CANADA WEST AND CIS CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

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Nov 05, 2014

LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western men’s and women’s cross country team will compete in the 2014 CIS and Canada West cross country championships on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland with both teams looking to improve upon last season’s results.

The CIS No. 2 ranked Spartans women’s team won the Canada West title and finished fourth overall in the CIS while the No. 8 men’s team was second in the conference and seventh overall.

The CIS championship races serve a dual purpose for Canada West athletes as the results from this weekend’s national championship races are also used to determine the Canada West champions and all-stars.

Trinity Western University Spartans
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 7th, Women 4th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 2nd, Women 1st
Last CIS Title: N/A
Last CW Title: Men N/A, Women 2013
Key returnees: Sarah Inglis, Alison Jackson, Fiona Benson, Regan Yee, Meg Harradine, Joel De Schiffart, Declan White, Blair Johnston, Mihai Prajea, Adam Marshall

Key additions: Hannah Gaensler, Caleb de Jong, Tyler de Jong

Key departures: Chris Voth

LANGLEY – After bursting onto the national cross country scene last year – with both the Trinity Western men’s and women’s teams finishing amongst the top 10 at the national championships – the Spartans have proven this year that they are here to stay.

And, particularly on the women’s side, TWU has a team that could well be right in the mix to win it all.

This year, the Spartans women’s team has been consistently amongst the top four in the weekly CIS Top 10 rankings and, recently, were slotted in at No. 2 in back-to-back weeks.

Led by Sarah Inglis, who won both the Western Washington Invitational and the B.C. Championships, the Spartans are as strong as they’ve ever been. Beyond Inglis, TWU will rely upon the likes of Alison Jackson, Fiona Benson, Regan Yee and Meg Harradine to shoulder the load as they look to make Spartans history and aim for the top.

On the men’s side, the Spartans have also steadily improved as they rose to No. 7 in the most recent rankings and have been amongst the CIS Top 10 all year.

With veterans Joel De Schiffart, Declan White and Blair Johnston pushing the TWU pace, the Spartans have their sights set on bettering last year’s seventh place finish at the national championships. Coming off an impressive showing at the B.C. Championships, in which both De Schiffart and White finished in the top four, TWU has every reason to believe this year could be yet another step up the cross country ladder.

Canada West Previews

University of Alberta Golden Bears & Pandas
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 14th, Women 15th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 6th, Women 4th
Last CIS Title: Men 1980, Women N/A
Last CW Title: Men 2004, Women 1997
Key returnees: Amy Buzikievich, Isabella Englert, Morgan Lawley, Will Madsen

Key additions: Matthew Hope, Skye Russell, Caitlin Vail, Danielle Thiel

Key departures: None

EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas cross country teams will send nine athletes to the 2014-15 CIS championships at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Last season the Golden Bears finished 14th at the national championship, while the Pandas finished 15th. Among Canada West teams, the Pandas finished fourth last season, while the Bears were sixth.

Competing for the Pandas this year will be Amy Buzikievich, who was Alberta’s top finisher last season (30th overall), Isabelle Englert, Morgan Lawley, Danielle Thiel, a transfer from Lakehead University, Gloria Kanuka, a former Calgary Dino, as well as rookies Caitlin Vail and Skye Russell. The Pandas recently won the Stewart Cup race, beating Canada West teams from Regina, Saskatchewan, Calgary, Grant MacEwan and Manitoba.

Expectations are smaller on the men’s side as just two Golden Bears, Will Madsen and rookie Matthew Hope, will make the journey to Pippy Park in St. John’s, Newfoundland for the CIS championship 10k race.

University of Calgary Dinos
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 13th, Women 10th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 5th, Women 3rd
Last CIS Title: Men N/A, Women 2003
Last CW Title: Men 2008, Women 2010
Key returnees: Emma Cook-Clarke, Sarah MacArthur, Kurt Ebeling, Roman Justinen

Key additions: Gemma Sleik, Alex James, Ryan Grieco, Russell Pennock

Key departures: Gloria Kanuka, Brad Bickley

CALGARY – The University of Calgary Dinos cross country teams will head out to St. John’s, Nfld. where they will compete at the CIS Championships on November 8, hosted by Memorial University.

