By Evan Andrin
Much like it is after Halloween, when our attention turns almost immediately to the December holidays, athletes have scant opportunity to catch their breath between provincials (or regionals) and nationals. By this time in an athlete’s year, the hard miles are (mostly) behind them and all they need to do is execute on the day, Nov. 12, of the U Sports Cross-Country Championships.
Easier said than done.
For us punditry types, there’s nothing really left for teams to hide: these preds are based entirely on who’s racing and what those racers have done this year. Any curveballs thrown out on championship day would be on par with the Moneyball team itself. With that said, let’s kick things off with…
The Vikes move up to number five for the national university championships after winning the team title at the B.C. Open Championships [over Trinity Western]. Did any of the U Sports coaches bother to look at results from BC Championships, having ranked them well back of TWU in the most recent poll published on Oct. 31, after this result? It seems not! Now, you might be thinking, “look at this hypocrite over here, he’s never mentioned the Vikes.” Though long-time readers will know I have previously been a ‘hater’, ever since their 2013 promotional video, I’ve always been an avid fan.
Projected scorers: Hooper, Edmonds, Hegland, Bibault, Hewitt, Wood, Ginther.
For being so-called “underdogs”, this Gryphons team is awfully good. Still, in this dog-eat-dog world of U Sports cross-country, it’ll be near-impossible for them to continue their 12-year consecutive team title streak. We expect a better performance from the Gryphs at nationals with strong runs from team captain Charlotte Ward and 2016 standout Hannah Woodhouse. It wouldn’t be out of the question for them to contest for a podium spot.
Projected scorers: Jossinet, Wismer, Woodhouse, Earhart, Ward, Maltais, Hickson.
To quote 20th century philosopher, Rivers Cuomo, “say it ain’t sooooo-whoa, this team is a heartbreaker”. As Gabriela Stafford will not be racing at U Sports, the long-anticipated battle between the 6ix and the 613 will not come to pass. Gollish and Gabriela’s younger sister, Lucia, give the Blues the star power to go toe-to-toe with any other team in the country, but their depth just does not stack up to the teams ranked ahead of them.
Projected scorers: Gollish, Lucia Stafford, Kelly, Shukla, Agustin, Aggarwal, Marshall.
Bon succès à l’équipe féminine du Rouge et Or cross-country qui se dirige vers le Championnat @usportsca de XC, ayant la ferme intention de faire parler d’elles sur le parcours gazonné, ce dimanche à Victoria (BC). • Bon succès à @aureliedubelavoie , Anne-Marie Comeau, @jessylacourse , @valbel89 , @cat.gagne , @isaabelle_94 , Anne-Marie Gauthier et @beaouellet (R). @rougeetor @rseq1 @rseqqca @athletismequebec @athleticscanada @esquebeclevis @mathsport
Quelle surprise! With Toronto being Gabriel-less, and the Rouge et Or returning [16:36.36 5,000m runner] Anne-Marie Gauthier from the injured reserve, Laval moves up to second in our year-end rankings. Admittedly, this team is tough to judge due to the fact they’ve not raced any of the other top-5 teams yet this year, however their score from the RSEQ Championships suggests they’re in similar shape as that of their highly praised men’s side.
Projected scorers: Dubé-Lavoie, Comeau, Bélanger, Lacourse, Gauthier, Turcotte, Gagné.
If there was a lingering doubt that this is not the country’s best team, Oldster [coach Steve Boyd] and the Gaels quashed it with their OUA performance. Branna MacDougall, Amy Stephenson, and Molly Steer had stand-out runs on a team performance that was altogether outstanding. Even if Gabriela was running for Toronto, the Blues would’ve been hard pressed to best the Queen’s ladies. And with Branna’s younger sister, Brogan, signed on for next year, we seem to be in the midst of a dynasty turnover on the women’s side.
Projected scorers: MacDougall, Stephenson, Sumner, Murray, Steer, Sills, Watson.
5. Trinity Western
There has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding this Spartans team all year, and that continues to be true heading into the U Sports Championships. Based on B.C. Open Championships results, Declan White, who suffered an early-season setback, will not be in the medal hunt this weekend, and ‘September stud’ Nick Colyn, appears to be rounding into a perfectly timed ‘November dud’. Bomba’s brigade is still a top-five team, but they’ll need to pull up their slacks (or wear their splits real high) to stave off a hungry Queen’s side.
Projected scorers: Caleb De Jong, White, Colyn, Neufeld, Tyler De Jong, Lam, Marshall.
At Stewart Cup, Calgary gave us good reason to buy into the hype. Pennock was the runaway winner against several other potential All-Canadians [top-14 placers at nationals], but without X-factor Alex James (who DNFed at Stewart Cup), the team lacks the top talent to take down tougher prey. We hope to see a big race, and equally big, potentially choreographed, pre-race pump-up from the Dinos.
Projected scorers: Pennock, James, Daniel, Grieco, Lutz, Warmuch, Ord.
Shame on us for cutting the Water Boy(s) from our previous publication. And, similar to the horrible Adam Sandler movie, they made us live to regret it. At OUAs, Max Turek proved he is much more than a one-run wonder, and Villaneuva finally transcribed his track talent over to the cross course; both of them medalled there.
Projected scorers: Tweedle, Villaneuva, Turek, Favero, McGillivray, MacGillivray, Deane.
Bon succès également à notre équipe masculine qui tentera férocement de défendre son titre de champion national universitaire à Victoria. • Bon succès à @yvesikubwabo , @titoine_track , @racing_dany , @nimo_run , @queendesgagnez , @spoher7 , @kevrun_ et Patrick Rouleau (R)! • • Les athlètes auront la chance de compter sur l’entraineur-chef Félix-Antoine Lapointe et de deux assistants (Sylvain Cloutier et @blaispl ) pour l’encadrement lors du championnat! Bon succès à tous…. c’est les USPORTS! @usportsca @athleticscanada @athletismequebec @rseq1 @rseqqca @mathsport @rougeetor @esquebeclevis
I have good news and bad news for Rouge et Or fans. The good: Antoine Thibeault is registered for the U Sports championships. The bad: based on how other injury-stricken runners have fared this year (Declan White, Alex Wilkie, and Jack Sheffar to name a few), it is unlikely that he will change the tides of the race at all. The lack of a bonafide fifth leaves Laval one man short of a full ensemble.
Projected scorers: Sikubwabo, Racine, Morin, Desgagnes, Poher, Bedard, Rouleau, Thibeault.
The Gryphons retain their top spot heading into the U Sports Championships. Though Laval might get a boost from Thibeault, Guelph gets a definite bump from Ben Workman, who failed to score at OUAs. In fact, this team has had a different set of [five] scorers at each of their races thus far, with only Black, Patton, and Kellier constant among them. At U Sports champs, where attrition rates are relatively high, this interchangeability makes the Gryphs more ‘bonk-proof’ than Laval or Mac. Don’t call it a comeback, the Gryphs have never left.
Projected scorers: Black, Patton, Workman, Kellier, Shepherd, Ubene, Clarke.
Once a runner, now a fully-fledged weekend warrior, Evan is a previous OFSAA and CIS medallist, and former captain of the Queen’s Gaels cross-country team.