Men’s mid-season poll from the Classic Kiteley-McInnes CIS-XC poll at Montreal Endurance brought to you by New Balance

Here we are. Fall season has officially started; leaves are changing colors and beards and moustaches are growing, meaning only one thing; XC season is well underway. While my stache is at the stage of a prepubescent 12 year old kid in his awkward age (just trying to put myself in the spirit of XC here), young collegiate men are turning into hairy beasts, driven by the trial of miles and the last few weeks of hard training leading to championship season. Now that races have been run, we can start predicting using facts and results rather than just letting our inner cheerleader speak out loud and make sometimes bold predictions. It is also worth noting that, at last, we are starting to have an idea of who is going to step individually on that podium, which seemed up for grabs at the beginning of the season. XCiting times are ahead my friends!

GUELPH 100pts: As expected, Goliath is still on top with a perfect score from the voters and, in fact, even though they didn’t race at their best (to their standards) in the last few weeks, they deserve that spot. I mean, when’s the last time they screwed it in XC as a team? You probably don’t remember because you were still in elementary school and busy playing Halo when the Xbox came out. Anyways, even though they look very strong compared to the rest of the CIS, you have to wonder some stuff about their top runners : Hendrikx was the top guy of the team at Paul Short, which is a better showing than at Vic Matthews where he bombed, but still a couple of seconds off the top CIS guy in that race. Maybe not the place you want to be as a past CIS champion, but he seems to be on the upswing so we’ll give him that. You can’t also not wonder what happened to Woodfine at Paul Short, where he probably walked half the course to get 181st. Thankfully, DST can rely on hungry guys that want to prove they deserve a spot on that team like Gravel, Workman, Gordon and Quosai to make sure they stay on top. Hopefully, by November, the top dawgs will reclaim their spot at the front of the pack and we shall see if this team lives up to it’s predecessors.
LAVAL 82 pts : MY BOYS ! The Laval dudes are having a good early season with a showing that gave Guelph a scare mid way through the race at Vic Mattews and an easy win at home on les Plaines for the interlock. Racine, Morin, Raymond and Hoa Mai seem to have established themselves as the alpha males of the squad, running strongly and rounding a rock solid top 4. To that you have to add Manny, JS Lapointe, JD Labranche, Thibeault, Ricard, Legeault, Lepage and rookie Rouleau that anyday could not only round out the top 7 but also STEP IN the top 4 mentionned before. I mean, for Christssakes I see the guys training a couple of times per week and I can’t put a finger on who’s going to make it to Guelph by November. Having so much top end depth will most certainly help come CIS champs; for the first year in a very long time I feel like teams from ALL OVER THE PLACE will put runners up front, hence making your 4th, 5th and 6th guys your most important runners in the team. Although this team might not have the top runner that can go on the podium and carry them to defeat Goliath, their unprecedented depth most certainly gives them what it takes to defeat all the other Davids out there. Well, that, and the famous french accents, of course.
TRINITY WESTERN 74 pts : The Monks of TWU are finally harvesting results of years of strong recruiting, hard training and heavy preaching to bring us a notorious top 5 straight outta the holy lands of B.C. White, DeSchiffart, Johnston, De Jong and Neufeld. Not only do they have a very dangerous top end with the top three guys who have all run in the top 20 at CI’s before, but the 4th and 5th runners are coming along nicely to round out a team that’s podium potential. Look out for Banana man White to go for gold up front in November and carry the team to ambitious goals. Johnston, 2012 all-canadian, will also be looking to go out with a bang for his last year. BUT, just to do the Devil’s advocate here, we’ve all seen before that it can be dangerous to rely on a 5 men team, and it will be a big task at hand for them to handle the pressure that is going with it. Until then, all aboard the TWU hype train, Cuz’ it’s headed straight to Guelph.
VICTORIA 69 pts : Wow, only one OUA school in the top 4 as of now, it’s almost unheard of. That’s probably because the hype from the West is as big as ever, and we can’t blame it after Vic put to shame all the haters last year by coming 2nd. This team just had a strong showing in Salem, Oregon, with a squad that is not up to it’s potential. Forrest Simpson seems to be in great form, and will certainly become and pillar for the team. Unheard of before, Bascal and Evans have stepped up to be part of the top 5, with Ben Weir not far behind. Now, what’s most interesting and intriguing about this team are the 2 wonder runners : Collin and Cassidy. Both guys are running, maybe not up to their potential, but you know that they are the kind that can become all-canadian threats in a week or two. Unreal talent, that’s what they are. Sleepers on the team right now, they can morph into beasts come November, which can potentially be a game changer for the team. Oh, Vic, when will you stop playing with our feelings like that.

