The 2021 U Sports men’s cross-country season is now underway, with many of the nation’s top teams competing since we released our preseason rankings on Sept. 13. Let’s take a look at how the earlier season competition impacted our power rankings before the drama begins to unfold in October.
Cross-country is a highly variable event, but here’s how Canada’s top university teams stack up in Canadian Running‘s projection of the U Sports Cross-Country Championships, based on race results.
Men’s U Sports cross country rankings: (Sept. 27)
1. Guelph University (+2 spots)
Guelph needed to make a statement at the Western Invitational, and they did just that. This team is very strong, solidifying themselves as an early U Sports title favourite this season. Mitch Ubene took home his first race win of the season, also leading the boys to a team victory, with five of their athletes finishing inside the top 10. Ubene and Alec Purnell are two runners that can mix it up on any course and can outkick competitors when needed. The only question mark for this team would be if someone could step up outside of their top five runners.
2. Laval University (0 spots)
The Rouge-et-Or squad maintains their second position in the rankings this week, after placing second behind Guelph at the Western Invitational. Despite having four athletes in the top 10, Laval did race the week prior in Montreal, and their squad wasn’t full strength. Laval was missing Félix Lapointe-Pilote and Pierre-Yves Normandin, who were third and sixth respectively at the McGill Invite. Pilot and Normandin are two of their top five runners and should match up well against Guelph at U Sports. A concern for Laval is the health and fitness of their star, Jean-Simon Desgagnés, and how he can manage the long cross-country season. Jonathan Tedeschi’s second-place finish affirmed that he is an honourable contender for the overall title at U Sports.
3. McMaster University (-2 spots)
For those who ran at the Western Invitational, McMaster had a great result. They were missing three key pieces of their team in Max Turek, Andrew Davies and Sergio Raez Villanueva, but still managed to place third in the team standings. Alex Drover flexed his fitness, putting his elite range on display, beating some of the best runners in the country. Josh McGillivray and Ryan Tyrell had a bit of a rust buster, finishing 12th and 25th, but this team will continue to evolve as their runners get healthy and continue to build fitness toward October.
4. UBC (0 spots)
Who knew Thomas Nobbs was that dominant? UBC remains in the fourth spot but puts its top-end talent on display over the weekend in Victoria. Although the field for this race was weaker in comparison to other meets, Nobbs’s time of 18:12 over 6K and a 37-second win over his teammate Tyler Dozzi is no joke. Nobbs and Dozzi went one and two at the UVikes Invitational, leading UBC men toward the overall team win. They will compete next at the Trinity Western Meet in a few weeks, which will hopefully have a deeper field.
5. St. Francis Xavier University (+1 spot)
The X-men sit in this position due to their great performance at their season opener at the StFX Invite. They are led by a team of veterans Luc Gallant and Graydon Staples, plus have a very experienced coach in three-time Olympian Eric Gillis. Due to their weaker conference, this team will need to run the AUS table to remain ranked inside the top five. They will compete again this weekend at Acadia University.
6. Queen’s University (+5 spots)
What a weekend for the Queen’s University men’s team at the Western Invitational! They returned to competition with not only a brand new coach in Mark Bomba, but with half their team making their cross country debuts. Rookies Miles Brackenbury and Roman Mironov finished inside the top 25 to take the fourth-team spot. This young Queen’s team will only get better as the season evolves, but is a strong contender to round out the podium at OUA’s if they can beat Western again.
7. McGill University (+1 spot)
The Martlets have a very young team but a lot of top-end talent, with Matthew Beaudet and Noah El Rimawi-Fine. Beaudet interrupted the Laval regime at the McGill Invite, finishing sixth overall. McGill is competing at the Capital XC Classic in Ottawa this weekend, and should easily win the team category. McGill is sitting in a great spot as the seventh-ranked team in the country and second in a strong RSEQ conference.
8. Western University (-1 spot)
The Mustangs fell short of expectations at their home meet this weekend, placing fifth. Marcel Scheele and Ethan Loukes led the race early but drifted away from contention as the race evolved. Other team members did not step up when needed, as they were beaten by an inexperienced Queen’s team. This team has the potential to be a top-five team in Canada, but they will need to step it up. Western will host the OUA championships on Nov. 6 on the same course.
9. Alberta Golden Bears (-4 spots)
Alberta divided its team this past weekend, competing at the Western Invitational and the Sled Dog Open in Saskatchewan. At the Western Invite, they were average and did not enter enough runners to qualify for a team score. Their top runner, Riley Stuermer, ran at the U of Sask. meet, finishing seventh. Even if they had Stuermer at Western, they would’ve placed fifth or sixth as a team. Fifth-year Ben Workman needs to have a better day at the office for this team to contend for a Canada West championship. They remain in the top 10 because they are the second-best team on paper in their conference.
10. University of Calgary (+2 spots)
The defending men’s U Sports champions Calgary Dinos did not get enough respect in the preseason rankings. Although Russell Pennock and Matthew Travaglini are gone, Eric Lutz and Paralympic bronze medallist Stefan Daniel stepped up at the Sled Dog Open over the weekend. The Dinos had five athletes inside the top 10 to earn themselves the 10-spot on in our rankings.
Men’s teams on the bubble: University of Toronto, UNB Reds, Windsor Lancers, UVic Vikes, and Saskatchewan Huskies