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Women’s U Sports XC power rankings: conference championships preview

Everything you need to know before the start of the U Sports XC conference championships

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

The 2022 U Sports cross-country season is coming down to its final few races, and all of Canada’s top programs will be looking to book their tickets to Halifax for the U Sports Championships on Nov. 12.

Here is our pre-conference championships edition of the U Sports XC power rankings, looking at the top 10 women’s teams in the country, in addition to predictions for each conference winner based on performance.

Photo: Maxine Gravina

10. UNB Reds (AUS) +4

The Reds vs. #7-ranked StFX at the AUS championships could be the match-up of the weekend. The Reds have a strong frontrunner with Ivy Bialowas, who has been the top performer in the AUS conference. If Bialowas can take the win Saturday, the Reds could pull off the upset in P.E.I.

9. UBC Okanagan Heat (CanWest) +2

The UBCO Heat have quietly made their way into the top 10 after a solid second-place performance at the TWU Invite. Team veteran Joanna Brown helped lead the team to an eighth-place finish at U Sports last year, their highest finish in program history. The Heat doesn’t quite have the depth to keep up with the #4-ranked UBC, but can they find more November magic this Saturday in Abbotsford, B.C., to land on the CanWest podium?

8. Saskatchewan Huskies (CanWest) +0

The Huskies have been relatively unfazed this season in CanWest action, taking the team win at the Steward Cup in Calgary. The team will look to improve on their second-place finish from last year, but it’ll be tough against a super strong #4-ranked UBC team. The duo of Jenna McFadyen and Kaitlyn Harrison will look to put the Huskies on the podium this weekend in Abbotsford, B.C.

7. St. Francis Xavier X-Women (AUS) -1

Eileen Benoit has been a breakout star for the X-Women, putting together several top-10 finishes. She will lead a strong StFX squad looking to defend their AUS conference title against the #10-ranked UNB Reds. 

6. Queen’s Gaels (OUA) +1

The Gaels are a great team in a tough conference; they have a consistent top five who could pull off an upset if Guelph, McMaster or Western has a bad day. The Gaels are a well-coached young team and have nothing to lose this weekend in London, Ont.

5. McMaster Marauders (OUA) -1

Photo: Kevin MacKinnon

Although the Marauders have been consistent all season, they will need a big performance from their veterans to contend for the OUA title against Guelph and Western. Hannah Goodjohn had a great outing the last time she ran on this course, as the top OUA finisher at the Western Invite in September. 

4. UBC Thunderbirds (CanWest) -1

The Thunderbirds are the deepest team in the CanWest conference and should fly to a championship this weekend. Kiana Gibson has been one of the best runners in the country this season, taking back-to-back wins in CanWest action. If there’s a sleeper team to dethrone the #1-ranked Laval women in Halifax, it’s the Thunderbirds.

3. Western Mustangs (OUA) +2

The Mustangs made things close with the #2-ranked Guelph women at the Bayfront Invitational on Oct. 14, placing second by only five points. I am a big believer in the home-course advantage, and this Western team has shown that they are continuing to improve as the season moves forward. The success of this team will ride on the shoulders of Sophie Coutts and Chloe Coutts, who did not compete at the Western Invite earlier in the year when both Guelph and McMaster beat them on this course.

2. Guelph Gryphons (OUA) +0

Photo: Kevin MacKinnon

The Gryphons have had a fantastic season and have yet to be beaten, with Sadie-Jane Hickson and Olivia Roussel in the lineup. OUA Rookie of the Year candidate Michelle Gray has stepped up in a big way, but the Gryphons will be at a loss without Cameron Ormond, who helped them beat Western and McMaster earlier this season on the OUA championship course. My bet is it’ll come down to a single-digit margin between Western and Guelph. 

1. Laval Rouge-et-Or (RSEQ) +0

The defending U Sports XC champion, Jessy Lacourse, showcased her talent as she took back-to-back wins at the RSEQ Interlock meet and the Vert & Or Invite. The Laval women won both meets, placing all five runners in the top eight. You can expect Laval to roll over the competition at this weekend’s RSEQ championship and set their focus on repeating as national champions in Halifax on Nov. 12.

Conference predictions:

CanWest: UBC Thunderbirds, champion: Kiana Gibson (UBC)

OUA: Western Mustangs, champion: Sadie-Jane Hickson (Guelph)

RSEQ: Laval Rouge-et-Or, champion: Jessy Lacourse (Laval)

AUS: St. Francis Xavier, champion: Ivy Bialowas (UNB Reds)