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Women’s U Sports XC Championship preview and predictions

Laval's Jessy Lacourse comes into the race as the favourite, but who will challenge her on the Plains of Abraham?

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, so it’s tough to know what to make of this race.

Here is our women’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.

Photo: Kevin MacKinnon

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

U Sports women’s power rankings: conference championships predictions

Women’s 8K race – teams preview

This race will be a battle between two of the top teams in the nation for U Sports gold: the Guelph Gryphons and Laval Rouge-et-Or, who squared off against one another earlier this season at the Western Invitational. Guelph came away with the victory, but Laval was missing their top two athletes in Jessy Lacourse and Anne-Marie Comeau (who will make her first XC appearance for Laval this season). Guelph set a record at the OUA Championships this year with a low score of 19 points, as runners Olivia Roussel and Nina Whitford ran season’s best performances. Guelph is extremely deep from positions one to five, but will have to rely on runners outside of Kiana Gibson and Sadie-Jane Hickson to upset Laval’s big three.

Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

There will be an epic battle for the third spot on the podium, with McMaster, Western, UBC and StFX all having a shot at that final spot. McMaster and Western have been running well as the season has progressed, but StFX is also solid, led by one of the best young runners in the nation, Siona Chisholm. UBC has a young talented team, but hasn’t faced much competition outside of their Canada West conference.

Women’s 8K race – individual title preview

Laval’s Lacourse is the fastest woman in U Sports right now. She has been unbeatable this season, taking wins at the RSEQ Championship, McGill Open and AUS Interlock, where she faced strong competition from the projected U Sports XC rookie of the year, Chisholm, who was only 10 seconds behind Lacourse, after sticking with her during most of the race. An advantage that Lacourse has over the rest of the field is that she has raced and won on this course before. Lacourse’s biggest threat could come from her team, with Comeau fresh and Catherine Beauchemin running well.

Photo: Marley Dickinson

Outside of the Laval big three, Joanna Brown of UBC Okanagan isn’t shy of the big stage. She represented Canada in the triathlon at the Tokyo Olympic Games and won a national championship during her tenure at Guelph. Speaking of Guelph, the Gryphons top runner, Gibson, has been progressing this season, but what plays to her strength are gritty slow races where she can sit and kick. If the pace goes out slow due to the weather, Gibson has a shot at a podium position.

Siona Chisholm winning the 2021 AUS championship. Photo: StFX Athletics

Canadian Running top-five projections

  1. Jessy Lacourse (Laval)
  2. Siona Chisholm (StFX)
  3. Joanna Brown (UBC Okanagan)
  4. Catherine Beauchemin (Laval)
  5. Kiana Gibson (Guelph)

Honourable mention: Lauren McNeil (UBC Okanagan)

Team podium projection

  1. Laval
  2. Guelph
  3. Western

WATCH: Over-celebrating almost costs cross country runner the race

Seb’s selection

  1. Jessy Lacourse (Laval)
  2. Joanna Brown (UBC Okanagan) 
  3. Siona Chisholm (StFX)
  4. Catherine Beauchemin (Laval)
  5. Kiana Gibson (Guelph)

Team podium projection

  1. Laval
  2. Guelph
  3. StFX 

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.

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