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Canadian U Sports XC championship preview and predictions

Everything you need to know for the 2023 U Sports Cross Country Championships this Sunday

U Sports XC Photo by: McMaster Athletics

For the last 12 weeks, university cross country teams across Canada have competed on grass and dirt with one objective: reaching the 2023 U Sports XC Championships in London, Ont., on Nov. 12. The championships are just three days away, and we have all the information you need to know heading into the pinnacle race of the XC season, including previews and predictions for both the men’s and women’s races.

U Sports XC rankings
Photo: Maggie Veitch, McMaster Athletics

How to follow

You can catch all the action from Thames Valley Golf Course in London, Ont., on CBC Sports, starting with the women’s race at 12 p.m. ET, followed by the men’s race at 1 p.m.

Men’s U Sports cross country conference championships power rankings

Women’s 8K: Can UBC win their first national title?

It’s been an exceptional season for head coach Steve Weiler and the top-ranked team in the country, the UBC Thunderbirds. Following last year’s runner-up finish to Laval in Halifax, the Thunderbirds have seen consistent success, winning every meet they’ve entered this season. Earlier in the season, Weiler’s squad travelled from Point Grey, B.C., to London, Ont., to run in the Western Invite, aiming to familiarize both the men’s and women’s teams with the 2023 U Sports course. The women had a landslide victory, placing five runners in the top six, beating a deep Western Mustangs team.

glynis sim ubc
Photo: UBC Thunderbirds

UBC appears to be the frontrunner in the women’s field for Sunday’s event, but securing a win won’t be a cakewalk. The host school, Western Mustangs, has shown continued improvement throughout the season. If the race is slow and strategic, Western could offer a tough challenge to UBC, with the strength of Sophie and Chloe Coutts and Olivia Roussel.

Anticipate the Laval Rouge et Or women to round the third spot on the podium, unless UBC or Western faces challenges. Laval has one of the favourites for the U Sports women’s individual title in Catherine Beauchemin. She has gone undefeated this season and has played a vital role in Laval’s last two gold-medal-winning teams. Beauchemin will be eyeing a third U Sports team gold on Sunday.

Predictions

Team
1. UBC Thunderbirds (CanWest)
2. Western Mustangs (OUA)
3. Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ)
4. Guelph Gryphons (OUA)
5. Victoria Vikes (CanWest)

Weekend recap: Laval Rouge et Or win double gold Quebec XC championships

Individual 
1. Catherine Beauchemin (Laval Rouge et Or)
2. Kyla Becker (UBC Thunderbirds)
3. Katie Newlove (UBC Thunderbirds)
4. Cameron Ormond (Guelph Gryphons)
5. Kaitlyn Harrison (Saskatchewan Huskies)

Men’s 8K: What can we expect from top-ranked Laval?

Laval has maintained the top rank in the country throughout the season, but they have yet to compete against any of the top five teams leading up to the U Sports XC Championships. On paper, they boast two of the best distance runners in the country: Philippe Morneau-Cartier and Jean-Simon Desgagnés. Morneau-Cartier, unbeaten in all his XC races this season, has displayed dominance in all three of his wins. And Desgagnés, in his final year of XC eligibility at Laval, enters U Sports after winning a gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 2023 Pan American Games last week. While either of these two could take the individual title, the team’s success relies on their third and fourth runners, Jonathan Tedeschi and Alexis Lepage, to restore Rouge et Or to gold.

Laval XC
The 2023 Laval Rouge et Or men’s cross country team. Photo: Felix Lapointe (@CoachLapointe)/Twitter

There are about three other teams with a fair shot at claiming the title if they perform well, beginning with the UBC Thunderbirds. UBC, led by Andrew Davies, won an OUA conference title on this U Sports course in 2021. Davies was part of the gold-medal-winning men’s McMaster Marauders squad last year and transferred to UBC for his graduate program. Beyond Davies, UBC has substantial depth and consistency within their top six, which could catch many teams off guard.

The Guelph Gryphons have shown consistent improvement throughout the season. Their standout performer, Nicholas Bannon, triumphed over UBC’s Davies earlier this year at the Western Invite (the same course they will be running on Sunday); he also earned OUA MVP for his outstanding performances this season. As the Gryphons continue to improve, they are a dark horse pick to win and could shake things up on the podium. 

Guelph Gryphons
Photo: Kevin MacKinnon

The Queen’s Gaels men’s squad has shown potential this season, but faced challenges at the OUA conference championship, finishing second to Guelph. Much like UBC, the Queen’s team boasts a ton of depth, and if they can throw down a consistent performance on Sunday, it wouldn’t be a surprise if their top five could outperform Laval, UBC and Guelph, to win their first men’s national XC title since 1984.

Predictions

Team
1. Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ)
2. UBC Thunderbirds (CanWest)
3. Guelph Gryphons (OUA)
4. Queen’s Gaels (OUA)
5. UNB Reds (AUS)

Individual 
1. Philippe Morneau-Cartier (Laval Rouge et Or)
2. Andrew Davies (UBC Thunderbirds)
3. Jean-Simon Desgagnés (Laval Rouge et Or)
4. Nicholas Bannon (Guelph Gryphons)
5. Jared Howse (UNB Reds)

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