MAC 53 pts : Maybe the team that has suffered the most in this last panel, Mcmaster is now tied in 5th place to Windsor. That has to be because people didn’t take the time to look up the results carefully; yes, they tied Windsor at the Western meet, but they were missing 2 important pieces : the Forbes bros. With the twins busy racing at the World triathlon champs in Chicago (pfff, get your priorities straight guys), the team still had an impressive showing in Western. Captain Morgan and Connor Darlington are leading the way for this team that is now at it’s peak after a breakout season last year. Just like Laval, the depth is there : a solid top 4 in Morgan, Darlington and the Forbes brothers, and they can also rely on what has to be some of the best 5th, 6th and 7th runners in the country with «Gabe the Babe» Ghiglione, Van Schepen and Tweedle. As I pointed out earlier, with the depth present in every team this year, it isn’t your first runners that will get your team on the podium; it is your lasts and because of that MAC is a podium threat even if ranked (only) 5th.

WINDSOR 53 pts : Janikowsky is back baby! After showing good promise as a rookie in 2010, battling it out with no other than Proudfoot at the time, he is now back to great fitness as he came 2nd at the Western meet with a fast time. As you would expect, the guys you have never heard of from this team stepped it up and are ready to go for another podium run, thanks to the tradition of excellence implanted by coach GARY. Trailing Pauly-J are Kagumba, Pecse, Masters, Collison and McArthur who all ran well in Western. Then, you have to add mid d star Corey Bellemore who still has to go full throttle. I’m not worried though, when you can run a 47 quarter on the track, you better take your time with the endurance stuff. Damnit, another team that could land on the podium any day.

Queen’s 44 pts : Wow, that team is good. And yet, so far from the podium spots. That has to be because they have one of the most legit top 4…with the 5th place way too far back. That’s a shame, because the quatuor of Wilkie, Archer, Cashin and Wynands could potentially make a lot of damage. Princess, or should we say now Prince W. has stepped it up and has cranked up the volume for the best. To the delight of coach Boyd to say the least, the 3rd year runner now becomes one of the favorites to win in Guelph’s hostile territory for the eastern ontarians, after his runs in Western and Paul Short. Archer and Cashin have run top 20’s before at the big dance and they know what it takes. Wynands had an impressive showing in Guelph, and if he can improve through fall he will hang in there as well. Even if I don’t think their 5th runner has what it takes to land them on the podium (you have the right to prove me wrong guys), that much top end depth from a second tier team will make the race even more exciting outside the top 20, where the real race for a team podium spot will happen.
Calgary 24 pts : This team just dusted everyone from the prairies at the Saskatchewan meet, which has to be good. They also didn’t run Russel Pennock, who I guess was also busy playing triathlon. Guys like Grieco, James and Clack stepped up their game and joined Justinen at the front of the pack. Add to that their stellar triathlete, and you have quite the team. At this point though, it’s still difficult to judge correctly their strength as they haven’t raced teams that have proved to be strong in the last years. We still have to wait and see.
Lakehead : Ouch. They lost to Manitoba at Griak, a team that is not even ranked in the top 10. They have a lot of potential, but here we see that it doesn’t take much for a team to scramble down the rankings. Unlike the ENTS in Lord of the Rings, Tree is running fast and is poised to be one of the top runners in November. Now, we are starting to wonder what’s going on with their other star runner, Dylan Brown, who has also the power to crank it up in the front pack at CI’s. Until then, everyone else in the team has time to turn the tables if they want to live up to the hype.
St-FX 14 pts : The team ran well at the interlock but were further back in the standings compared to last year against the local Rouge et Or. Cyr and Donald are leading the way to a team that is poised to dominate out east, but yet hasn’t quite what it takes to compete against the big dogs from the other conferences. Nonetheless, with the tight spread they have, they could move up the rankings at the big dance in November.
Individuals : Unlike most years when I ran and Guelph and Windsor would sweep the top 14 with some exceptions, we are seeing talent from all over the country ready to conquer the All-Canadian spots. And really, trying to figure out a top 30 is just a crapshot with the amount of talent that will show up in November. The way national talent is divided among teams all over the contry this year will make up for a very exciting CIS champs : from the top guys claiming individual recognition in the top 10 to team battles that will be won from positions 10 to 40. In no particular order, individuals to watch :
Matt McNeil, Dalhousie : His run on les Plaines was damn impressive, and I was there to see it myself. 8k at the pace he ran is nuts on that course. Dominant in both Guelph and Quebec, if he can keep his fitness until November he’s going to be dangerous.
Alex Wilkie, Queen’s : The guy had the talent and now he has the maturity to handle the training. He is looking good right now and unless the mid-d guy in him decides that hanging that fitness through November is too much, he will be there.
Hendrikx, Woodfine and Gravel, Guelph : This is the Guelph trio that will carry the team to a 10th consecutive title. There is no way they don’t perform at home at the big dance.
Kevin Tree, Lakehead : Dude went to XC worlds, End of discussion.
Declan White, TWU : He is a better track runner than XC runner, but everyone knows the Guelph course is like a track. The guy is living off bananas and mileage and he will make people suffer in the front pack.
Sleepers : Olivier Collin and Ryan Cassidy, Victoria