Saturday, the Queen’s women have the depth to win. Versions of this team have had serious chances at the crown for about five years, and here’s hoping they can finally make it happen on their home course this weekend.

Guelph Gryphons – second place

This prediction is with the assumption that Danielle Jossinet is running–if their veteran runner and captain isn’t on the line, Guelph is moved to a predicted third-place finish.

Never underestimate Guelph. Even when they seem like they’re not going to make it happen, come championship season, they usually do. While their women aren’t as dominant as they have been in the past, they run in a tight group and have Jossinet and rookie Cameron Ormond as their heavy hitters. This group of women will likely end up on the podium.

Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

McGill Martlets – third place

The McGill women are having a stellar year. Led by Elizabeth Hirsch, this squad upset the Laval women at their conference championship just last week. While Laval is a team of gritty and exceptionally strong championship racers, they haven’t been as dominant as they were in 2018. Were they training through their races and are ready for a big one Saturday? Maybe. But there’s a good chance that McGill will be the standout RSEQ team–that’s what past results indicate.

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Dark horse – Toronto Varsity Blues 

Lucia Stafford ran an pretty impressive race at OUAs, beating both MacDougall sisters to win her first individual cross-country title. Stafford was fantastic, but other members of the team underperformed. If Toronto has a good day, they could snag an unexpected spot on the podium. (Editor’s note: I was a member of this team for five years and still train with them and therefore I’m a little biased. Nevertheless, I think this is a fair prediction.)

Connor Black men’s winner of U Sports cross-country 2018. Photo: Maxine Gravina

Men’s team picks

Calgary Dinos – first place

This squad feels like the men’s equivalent of the Queen’s women. The race is theirs to lose. With a very competitive top five (Pennock, Daniel, Travaglini, James and Lutz) and strong sixth and seventh runners to back them up, this group looks nearly unbeatable. But this is cross-country we’re talking about and anything can happen.

Laval Rouge et Or – second place

If anyone was going to give Calgary trouble, it’s the Laval men. They’re a squad that’s good on the track and arguably better on the XC course. Led by Jean-Simon Desgagnes who’s backed up by Jonathan Tedeschi, this group easily won their RSEQ championship and hasn’t lost to another Canadian team yet this season.

Guelph Gryphons – third place

Just like on the women’s side, never underestimate Guelph. They were not our predicted OUAs winners, but they won. Their individual runner Conor Black was not predicted for the 2018 men’s winner, but he was. This squad runs well under pressure.

While it’s unlikely they’re the victors, it is probable they’re on the podium. Watch for Mitch Ubene and Mark Patton to help bring this team to a top-three finish.

Dark horse – McMaster Marauders

This team (perpetually fourth, except for 2018 when they were third) should place better than fourth in 2019–they’ve got the runners to do it. But unfortunately this group had a tough day at OUAs, and ended up finishing just behind Guelph. With not one runner on the podium at their conference championship (when Guelph had two) it was difficult to take the win. If Max Turek, Alex Drover and several of their veteran runners can put together a strong day, they’re in contention for the podium.

Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Individual women’s top 10 predictions

Lucia Stafford – Toronto
Branna MacDougall – Queen’s
Elizabeth Hirsch – McGill
Brogan MacDougall – Queen’s
Aurelie Dube-Lavoie – Laval
Kara Blair – Queen’s
Isabella Thorton-Bott – Waterloo
Elodie De Cone – Monteal
Nicola Symonds – UBC
Danielle Jossinet – Guelph

Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Individual men’s top 10 predictions

Jean-Simon Desganges – Laval
Stefan Daniel – Calgary
Russell Pennock – Calgary
Mark Patton – Guelph
Andrew Peverill – St. Mary’s
Keiran Lumb – UBC
Isaiah Frielink – Western
Alex Drover – McMaster
Mitch Ubene – Guelph
Jonathan Tedeschi – Laval