Individual Predictions from the Classic Kiteley-McInnes CIS-XC poll at Montreal Endurance brought to you by New Balance

Rachel and Chuck have been doing the heavy lifting all year and pumping out entertaining ranking posts. Meanwhile, I have been lazy, busy not training, coaching non-CIS runners, and raising a son who is likely going to turn out to be a thrower. So I felt like I should at least make some attempt at contributing to the discussion. Hence: individual predictions.

Predicting the CIS xc team titles is one thing; that hasn’t been hard to do the last couple of years, but picking the individual winner and All-Canadians is much harder. This year seems especially difficult as there are competitive fields on both sides and while there are definitely favourites, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious choice for either podium.

It may not end up as close as it seems right now, but I would say there are at least 5-10 men and women who could end up on the podium.

On the women’s side, the three top seeds must be Sarah Inglis (TWU), Gabriella Stafford (UofT) and Julie-Anne Staehli (Queens). Inglis has been destroying fields out west, while Stafford made her first appearance this fall at the OUA championships which she promptly won. Staehli is a former champion and can’t be counted out despite finishing behind Stafford at the conference meet. It’s going to be one of these three. I’m going with Inglis.

After that, things get fuzzy. First of all, never count out the Guelph women, particularly on their home course. Ayers and Allison were a little back at OUAs but both have serious chops and could sneak onto the podium. Allison ran a 32:41 10000m last summer. Just think about that.

Inglis’ teammates Regan Yee and Lisa Brooking have not been far behind her and both took out OUA bronze medalist Stephanie Smith (Windsor) in Washington State a few weeks ago.  The Quebec champion Melanie Myrand (McGill) showed she would be in the mix by finishing second to Staehli at the Queens Open, ahead of another possible all-Canadian Claire Sumner (Queens).

Emma Cook-Clarke (Calgary) was 8th last year and is in fine form so should be able to run with anyone up front. It seems like the top end is stronger this year though so she may be further back than she was last year.

Colleen Wilson (Dalhousie) hasn’t faced much in the way of competition and she and her Tiger teammates ducked the RSEQ/AUS interlock but her margin of victory is such that she shouldn’t be left out.

Here’s how I’m calling it:

Inglis
Stafford
Staelhi
Alison
Yee
Brooking
Smith
Myrand
Ayers
Sumner
Cook-Clarke
Wilson

There is a group of about twenty women that should follow this group, and anyone of them could, on a good day, slip into the top 14. In no particular order, this is the next group of women. ***Update, Watts slipped through my initial list. No offense intended. I was going back and forth on my phone from results to typing while Mike was crying in the car (I wasn’t driving). Anyway, she is right in this mix, too, no doubt.

Parks (Windsor)
Martens (TWU)
Kelly (UofT)
Watts (Guelph)
Jossinet (Guelph)
Mitton (Guelph)
S Wismer (Guelph)
Dunlap (Queens)
Burrowes (Ottawa)
Phillips (Ottawa)
McDonald (Mac)
Hegland (Victoria)
Flynn (McGill)
Sagnes (Montreal)
Reddy (Dal)
Jones (Calgary)
Macarthur (Calgary)
Lapage (Alberta)
Sass (Manitoba)
Mercier (Laval)

There are a couple men who are undefeated going into the final weekend of cross-country season. Alex Wilkie (Queens) has taken on all comers in Ontario and the USA, and come away unscathed. Meanwhile Matt McNeil (Dalhousie) is unbeaten over three conferences, rolling easily over the AUS, taking the RSEQ/AUS interlock meet, and the Vic Matthews in Guelph on the CIS course to open the season. Last year these guys were two seconds apart in 10th and 12th place respectively. This year the margin will likely be as closer or closer. I’m calling McNeil for the win but it’s really a coin toss.

Meanwhile, only a second back from Wilkie at OUAs, Paul Janikowski (Windsor) is looming and looking to spoil the party and take the win and a valuable low-stick for his team. Windsor came within that much of dethroning Guelph’s Evil Empire at OUAs. They are going to need Pauly J in the one spot to attempt to undo a decade of Gryphon rule.

Speaking of Guelph, Aaron Hendrikx and Tristan Woodfine probably come to the championship with the best bona fides,  but have looked rough at times, and finished off the podium at OUAs. As with the Guelph women, I would not count them out, especially on a home course. One gets the feeling that these guys are building for an Olympic Trials run of some sort and have been loaded up all year. A little break should bring them right back to form, pick up another CIS crown, and then back to business. Just a feeling though.

Two other runners have a legitimate shot at the title. Kevin Tree (Lakehead) was seconds back from Wilkie and Janikowski at OUAs, and has international cross country experience. Declan White (TWU) seems to have gotten over his Rob-Watson-esque fade from the front tactics or at least he’s eliminated the fade. He beat Janikowski head to head in Washington so look out for this guy out of Trinity Western. He may just run away with it.

McNeil
Wilkie
Hendrixk
White
Woodfine
Janakowski
Tree

One guy I’m going to single out for a top-ten finish is Emmanuel Boisvert from Laval. He’s done it before, and his boys really need someone to step up and be in this group, otherwise, they won’t be able to contend for the podium with the likes of Guelph, Windsor and Trinity Western. He’s one tough hombre, and he’s coming back from a severe head injury and partial paralysis. If you’re not cheering for this guy, you don’t have a heart.

Boisvert

A final addition to the top tier is Forrest Simpson (Victoria), who seems to have reached a new level this season. His teammates Collin and Cassidy have been known to come up big in championship cross country races, and should not be counted out either. And if I include them, then I have to include De Schiffart and Johnston from TWU. It’s like a wedding: once you invite one more person, there are a bunch more that you can’t leave out. I would wager at least one Vike and one TWUer other than White (What’s their team name?) will be in the top fourteen.

Simpson
Collin
De Schiffart
Johnston
Cassidy

There remain probably almost twenty men who could find their way into the top ten at the end of the day. Again, these are in no particular order so don’t get all excited. I’ve probably forgotten someone, maybe from out west, who could have a good day and mix it up. This is where the team title happens, but as you can see, if a school doesn’t have at least one and probably two guys in the groups above, it’s going to be very hard to get on the podium.

Widing (Sask)
Morgan (Mac)
Darlington (Mac)
Bellmore (Windsor)
Forbes (Mac)
Gravel (Guelph)
Ballestrini (Western)
Racine (Laval)
Workman (Guelph)
Kagumba (Windsor)
Collison (Windsor)
Berhe (Ottawa)
Jarry (McGill)
Morin (Laval)
Wyndands (Queens)
Donald (StFX)
De Wolfe (StFX)
Yussef (Manitoba)