Not only will the national titles be won that day, but the Canada West banners will also be given out on both the men’s and women’s sides. The last time the Dinos were out east, the women’s team was named national champions in Moncton.

“We’ve seen some video from the course and it seems to be a rolling course, similar to our Stewart Cup course, so we will be prepared for it,” said Dinos head coach Doug Lamont.

A number of additions to the men’s squad had Lamont speaking about the buzz around the team this season and his expectations.

“The men’s team is really excited. We picked up three really good rookies this year with Alex James, Ryan Grieco and Russell Pennock, so those three working with Kurt Ebeling and Roman Justinen makes a pretty strong team to do well. And then we picked up Will Clack, a transfer from Lethbridge College, so it’s been a pretty good year for picking up new people. The guys on a good day can be bronze medalists at the CIS level and Canada West Champions. Realistically, top three in Canada West and top six nationally is a realistic goal.”

On the women’s side, the Dinos’ strongest runner will be Emma Cook-Clarke who is currently in her third year and already a veteran. Others will help bring up the Dinos score and hopefully fair well at the championships.

“Emma Cook-Clarke is looking really good and maybe she’ll even surprise some people up there in terms of what she might do. Sarah MacArthur has also been really strong this year and she’s an excellent second runner for us. Sydney Banister and Ariana Dirk are running well this season and if they have a good day that will really help the team. What’s going to happen is that Emma and Sarah are going to carry the team really well and then how well the team does will depend on the other five. I think that ultimately the girls have a good shot at being top three in Canada West and top 10 in CIS.”

The team had a number of races in preparing for the CIS Championships over the month of October, after building quality running on cross country terrain at the start of the year. The men’s team placed first overall at the Sled Dog Open and then the Dinos raced in Lewiston, Idaho where they competed against NCAA Division I schools. At the Stewart Cup at the end of the month, Calgary pulled off the win on the men’s side and the women finished second.

The women’s team will be looking to win their ninth Canada West banner while the men have captured just three in Dinos history. Only the women’s team has ever won a CIS Championship. It happened three times (1992, 1993, 2003).

University of Manitoba Bisons
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 9th, Women 17th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 3rd, Women 6th
Last CIS Title: Men 1990, Women N/A
Last CW Title: Men 1991, Women 2003
Key returnees: Rebekah Sass, Amy Gelhorn, Emilie Ford, Taylor Sprague, Abduselam Yussuf, Thomas Miller, Eric Thacher, Patrick Naylor, Timothy Miller

Key additions: Erin Tramley, Connor Boyd, Daniel Heschuk

Key departures: Nicole Dubois, Jean-Baptiste Ajua

WINNIPEG – The Bison women’s cross country team has four (out of five) returning members from last season’s team who competed at the CIS Championships. The young squad has gained more experience this season and looks to improve on last season’s CIS championship showing.

This season, second year Rebekah Sass has continued where she left off last season. She was named 2013 Canada West Women’s Rookie of the Year plus CIS Second Team All-Canadian – first Bison female All-Canadian since 2006, Canada West silver medallist and Canada West First Team All-Star. Sass, team captain, has been the top Bison in all four races as she was second in Ron Pynn, third at U of Sask. Open, fifth at Stewart Cup and seventh at Roy Griak with her goal to repeat at an All-Canadian level at this year’s CIS Nationals.

The team depth has improved throughout the season as third year Amy Gelhorn and rookie Erin Tramley have each split being second Bison in two of the four races this season. In addition, fourth year Emilie Ford and third year Taylor Sprague have been close to times recorded by Ford and Gelhorn. There are no fifth years on this Bison women’s squad and they will continue to gain experience and move up in the rankings.

Head coach Claude Berube commented, “The team depth is a big factor in expectations to look at finishing Top 15 and possibly Top 12 if results fall into place at this year’s CIS. Ford and Gelhorn have improved dramatically over last season and the team is peaking at the right time.”

