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

We are past halfway in the season and the clock is ticking. Championship season is coming my friends, and it is now time to let miles and miles of training speak for themselves. It seems like every other week, a race is run and all the teams gives us great reason to change our top 10. We can’t put a finger on a national ranking without feeling bad for those we leave outside the podium. Everybody’s good. Everybody’s fit. Everybody’s fast. Everybody’s got a tight spread. Everybody’s hairy (almost). More than ever, the depth of competition in the CIS leads us to believe we are about to witness one of the most exciting championships ever. Let’s get through our pre-conference ranking before cards are shown this weekend and we get to see the true colors of every team out there.

Guelph – 100pts : What was to expect came a little late but did happen : the top dawgs are fit and ready to lead the team to yet another championship banner. Hendrikx’ national champ alter ego ANDERSON has called and he wants his title back; he showed it by being the top runner from the team in the last two outings against good NCAA teams. T-Woody came back from what must have been a miserable race at Paul Short to be right on ANDERSON’ s shoulder in Princeton. Now, what is truly impressive about this team, thanks to DST’s magical sense of XC training, the questions marks about runner 3-4-5 literally dissapear as Gravel proves to be a solid asset once again, and as Workman and Gordon close the gap to form a super tight pack. I mean, 17 seconds over 8k is pretty rediculous, especially when you know the strength of the top end. Now : will they be as dominant at OUA’s as they did in the previous years? We are used to see this team basically shut down everyone at conference with almost perfect scores; let’s see how this squad does after people have raised doubt about their dominance.

Windsor – 76pts : Man, I love these guys. I love them because they’re hard workers. I love them because they have great team spirit. I love them because they always show up when everyone is counting them out. But now I love them more because they just pulled one bold ass move : going out West to run head to head against TWU and Victoria. And they won. I know, it’s not like they beat them by a lot, and it’s not like a win out west will get you the win at CIS’, but it’s a damn good start. Pauly-J is back and ready to go for all-canadian honours with Bellemore not far behind, adjusting his graceful track stride to grass and mud. However, Masters, Kagumba, Collison, Pesce and McArthur are going to have to pull off a great team effort to match the deep squads of Laval, TWU, Vic and McMaster hot on their heels, thus gaining advantage of a good top end. They’ve done it before; there is no way they can’t do it again.

Laval – 75 pts : While their unprecedented depth has been mentionned here before, it has now got to a point they have never encountered: 17 seconds over 8k for the top 5, just like Guelph, with the rest not far behind. That kind of spread makes great damage in a championship race; and there is most certainly someone in there waiting for CIS’ to make a breakout and match the top runners in the country. Worthy of note, all-canadian Alex «Ricky Rick» Ricard is back and rounding to great form; a card coach Lapointe didn’t show until recently. Raymond, Morin, Racine have shown great will to become new leaders in the team and they carry with them Ricard, Mai, Labranche, Rouleau, Lapointe, Lepage, Thibeault, Legault and Boisvert in a deadly pack that elevates itself to great fitness and facial hair shenanigans. Although they shouldn’t encounter any team battle at RSEQ’s, you know they’ll have to go all out as the internal battle for a ticket to Guelph will be the hardest one.

Trinity Western – 68pts : The hype is real for this team, as it was able to beat national runner-up Victoria 3 times this season; but, like mentionned before, failed to beat Windsor when the Ontario team made it’s trip out West. Goddamnit, this is all so confusing. One thing is sure though; Declan White is handling a big man’s volume very well and has morphed into a legit individual medal contender. I mean, he placed right between the last 2 senior national champs at BC championships, which is pretty legit. That lowstick surely gives them an advantage; De Schiffart also shows great fitness and is bound to become a key performer up front; however, everybody behind still has to bring it 100% on race day to get on that podium. If they do, Banana’s for everyone at the AP I heard!

Victoria – 63pts tie for 5th : Well, last years’ silver medal winners do not exactly look as good as they did before. They have not been able to reproduce their mid season 10k races where they had a 5 second spread and crazy fast times. However, you simply cannot count these guys out. Here’s why : 1) Olivier Collin is back running really well, and knowing the talent he has and the pride he holds in races where it counts, he will not let the lead pack slip away in Guelph 2) Simpson, Bascal and Weir are all running really well. They form the core of the group; those in the pack that will truly make a difference in the team battle. 3) Cassidy has been improving in each of his races, which only means a thing : he’s on his way to making a super sayen-esque effort at CIS that could see him land in the top 7, mark my words. Victoria is no less than this year’s true dark horse team.

McMaster – 63 pts tie for 5th : This team has been running really well all season long and it kills me to see them so far down the rankings. Really, I wish everyone could get a medal but that’s not the way it is and someone has to come 4th, 5th or 6th in our preds. But, by no means should we count them out of the podium as they’ve got as much, or even more firepower than the teams mentionned before. Sexylegs Darlington seems to have figured it out to make it through XC season healthy (knock on wood), which will be HUGE for them. Add to that Captain Morgan up front, followed by a big pack of angry Marauders, and you have a team that can land on the podium anyday. We also heard rumors that the Forbes brothers were only tempoing for most part of the race in Queen’s before being on no less than 5k world record pace for the last 4k, so watch out for them to move up in the rankings at OUA’s. Exciting stuff!

Queen’s – 32 pts : While they might not have the depth to challenge the 6 teams mentionned before, I am no less than excited to watch the Queen’s runners tear it up in Guelph has they have 3 legit AC contenders, including no less than a medal threat in Alex Wilkie. The boy has been the class of the CIS up until now for this season, and it will be interesting to see how he will handle the racing when about 200 Guelph partisans will scream in his ears «ANDERSON, ANDERSON, ANDERSON!!!!!» I’ve been there and, trust me, you feel pretty lonely. No doubt he can still do well though. Same for his teammates Archer and Wynands, who should be able to slip in the top 25 and mess with all the Guelph, Windsor, Laval, TWU, Victoria and Mac runners the same way Jokers would do in a pack of cards.

Calgary – 30pts : We don’t really know what to expect from this team; their sub 1 minute spread from the Nortwest inland classic is somewhat good, and they do have 2 returners from last year who were top 20 and a new team leader in Alex James. They seem pretty good but it’s hard to judge since they are not racing any top CIS team before nationals. We will give them the benifit of the doubt and hopefully they can put some runners in the top 25 like last year to spice it up out front.

St-FX – 18 tie for 9th : This team is good and has great depth, but would need a little more firepower to compete with the top tier teams. Their dominance in the AUS might be a good thing though; maybe they will show up in Guelph with a little more legs than the other teams that actually go all out on conference days. Also, it will be nonetheless interesting to see if they can provide some challenge for Mat McNeill of Dal at AUS’ as a team. I know for sure Scott Donald and Alex Cyr will be up for it, and they shall lead their team to outrageous team results at conference.

Lakehead- 18pts tie for 9th : This team reminds me of the Regina team circa 2009 : great top end but not so good depth, which might cost them the top spots in the rankings. Tree has been running really well and should be mixing it up out front individually; Aulagnon has also proved to be an asset to the team as of late and should be a good contender for top 25. Unfortunately, it has been radio silence for Dylan Brown, who is one of the best cross-country runners in the CIS. Apparently he is on the start list for this weekend’s OUA champs, so we will see if he can rebound from rumoured injury. Hopefully the 2 or 3 guys up front can inspire the team and carry them to good results.