National Cross-Country Championships Preview and Ranking

The Canadian cross country championships are upon us. Yes, cue the snide remarks about the “age-group” season being done, and get ready for the real men and women. Our expert panel has hunkered over the senior men’s and women’s start lists, (juniors are too much of a crapshoot, but Justyn Knight for the win: Hoikety-Choick on C!) and have submitted their lists, along with fresh commentary.

With the track Olympians not showing up on the men’s side (No Mo, no Cam), the door looks open for Kelly Weibe to upgrade his school-boy national title to a real, live Canadian championship. The competition will be fierce, as Olympic marathoners Wykes and Watson will try their hand at the 10k sprint. Kip Kangogo, Luc Bruchet, Geoff Martinson and Chris Winter (Steeplechase Olympian…hmmm) will also be in the mix. National Junior (real, not school) champ Aaron Hendrikx is also in the field, and he is coming off a win at one of the age-group jamboree events, too.

On the ladies side, Megan Brown will be back to defend her title(***UPDATE, Brown has scratched), but will have to contend with marathon record holder Lanni Marchant, BC XC champ Rachel Cliff, all-around superstar Natasha Wodak, and top-ten finishers from last year Lindsay Carson and Rachel Hanna. Leslie Sexton, having recently renounced her hatred of the genre, will also try to break into the top group.

Interesting that Winter, Wykes, Marchant and Sexton will all be coming off races at the Chiba Ekiden this weekend. Lots of travel, could be tough.

Without further ado, here is how we’ve ranked them, with a few choice quotes from the panel:

1. Kelly Weibe 51pts
“The man has serious XC chops and the benefit of living minutes away from the course.”
“Haven’t seen many results as of late, but hard to beat on a cross course”
2. Kip Kangogo 36pts
“One of Canada’s most consistent athletes over 10k”
“Not actually Canadian, but a legitimate threat and longtime rival of Watson’s”
3. Lucas Bruchet 34pts
“Has the potential to surprise”
“Beat Martinson at BC champs”
4. Dylan Wykes 32pts
“Similar benefits to Wiebe AND an Olympian”
“Seems to be bouncing back very well after his injuries”
5. Geoff Martinson 29pts
“the man is quite fit”
“2nd at BC champs; on a hard-packed course he might take the win.”
6. Chris Winter 29pts
“Canada’s top finisher at World Cross last year who is competing in the meet”
“Will inevitably be tired from Chiba.”
7. Aaron Hendrikx 26pts
“I think he’ll hang with these old guys, but won’t actually be able to beat them”
8. Robin Watson 25pts
“Somewhat of a wild card, but he is having a good year”
9. Charles Philibert-Thiboutot 17pts
10. Barry Britt 9pts (tie)
10. Ryan Cassidy 9pts (tie)
“May have shaved his beard, but really wants to make that NACAC team”

Also mentioned: Ryan Brockerville, Emmanuel Boisvert, Kyle O’Neil, Alan Brett, Saheed Khan, Stéphane Colle, Theo Hunt, Cliff Childs, Hussein Hashi, Justin Marpole-Bird, Dylan Gant.

Runners with first place votes:
Weibe(2), Kangogo, Bruchet, Watson

1. Rachel Cliff 42pts
“Proven XC runner and in great shape”
“Hometown girl ready for a big run at home”
“Dominant this year, class of BC”
2. Lanni Marchant 40pts
“Canadian Marathon Record Holder = enough said”
“Loves racing and competing”
3. Rachel Hannah 31pts
“Did well last year, should do well again if fit”
4. Lindsay Carson 28pts
“No idea how fit this girl is right now, so just a shot in the dark”
5. Megan Brown 28pts SCRATCH
6. Natasha Wodak 27pts
“Will have mean marathon strength”
“Top Canadian at World Cross last year, coming off a great marathon debut”
7. Leslie Sexton 24pts
“In good shape this year and presumably looking to capitalize on it”
8. Jessica O’Connell 24pts
9. Alison Jackson 16pts
“Those triathletes are always fast”
“Close behind Cliff at BC champs”
10. Amanda Truelove 13pts
“Coming off nice CIS season and obviously in good shape”

Also mentioned: Sabrina Wilkie, Erin Burrett, Maria Bernard, Bevin Kennelly, Brittany Therrien, Courtney Laurie, Shari Boyle, Chessa Adsit-Morris, Rebecca Pieterson.

First place votes: Marchant(3), Cliff, Brown.

My personal dark-horse picks, not to win, but to place better than you might think: Manny Boisvert and Chessa Adsit-Morris. Manny did not have his best race at CIS. Manny is not happy about going from 8th to 14th. Manny steps it up in big races. If Manny beats Chuck, I won’t be surprised. Chessa is an American woman living in Vancouver who won the Trans-rockies 3-day race this summer, was 3rd overall, 1st woman and set a course record at the Phantom Run 24k race last weekend. She’s done all this with a broken sesamoid bone. She’s hardcore. Her approach to running national xc champs: “Why not, an ass-kicking will probably do me good.”

I am sad not to be able to head out to Vancouver for this event, but we’re hosting a meet here in Montreal. And of course, indoor track is my first love…