On the men’s side, the Bisons have four of seven members from last season’s squad who ran at the CIS Championships. The team has a good mix of experience and youth and should compete hard for another CIS Top 10 team result.

Third year Abduselam Yussuf had another solid season as he was top Bison and third at 2014 Stewart Cup plus second Bison at 2014 U of Sask. Open. He was 33rd in last season’s CIS Championship with 2013 Canada West First Team All-Star selection and expects to compete for an even higher spot with goal in low Top 20. After Yussuf, team captain Thomas Miller finishes his fifth and final season and looks to go out with a top result. He was 45th and 11th in conference at last season’s CIS and will push for a conference selection. The overall depth is better than last year’s Bisons squad but the overall competition is deeper this year as well. The other Manitoba runners have all had solid seasons and depending on the race, can be the second fastest Bison at the CIS championship this season. Fifth year Eric Thacher and fourth year Patrick Naylor bring CIS championship experience while third year Timothy Miller, along with rookies Connor Boyd and Daniel Heschuk, all compete at a CIS Nationals for the first time but will be closely bunched in time with the other Bisons.

For the 2014 CIS, head coach Claude Berube commented, “Over the last half dozen years, this is one of the better men’s cross country teams from Manitoba. We have improved across the board and posted good results this season. I am pleased by the steps we have taken over the last years and moving in the right direction for the future.”

The Bison men’s and women’s teams are not currently ranked in the latest CIS top 10 poll this season.

MacEwan University Griffins
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: N/A
Last CIS Title: N/A
Last CW Title: N/A
Key returnees: Vanessa Trofimenkoff, Alexandra Robertson, Adam Epp, Kyle Dong

Key additions: Nicole Kitt, Chantelle Gagne, Alandra Jessup, Claire Dolpohin, Erin Epp, Rosco Lord, Brandon Toal

Key departures: Lesley Koopman, Andrew Peters, Spencer Peterson, Tyler Deuce

EDMONTON – MacEwan University cross country has a long tradition of developing and recruiting top level runners and despite the transition into Canada West, head coach Drew Carver again has lofty expectations for his Griffins team in 2014.

Juggernauts in the college ranks, the Griffins are no strangers to national level success, earning championship medals every year since 2010. This impressive streak includes claiming both gold and silver individually in 2013, women’s team gold in 2012, and 2011 men’s team bronze medals.

This season, Vanessa Trofimenkoff, the national silver medalist from a year ago, headlines the youthful but talented team. Previously named Alberta’s Junior Cross Country Runner of the Year, Trofimenkoff’s ability to race both powerfully and strategically has propelled her to numerous top 10 results.

While Trofimenkoff consistently shines, newcomer Nicole Kitt’s star also burns bright. Kitt may be tiny at 4′ 11″, but the feisty runner has also posted multiple top finishes in pre-season competitions and is a threat to team up with Trofimenkoff to give the Edmonton based team a strong one-two punch.

“We have a lot of new faces this season, but have also introduced a lot of quality runners to the fold,” said Carver of his team’s make up. “We may not be as strong a team this season as we have been in the past, but we have a lot of building blocks in place and the experience they gain this season will help them to be very successful as a team in the future.”

Rookies Chantelle Gagne, Alandra Jessup, Claire Dolpohin and Erin Epp, as well as fifth year veteran Alexandra Robertson will round out the Griffins women’s team.

As for the men, their roster will also be laced with several fresh faces.

Rosco Lord, still green within the competitive running ranks, continues to develop as Carver hoped in his rookie season. “Rosco has done everything we have asked of him this season so far,” said Carver. “His dedication to the training program has translated well into meeting our goal times for him.”

Brandon Toal, another newcomer to the maroon and white program, has also established himself as a top calibre runner. Toal comes to the Griffins from the Victoria School of Performing Arts, where he was named their top track and overall athlete.

Rounding out the Griffins men’s team will be veterans Adam Epp and Kyle Dong. Epp, the older brother of Erin, and Dong, a second year runner, were key members of the 2013 ACAC gold medal winning team.

