Men’s recap from the Classic Kiteley-McInnes CIS-XC poll at Montreal Endurance brought to you by New Balance
Running the CIS XC race had to be one of the most exciting moments in my collegiate career year to year. This time, being on the outside of the course witnessing the guys running it, I have to say it was quite the show. Trying to count team points, screaming your lungs out at your buddies, feeling the excitement on the course, as well as the pain the runners go through; even the best and biggest operas in the world will not give you so much emotions in a short period of time.
It was a special Saturday in Guelph as, for the first time after 9 years, Goliath went down. Yes, the Guelph Gryphons lost on their home course to a charging and flawless Victoria suqad. After a very fast first lap where a group of about 15 runners separated itself from the rest of the pack, we could see 4 Victoria guys in there, which was the most of any team. That early statement was just a foreshadowing of what was to come as the 4 Vic runners held on tight to all finish in the top 12, securing enough low stick points to get the gold even if their 5th runner was only 43rd. Coming in second was home team Guelph, which saw 5th year man and past CIS XC MVP Aaron «Henderson» Hendrikx win the individual title. Unfortunately, it was not enough to carry the team to beat Victoria, as key low sticks Gravel and Woodfine were not able to counter strike Victoria’s attack out front. Coming in third was the Laval team, which was nowhere to be seen in the front pack but emerged late in the race. They basically won their bronze with a clutch effort from most of the team passing several runners in the last hill.
Kevin Tree of Lakehead provided the pace for most of the race to a giant front pack; he then kicked to a second place finish on the last hill. Bronze medalist Paul Janikowski of Windsor faded in the last stage of the race after breaking away with Hendrikx; this gave Tree his chance to catch him in a dramatic finish. Then came the two Victoria leaders, Olivier Collin and Ryan Cassidy, who both showed they can deliver on the biggest stage despite «average» in season results.
This year had to be one of the most diverse All-Canadian team in the history of the CIS as all the conferences were represented, as well as a surprising number of 8 schools (Guelph, Lakehead, Windsor, Victoria, Saskatchewan, Dalhousie, McMaster, Laval). Guelph may have lost some key pieces that justified the end of their streak, but the fact that many schools around the country have been stepping up their game might be the reason why the pack became more diverse up front. This rise in talent puts more space between every one of Guelph’s runners, thus leaving the chance for a team like Victoria, who executed perfectly on the day, to slip up on the top of the podium.
Here are some quotes of the men’s race winner, Aaron Hendrikx : «I felt great the whole race. I executed my race plan almost perfectly and when I got over the third big hill feeling really good I knew I could make a solid push to the finish. Getting my second individual victory on our home course and in front of an awesome and crazy home crowd felt amazing. Just minutes after last years’ CIS championships I began thinking about how I really wanted to win CIS on our home course. It feels great and means a lot to have finished my cross-country career as a Gryphon doing just that. [On the Gryph’s second place] The guys are obviously disappointed that we did not get the team title this year. Every year each and every one of us has the same mission to get that team title. But we all put everything we had out there on Saturday and unfortunately we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. I know the guys are going to come out super hungry next year to get the team title back.»
Stud Olivier Collin led Victoria to a team title : «I knew I was going into the race in better shape than last year and with a group of guys that were just as fit as I was. So I felt pretty relaxed since I knew that if it came to it those guys would push me through the finish. Towards the end, I knew we would be really close to a team title, so I just surged to try and bring our guys to a strong finish.»
This brings an end to what was a very exciting CIS season from start to finish. See y’all next year in Quebec city, on historic Plaines of Abraham, where a battle more intense than the taking of the city by the English shall take part!