CIS XC Report Week 6: Conference Championships

Conference Championship weekend is over. The dust has settled. The horizon is clear now all the way to the Thames Valley in tropical London, Ontario. Conference, by conference, here’s what went down:

At the Alberta XC championships, aka the Stewart Cup, Kelly Wiebe (30:49) of Regina crushed the men’s field by 90 seconds, and lead his Cougars to a 27 point victory over the Calgary Dinos in snowy, sub-zero conditions. After Wiebe, Fyfe was another 32 secs ahead of 3rd place Matt Johnson. The Cougs packed their 3-4-5 guys in just 14 secs, which is key at a big meet like CIS. Calgary was lead by Brad Bickley and Matthew Cloutier, who snuck in just after Johnson. Calgary has solid depth, but don’t have the Cougars 1-2 punch up front.

Grace Kary (19:53) of Calgary became the first CIS runner to best Regina’s Karissa LePage, by a solid 14 seconds, and the lady Dinos edged out Saskatchewan 40-61. The Edwards sisters were both back in force for the Huskies. The times were very slow, likely reflecting the poor conditions, but Kary’s ascent bodes well for Calgary to move up the table at CIS.

Victoria, who have to be considered Canwest favourites on both sides, did not race this week, but they did continue their winning ways last week, when most schools were off, by trouncing the competition at the Beaver Classic in Corvallis, Oregon. Lead by Ryan Cassidy (24:41), the men rolled quickly over the 8k course, their 7th runner, Thomas Riva, clocking in at 25:21. That’s a tight spread. Madeline McDonald lead the Lady Vikes through 6k in 21:41, with Jenna van Vliet 5 seconds behind. Considering Jo Brown returned to race for Guelph this weekend, it is likely we will see Ellen Pennock, who was also away in New Zealand for the wash-blow dry-5k run world championships (just kidding, triathletes, relax!). Pennock finished 13th in the U23 race, which seems to indicate last year’s CIS ROY will be a force again if she toes the line, and the Lady Vikes will be all that more dangerous.

Guelph won both team titles, and both individual titles. Genevieve Lalonde (17:45) was 14 seconds up on McMaster’s Victoria Coates, and rookie Madeline Yungblut, also running for Guelph, was 3rd. On the ladies side, a few important women were missing: Carson (McMaster), Jewitt (Toronto) and Pieterson (UWO) all left their teams to fend without their top runners. McMaster finished 2nd to an almost perfect Gryphons’ squad (1-3-4-5-8), but even assuming Carson ran the race and won, Guelph still takes it. At CIS, with more runners to slot in between mid-range scorers, it’s possible the high-stick could help the Marauders, but… Without Jewitt, Toronto tumbled to 5th. The Mustang bitties banded together, as Becky sat out, but that broad will be back bounding across the battlefield, and her being there will no doubt benefit at the championship bout. Western was a solid 3rd without their number 2 runner.

Ross Proudfoot (32:06) distanced himself from teammates Sikubwabo and Nixon by 16 and 17 seconds respectively as Guelph swept the podium. Windsor was 2nd ahead of Queen’s, who seem to have finally shown their hand. It’s a decent one, only 23 points back of the Lancers, and 32 ahead of Mac. The Lancers are still without Janikowski, but they still managed to fend off challenges from below. Will they fare as well against challengers from Victoria, Regina, and Laval?

OUA video from MacTrack:

Despite the fact that it took almost 24 hours for results to appear, eye-witness accounts confirmed that the McGill women and Laval men went unchallenged as expected. McGill’s Caroline Pfister, an acknowledged contender for the individual win, had been battling illness, and finished out of the top-ten; however, her teammates Jessica Porfilio (18:49), Sarah McCuaig (18:57) and Madeline Cummings (19:09) stepped in and swept the podium. All of McGill’s top 7 runners finished in the top 10. The top rookie was Sarah-Michelle Brochu of Laval.

On the men’s side Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (32:37) remained undefeated east of Toronto, as he won a three-way battle with McGill’s Ben Raymond (32:39) and Concordia’s Ryan Noel-Hodge (32:43). Noel-Hodge surged at 7.5k and again at 9k, Philibert took the lead with about 500 to go, only to have Raymond jump in with 200 left and snag the front spot for himself. In the final 100m, the Laval runner made the final, decisive move past Raymond, and took the victory. The Laval team’s win, 23-71 over McGill was dominant, and they showed their depth by throwing in a new 5th man, Jean-Simon Fournier-Dufour. Laval’s 1-5 split is perhaps a little wide at 61 seconds, but keep in mind their 6-7, though another 20seconds back, consist of Jean-Daniel Labranche and Jean-Samuel Lapointe, a couple guys who were hurt earlier in the year, but are making their way back. So they should be on the up-swing. The question is, can Lapierre and Larouche (3-4) continue their strong performances. Two weeks until we find out.

Here’s a video of the QC champs, courtesy U Laval:

Frida Aspnaes (17:56) of UNB brought the V-Reds their first individual title in decades, leading her team to a solid 3rd place finish. Holly Van Gestel of Dalhousie and Caroline McIlroy completed the podium, but St. FX won the team title without anyone in the top 3. Their score of 37 was enough to edge out Dal’s 45 points. With each team’s fifth runners only 5 seconds apart, these two squads will battle to get in the top ten at CIS.

On the men’s side it was a slightly different story, though with a similar ending. St. FX took the team and individual titles on the strength of Conor McGuire’s run (32:22). He edged out Matt McNeill of Dalhousie by a mere 2 secs. Scott Donald took third place for X. Not sure if St. FX’s dominance will translate on the CIS stage, but they were close to Laval at the Interlock, so they could sneak in to the top 10.

Later this week, we will have the final top ten prediction of the season. Then the runners will go to work and create the true, final picture of the CIS XC scene.