The 2015 Canadian Cross Country Championships (#ACXC) take place Saturday, November 28 in Kingston, Ont., with a host of Olympic, World Championship and Pan Am athletes racing for a national title in youth (17 and under), junior (19 and under), senior (20 and over) and masters age categories. Also on the line, qualification spots for the junior and senior teams that will represent Canada at the 2016 Pan Am Cross Country Championships.
Women’s Senior 8k race
The senior women’s race features a deep field of top athletes. Defending champion Rachel Hannah of Toronto, Ont., leads a talented group of runners who experienced considerable success in 2015. Hannah, who was fourth this summer in the Pan Am Games marathon and is currently awaiting an upgrade to bronze, won last year’s race by an impressive 18 seconds.
Rachel Hannah, “Training has gone well through the fall, a consistent build since the summer season. I’ve had incremental volume gains with consistency and been working on the grass (before the short daylight hours). What I most look forward to in Kingston is getting back to that exciting Fort Henry course, and the great support from the Kingston hosts and community. They are awesome! I have competed at Fort Henry before and enjoy the course for its challenge and spectator support.”
The field set to challenge the reigning champion include Canada’s two fastest 10,000-metres runners on the track, Natasha Wodak of Vancouver, B.C., and Lanni Marchant of London, Ont. The pair are coming off a successful 2015 track season that saw both represent Canada at the World Championships in Beijing, and earlier in Toronto at the Pan Am Games. Marchant won bronze in the 10,000-metres at the Pan Am Games. Wodak is the current 10,000-metres Canadian record holder.
Other senior women to keep an eye on include 2014 runner-up Rachel Cliff of Vancouver, B.C., 2015 Athletics Ontario champion and Pan Am Games’ 1500-metres bronze medallist Sasha Gollish of Toronto, Ont., and 2014 CIS Cross Country Champion Carise Thompson of Orkney, Ont.
Men’s Senior 10k race
After winning last year in his home town of Vancouver, defending champion Chris Winter will be challenged by a number of Olympians and upcoming distance talents in 2015. “I really enjoyed racing at Jericho beach in Vancouver, it is naturally one of the more beautiful settings for a race and it was only blocks from my house. With the race moving to Kingston, I’m excited for a new course and a new challenge,” said Winter.
Although he’s never raced the Fort Henry course himself, he’s learned a good deal about it. “I did travel to Kingston in 2009 to watch the CIS Cross Country Nationals on the same course. I have some good visuals of the course and have spoken to a number of people who have raced on it before. Three words are often repeated. Windy, Cold, and Fast,” said Winter.
Olympians Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton, Ont., Alex Genest of Lac-aux-Sables, Que., and Taylor Milne of Callander, Ont., are all sure to be in the mix. Cross country presents a rare chance for a marathoner like Coolsaet to race head to head against middle distance athletes like his club teammate, Milne.
Other athletes to keep an eye on include 2013 champion & Pan Am Games 5,000-metres finalist Luc Bruchet of Vancouver, B.C., 2014 CIS Cross Country Champion Ross Proudfoot of Sudbury, Ont., and 2014 nationals top five performers Matt Johnson of Esterhazy, Sask., and Ryan Cassidy of Grande-Digue, N.B.
Junior Women 6k race
The top returnee in the junior women’s race is Jennie Baragar-Petrash of Winnipeg, Man. Baragar-Petrash was runner-up in last year’s race and went on to finish 70th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Also looking to challenge for the title are British Columbia high school champion Hannah Bennison of Vernon, B.C., OFSSA champion Madeleine Ghazarian of Cambridge, Ont., CIS All-Canadian Mirelle Martens of Grande Prairie, Alta., and 2014 OFSAA champion Branna Macdougall of Kingston, Ont. Macdougall is sure to be familiar with the course as she competes for the host club Physi-Kult.
Junior Men 8k race
After finishing fourth and helping his university team win an NCAA team title this past weekend, defending junior champion Justyn Knight of Vaughn, Ont., won’t be making the trip to Kingston. Knight and departures of other talented runners to the senior ranks opens up this junior race.
The top returning finisher from the 2014 junior men’s race is 2015 World Cross Country Championships team member, Jules Burnotte of Sherbrooke, Que. Last year’s 9th and 11th place finishers Ehab El-Sandali of Toronto, Ont., and Liam Kennel of Victoria, B.C., are also registered. El-Sandali ran an impressive 8:13.52 for 3,000-metres during the summer and should be an athlete to watch.
A talented pair of athletes from Kingston should also be in the mix to make a run for the title on familiar turf. A member of the host Physi-Kult club, Cameron Linscott has won the past two OFSAA cross country titles and Ben Workman, a member of the University of Guelph’s top seven as a rookie and was OFSAA runner-up in 2014.