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By Natalie Wise, Vikes Communications

November 6, 2012, VICTORIA, B.C. – Nov 10: The University of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s cross country teams are heading to London, Ont. this weekend looking to hijack the top spot in the country from defending CIS men’s and women’s team champions, the University of Guelph Gryphons.

The Vikes men are ranked second in the country heading into the national championship race hosted by Western University, while the Vikes women are currently at third.

While defeating number one-ranked Guelph will be no easy task, the Vikes’ teams have every reason to like their chances. The Vikes men are led by 2011 Canada West Rookie of the Year Ryan Cassidy (Grande-Digue, NB) and third-year 2011 CIS Second Team All-Canadian Dylan Haight (Victoria, BC). As a freshman Cassidy finished 15th at last year’s CIS Championship while Haight finished last year’s race in eighth and is also the Canada West defending champion.

The strength of the men’s team is its depth as at the recent Beaver Classic, held in Corvalis, Ore., the Vikes men had all seven of its finishers cross the line within 30 seconds of one another. Rounding out the Vikes men’s squad competing in this year’s CIS Championships are second-year runners Forrest Simpson (Nanaimo, B.C.) and Jackson Bocksnick (Lethbridge, AB) alongside fourth-year veterans Doug Oxland (Nanaimo, BC), Karl Robertson (Leduc, AB) and Thomas Riva (Qualicum, BC).

The Vikes women were runners up at the 2011 CIS championships and field another strong team looking to best last year’s silver medal finish. A significant loss for the team is 2011 CIS Rookie of the Year and 2011 individual bronze medalist, Ellen Pennock, currently out with an injury. However, last year’s CIS fifth-place finisher Stephanie Trenholm (Campbell River, BC) returns and the Vikes will race fourth-year transfer Madeline MacDonald (Calgary, AB) who in 2010, was a CIS First-Team All Canadian while racing for the University of Calgary Dinos. Fifth-year Brittany Therrien (Victoria, BC) is in terrific shape and along with third-year runner Jenna Van Vliet (Calgary, AB), a veteran of Canada’s junior national track and field team, will look to make an impact for the Vikes this weekend.

Rounding out the Vikes women’s contingent is fourth-year Kendra Pomfret (Roberts Creek, BC) the 2011 Canada West 1000-m indoor champion, rookie stand-out Alison Hooper (Victoria, BC) and second-year Rachel Francois (St. Albert, AB). Francois was the 2011 CIS indoor track and field Rookie of Year and the 600-m indoor gold medalist.

The Canada West conference holds its championship within the CIS Championship meet and the Vikes men and women are looking to defend their 2011 Canada West team titles. Led by CIS individual favourite Kelly Wiebe, Regina looks to be the Vikes’ main competition for the men’s conference title while on the women’s side, Calgary will certainly challenge the Vikes for conference top honours.

The University of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s cross country teams compete in the 2012 CIS National Championships, Nov. 10 in London, Ont., at Western University.