“Our team’s strength will rely on our rookies and so far they have met all of our expectations,” said Carver. “We don’t carry a huge roster, but we will be ready to compete and I expect nothing less than everyone’s best effort knowing there is nowhere to hide on the Canada West race course.”

University of Regina Cougars
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 8th, Women 16th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 4th, Women 5th
Last CIS Title: N/A
Last CW Title: Men 2009, Women N/A
Key returnees: Matt Johnson, Adam Strueby, Avery Westberg, Jesse Van Eaton

Key additions: Marc Turmel, Brynn Latimer, Adriana Davis

Key departures: Wyatt Baiton, Alex Eiswerth, Lindsay Fish

REGINA – Matt Johnson will look to accomplish a rare feat this weekend at the 2014 CIS Championships hosted by Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland – he enters the meet with wins in all four of his races this year and will look to make it a perfect 5-for-5 on Saturday.

Johnson has registered first-place finishes in the Cougar Trot, the Division II category at the Roy Griak Invitational, the Sled Dog Open, and the Stewart Cup this season. And he’ll be one of the favourites this weekend, as he runs in his fifth (and final) national meet after finishing in fifth place overall and first among Canada West runners last year.

Besides Johnson, the Cougars – who enter the meet ranked No. 10 in the nation – will consist of third-year runner Adam Strueby, fifth-year harrier Michael Middlemiss, rookie Marc Turmel, and third-year man Sean Hooper.

Running in her fourth CIS Championship, Avery Westberg is the women’s team’s most experienced competitor and will likely be the first Cougar across the line. Second-year runner Jesse Van Eaton and rookie Brynn Latimer have been running as a team all season long and have finished within five seconds of each other in three of four races this season. Rounding out the Cougars will be Erin Strueby and rookie Adriana Davis, as four of the five runners on the women’s team are still in their first two seasons of CIS eligibility.

The men’s and the women’s cross country teams are both coached by Graeme McMaster.

University of Saskatchewan Huskies
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 17th, Women 20th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 7th, Women 7th
Last CIS Title: 1968
Last CW Title: 1968
Key returnees: Robert Bigsby, Eric Mueller, Reid Balezantis, Taryn Heidecker

Key additions: Hayden Hollowell, Jaden Wood-Sparrow

Key departures: None

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan Huskie cross country team has built on strong finishes at competitions throughout 2014 and looked to have success at the Canada West and CIS Championship in Newfoundland.

2014 Canada West Second Team All-Star Robert Bigsby returns to the lead squad at the conference and national race. He will be joined with experienced athletes including fifth-year Eric Mueller, a pair of third-year racers in Taryn Heidecker and Reid Balezantis, as well as rookies Hayden Hollowell and Jadon Wood-Sparrow.

Third-year Bigsby had the top finishes for the Huskies at both the Sled Dog Open (eight-kilometres) in a time of 26:18 in Saskatoon and the Stewart Cup (10-kilometres) with a time of 33:30 in Calgary placing 11th in both races. In the 2013 championship race, he finished seventh in the Canada West and 38th in the CIS in a time of 33:00. It was the best finish for the Huskies.

Mueller has the most experience of the team competing in the race in the four previous seasons. His best finish came in 2011 when he finished 24th in the Canada West. He had the third best time for the Huskies in the Stewart open at 36:36.

Both Heidecker and Balenzantis will compete at the race for the third straight season. Heidecker had the third best time for the team one season ago crossing the finishing line in 35:14.3, while Balenzantis finished in 38:09.6. Heidecker had a strong showing at the Stewart Cup with a 34:57 finish in the race.

Despite not having experience at the conference and national race, Hollowell has had strong results in 2014. The rookie had the best time for Saskatchewan at the Cougar Trot in September finishing the eight-kilometre race in 27:45. He finished the Stewart Cup in 35:34. Wood-Sparrow clocked in at 36:24 in the Stewart Cup.

The Huskies will not enter a women’s team in the championship. It is the first time since 2000, Saskatchewan has elected not to send a team.

Thompson Rivers University WolfPack
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: N/A
Last CIS Title: N/A
Last CW Title: N/A
Key returnees: Aleisha Miller, Ryan Pidhirak, Evan Hall

Key additions: Riley Kouwenhoven, Nicole Vermey

Key departures: None.

