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What do athletes think of the new World Cross-Country qualification process?

There are some changes to Athletics Canada's World cross-country qualification process. Canadian athletes weigh in on the new rules

Pan American Cross-Country Championships

Athletics Canada recently released their selection criteria for the World Cross-Country Championships which take place March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark. The criteria is a significant departure from previous years. With the Canadian Cross-Country Championships only one week away, here’s a look at what the change will mean for the athletes competing. 

Canadian Cross-Country Championships Photos
Photo: Canadian Running.

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In the past, the junior and senior men’s and women’s teams were made up by the top six finishers from nationals who had declared their interest in being on the World Championships team. This year, while the junior teams will be selected in the same way, the six person senior teams have an additional route for selection. The three-step process is as follows:

Step 1: Top four placing finishers at nationals are automatic (provided they have declared).

Step 2: Athletes who met a specific standard in the last 12 months (roughly based on being in the top 32 in the world) in either the 5000m, 10,000m, 3000m steeplechase or marathon are placed in rank order based on their performance relative to the standard, and the declared athletes are selected until the team is full.

Step 3: If spots remain, athletes will be selected by order of finish from fifth to tenth place until the team is full.

Athletes who would be eligible under step two of this process, in order of eligibility are: Mohammed Ahmed (10,000m), Matt Hughes (3000m steeplechase), Cameron Levins (marathon), and Justyn Knight (5000m) on the men’s side. On the women’s side, they are: Natasha Wodak (10,000m), Rachel Cliff (10,000m), Andrea Seccafien (5000m), Kate Van Buskirk (5000m), Jessica O’Connell (5000m), and Genevieve Lalonde (3000m steeplechase).

Canadian Cross-Country Championships Photos
Photo: Canadian Running.

Of those listed, only Wodak and Lalonde are registered to toe the line in Kingston. The rest have a chance, should they declare their interest, in being named to the team without racing. This has been a hot topic of conversation on Twitter and the message boards, with some believing that the old system better rewards athletes who show up on the day and who may specialize in cross-country, while others believe the new criteria give Athletics Canada the chance to select the strongest possible team for the World Championships.

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2016 Olympian and 2015 Canadian Cross-Country Champion Natasha Wodak believes that, “There needs to be a specific reason why one of these athletes can’t compete at Nationals. Injury, illness, etc. They should have to apply to the National Team Committee for an exemption.”

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

One athlete with a specific reason, who would undoubtedly strengthen the team, is Cam Levins. Levins, who broke the Canadian marathon record at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last month said in an interview with The Terminal Mile before the new criteria was announced that there was no way he would be recovered and ready to run at the Canadian Championship but that he would, “love to somehow make my way to World Cross-Country Championships… so unless there is some change in qualifying..”

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Knight, 2017 NCAA Cross-Country Champion, see both sides of the argument but said, “at the end of the day I stand by whatever qualifying process helps Canada bring the best team they can to Worlds.” Knight, who will not declare his interest for the Canadian team, believes if he were targeting the World Cross-Country Championships that competing at nationals would have been a priority for him regardless of the new criteria.

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