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Men’s U Sports XC Championship preview and predictions

There is no clear cut favourite in the men's championship race, but it will be one for the ages

This weekend, two athletes and two teams will be crowned U Sports champions at the U Sports Cross-Country Championship in Quebec City. Because of Covid parameters, the top contenders did not get to compete against one another during the regular season. Unlike the women’s championship race, the men’s race doesn’t have any clear-cut favourites.

Here is our men’s projection of what will go down on the Plains of Abraham. Saturday’s weather is calling for negative temperatures and snow, which could set the scene for some memorable performances.

Andrew Davies and Mitch Ubene at the OUA Championship

Our analysis will also feature predictions from U Sports analyst Sebastian Saville, based on his U Sports projections document.

Andrew Davies of McMaster and Kiana Gibson of Guelph crowned OUA champions

Men’s 8K race – teams preview

The team race will be one for the ages, as Guelph and McMaster men have battled in OUA action all season. Guelph has taken care of business at every meeting, but only edged McMaster by two points at the OUA Championships. McMaster didn’t have their top runners to start the season, now both Andrew Davies and Max Turek are rounding into form, with Davies coming off a gritty win at OUAs. Laval comes into the race as the favourite, and they have the most top-end talent. They placed nine runners in the top 10 at the RSEQ championship for a low score of 20.

Even if one of Laval’s top runners has a bad day on the Plains, they still have six or seven runners who can pick up the slack. Outside of these three, UBC and Calgary could be in the mix for that final podium spot, but they are a bit more reliant on their bottom half than Laval, Guelph and McMaster.

Men’s 8K race – individual title preview

This race will be the spectacle of the weekend. There are 10 to 12 athletes who could come away with the win, but let’s take you through the odds-on favourites. Jean-Simon Desgagnés is the most talented runner in U Sports, based on his running resume and performances this season. He has always been right there in the top five in every race he’s been in this year, and he’s Laval’s top runner on paper.

Desgagnés was upset by McGill newcomer Matthew Beaudet at the RSEQ championship – where the Laval men tried to take out the pace hard to tire out Beaudet. It didn’t work out as planned, as Beaudet dropped the Laval squad over the final kilometre to win his first RSEQ title. Beaudet is in great shape currently, and to be honest, he’s unpredictable, which makes him tough to beat.

Photo: Kevin MacKinnon

McMaster’s Davies has a similar racing strategy to Beaudet, which makes him a force to be reckoned with on this hilly course. Davies was injured to start the season and has shaken things up in the OUA since his return. If Davies can hang with the lead pack late, he has the potential to complete his quest for the U Sports championship.

Canada West champion Thomas Nobbs is fast and experienced. Nobbs ran for the University of Washington in the NCAA for a few years, then transferred to UBC. His most remarkable performance of the season came at the BC XC Championships in October, where he almost outkicked Canadian steeplechase Olympian John Gay for the provincial title. Nobbs can hang, but he likes a fast race. It will be interesting to see how he mixes it up early on with the stronger competition at U Sports.

Guelph’s Mitch Ubene, Nick Bannon and Alec Purnell all have had great seasons, with multiple top-five finishes. They have helped Guelph become the top-ranked team in the country going into this meet, and are expected to mix it up with the top contenders for a chance to bring home two U Sports titles.

U Sports men’s power rankings: conference championships predictions

Canadian Running top-five predictions

  1. Andrew Davies (McMaster)
  2. Matthew Beaudet (McGill)
  3. Jean-Simon Desgagnés (Laval)
  4. Thomas Nobbs (UBC)
  5. Alex Drover (McMaster)

Honourable mention: Nick Bannon (Guelph)

Team podium predictions

  1. Laval
  2. Guelph
  3. McMaster

Women’s U Sports XC Championship preview and predictions

Seb’s selection

  1. Thomas Nobbs (UBC)
  2. Jean-Simon Desgagnés (Laval)
  3. Thomas Fafard (Laval)
  4. Matthew Beaudet (McGill)
  5. Mitch Ubene (Guelph)

Seb’s team podium predictions

  1. Laval
  2. Guelph
  3. McMaster

The 2021 U Sports Cross-Country Championship will be held this Saturday, Nov. 20 on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all U Sports championship content. You can watch Saturday’s race live on CBC Sports at noon E.T.