KAMLOOPS – The WolfPack are looking forward to moving up to the top level of University cross country after competing in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association. The team has spent the time preparing for the CIS nationals by running in a number of local, provincial and international events including races in Bellingham, Washington and the BC Cross Country Championships in Abbotsford.

Head coach Jack Miller says being a first year program in CIS, the main goal is to represent the WolfPack program well. “We want to look good and be good ambassadors for TRU. The performance will come. But right now, we want to look smart, have good team spirit and be good ambassadors. I don’t have any doubt we will be.”

The WolfPack will be taking five men and five women to CIS Nationals. On the men’s side are Evan Hall and Riley Kouwenhoven (Both Kamloops, BC), Ryan Pidhirniak (Coquitlam, BC), Conlan Spickerhoff (Williams Lake, BC) and Pablo Ulloa (Paris, France).

The women’s squad features the Miller sisters of Valleyview, Alberta: Alesha and Christa, Tiffany Adams (Lytton, BC), Melissa Ryeo (Chilliwack, BC) and Nicole Vermey (Kamloops, BC).

Miller says the preparation has been the same as what they would have done for a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national race.

“The competition is going to be stronger of course,” he says. “We did do a race in Bellingham, Washington on Thanksgiving Day weekend and I would suggest that the field of that race would have been stronger than what we will see in Newfoundland in terms of depth. There were teams from the Pacific Northwest including Washington, Oregon, BC and Alaska with some outstanding runners.”

University of Victoria Vikes
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: Men 6th, Women 8th
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Men 1st, Women 2nd
Last CIS Title: Men 1997, Women 2001
Last CW Title: Men 2013, Women 2012
Key returnees: Kendra Pomfret, Shauna McInnis, Emma Bibault, Rachel Francois, Nicole Soderberg, Olivier Collin, Ryan Cassidy, Thomas Riva, Ben Weir, Jackson Bocksnick, Cole Peterson

Key additions: Chloe Hegland

Key departures: None

VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes cross country teams are set for their trek to St. John’s, N.L., for the 2014 CIS Cross Country CIS Championships on November 8. The race will take place at Pippy Park, with the women running the 6-km distance at 12:00 p.m. NST, followed by the men racing the 10km at 1:00 p.m. NST.

The CIS championship also determines the titles for the Canada West cross country champions and award winners. The men will be looking to defend their Canada West title for the fourth year in a row, while the women’s team is up against the CIS No. 2-ranked Trinity Western Spartans to battle for the title. The Vikes women finished second behind the Spartans in the 2013 championship.

For the overall CIS title, both teams are up against a strong field, led by the CIS No. 1-ranked Guelph Gryphons on both the men’s and women’s sides.

Leading the women’s team is veteran captain Kendra Pomfret, fourth year Shauna McInnis, and rookie standout Chloe Hegland. Hegland is coming strong off of a solid performance from the B.C. Provincial Championships where she was the first Vike to cross the finish line finishing 7th in a tough field, followed by McInnis who finished 8th. The Vikes ladies are currently ranked No. 6 in the CIS Top 10 Polls.

“The women are ready to do something big. Notably, Kendra in her last year of eligibility is in the best shape of her life,” said head coach Brent Fougner.

On the men’s side, third year Olivier Collin will be continuing the momentum from his strong performance at the Provincial Championships where he finished second overall to national team steeplechaser, Chris Winter. The roster also includes fourth-year Vikes Jackson Bocksnick and CIS first team All-Canadian Ryan Cassidy. The men are currently ranked No. 5 on the CIS Top 10 Polls.

“On the men’s side, they’re running very well tactically as a team, which is exactly what we need for success at the championships,” said Fougner.

A roster of seven men and seven women are sent to CIS National Championship and will compete on a point-based system against the other CIS teams, battling for an overall CIS title. With potential for rough weather and a tough, hilly course of repeated 2-km loops, it will come down to grit and toughness from all members of the team in the final race of the 2014 cross country season.

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