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The cross-country distance debate: Allie Ostrander wants the women to move to 10K

Double NCAA champion Allie Ostrander weighs in on the cross-country distance debate

The NCAA cross-country championships took place on Saturday, and leading up to the event, several athletes spoke up about their desire to race 10K. In the NCAA, the women race 6K and the men race 10K. In Canada at the collegiate level, the men’s and women’s distances have slowly moved up, but they have never been equal. On the women’s side, they raced 5K up to the end of 2013, and by 2017 the distance had increased to 8K. The men’s distance has remained at 10K. 

The men and women in Ontario run the same distances at the high school level, and the same distance at the senior national championship. At the collegiate level however, like in the NCAA, they do not. The U Sports race distances are pending. A coaches’ meeting was held before the 2018 meet to determine the competition distances for 2019, but a decision has yet to be reached. 

Top three women: Catherine Beauchemin, Aurélie Dubé-Lavoie, Brogan MacDougall. Photo: Maxine Gravina.

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In the NCAA, like in Canada, many arguments are being made for and against moving up distances. Boise State runner and two-time NCAA steeplechase champion Allie Ostrander told Let’s Run that she wants to compete at 10K. “Personally, I would like to see the distance go up. It would be awesome for us to be racing the same distance as the men… It would make sense for us to prepare to race at the world standard distance.”

Pictured: Brogan MacDougall. Photo: Maxine Gravina
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At the world cross-country senior level, both the men and woman race 10K, so it would be a logical distance for the athletes to run at the collegiate level. 

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One of the counter arguments, which Ostrander points out, is that a 10K race is a disadvantage to many middle distance runners who compete at cross-country. She told Let’s Run, “You’ll get a lot of differing opinions, and I think that changing the distance for women would really change the dynamic of the sport. Because right now I feel like 1,500 runners, 5K runners, and 10K runners can all be successful. But it becomes more difficult for shorter distance track runners to be successful once it goes up to a 10k.”

A decision on the U Sports cross-country distances for men and women is expected in the coming months.