For the second time in four years the UBC Okanagan Heat women's cross country team are the best in the country. Led by Veronika Fagan's individual 4th place finish the Heat captured the national championship on Saturday.

Sault Ste. Marie, ON – Training and teamwork set the stage for the UBC Okanagan women’s cross country team to be crowned national champions.

For the second time in four years the Heat women with a strong team approach finished the Crimson Ridge 5k course in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario scoring the lowest and claimed team Gold.

The Queens of Red Deer College took home Silver and the Nordiques of College Lionel-Groulx earned Bronze.

Head coach Colin Wallace had a chance to scope out what would be the course for the 2016 CCAA Cross Country Championships hosted by Sault College.

“Each and every workout was designed with the course profile in mind. Our race strategy involved playing on the strengths of each runner, and they went out there and executed perfectly. I’m thrilled with the result from this year.”

Led by Veronika Fagan, the second year runner from West Kelowna, BC, went out with the leaders and showed she belonged there. She hung with the leaders as they put a large gap between them and the rest of the field. Veronika with a strong kick at the end was the fourth women to cross the finish line with a time of 18:49. Fagan was awarded as an All-Canadian at the subsequent awards banquet.

“For my own race, Colin told me I’d be up there competing for a good spot. I wasn’t prepared to be running a race where I was in the top five runners,” said the nursing student who recently competed at the BC championships earning a spot on the provincial team. “Originally I thought top 10 is what I would aim for, and I was prepared to work for that spot. At the end of the race, less than 100m left, was a long steep hill where either of two things happened, either you passed people or people passed you. We trained for this type of course and felt prepared to demolish it.”

“About 200m for the finish line, realizing that I was in fourth was a huge surprise for me, and I really couldn’t believe it. It felt surreal. This was a huge accomplishment for me. Coming back next season, my goal is to try to come home with gold or silver.”

In the second group, Camille Galloway (19:43, 15th, 13 points) led the rest of the Heat women finishing a half a minute ahead of a wave of UBCO runners including: Josie Storey (20:11, 20th, 16 points), Anna Merino (20:22, 23rd, 21 points), Alex Beswick (20:31, 28th, 22 points), and Alea Stockton (21:06, 43rd, displacer) as they all bunched up and worked together.

“The ladies positioned themselves well off the start and settled right into their pace over the fast mostly flat course with rolling hills spread out,” explained Wallace. The showed incredible strength and battled over the entire 5km.”

With the bunching of the team and the great individual race finish by Fagan the Heat scored totalled 50 points, 15 better than the second place Queens who finished with 65, as the top four finishers scored 3, 13, 16, 18.

Veronika and the racers were physically drained from the race and as the results came in the team was emotional as well according to Fagan.
“When we saw the results that we were coming home with gold, lots of happy emotions showed through. Anna fell to the ground in tears, Camille and I hugged while tearing up and Alea, Alex and Josie were in disbelief!”

Coach Wallace, in his second year leading the team had a large group of very qualified runners this year push each other every day in training working hard for a chance to compete at the national championship was very proud of his squad especially the team leaders for their effort in the final race and the work put in all season long.

“Over the course of the season, the ladies battled each and every day to prove that they deserved to be going to Sault Ste. Marie to race against the best cross-country runners in the CCAA. With a silver medal from last year’s meet and all but one lady returning, we had high expectations.”

The women’s team won national silver last fall and gold in 2013 and the experience factor on key members was key to the team’s success. Camille and Anna were both on last season’s squad while Alea was on both national championship teams.

Graduating this year will be two from this year’s national’s team and Wallace will miss the integral leadership of both.

“Anna is a 3-time CCAA National medalist (2 gold, 1 silver) and an integral part of the program’s success. She is a role model for the younger athletes and I am honoured to worked with her over the past two seasons.

“Alea came back to the team this season after a year off. She received the River Sidley Memorial Scholarship allowing her to work at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island. Alea is another excellent role model for the team, and a 2-time CCAA National gold medalist. Her quiet confidence inspires others, as does her talent.”

Fagan also couldn’t wait to express her feelings for her teammates. “I am so grateful for my team and coaches and it shows through the support we have for each other. I am so happy I got to run with these two amazing girls, Alea and Anna during their last season of cross country and I hope the best for them. I also had the pleasure of running with Cael Warner and Cailan Libby [on the men’s team] this year and wish the best for them. Overall, this season was amazing and I can’t wait for the next one.”

MEN – The UBC Okanagan men were in a very tough race and entered the championship with a few racers not 100 percent.

In the very competitive men’s side the Heat finished twelfth with former National tournament All-Star Cael Warner leading the way finishing the 8km race 26th overall with a time of 28:08.

Also scoring for UBCO was Mike Mitchell (28:38), Sam Goodrich (29:02), and Cailan Libby (30:39), with first year runners Austin White (30:50) and Kyle Foster (31:37) as displacers.

“On the men’s side, this was easily one of the most competitive 8km races I’ve ever seen, commented Wallace. “The men showed grit and heart this season, battling through injury to race at Nationals. Two of our athletes, Austin White and Kyle Foster, were completely new to the sport of cross-country running, and experienced a very steep learning curve. However, their athletic background allowed them to embrace the challenge, and it showed as they ran their hearts out on Saturday. Strong performances by Cael Warner, Mike Mitchell, Sam Goodrich, and Cailan Libby rounded out the gritty performance by the men, as they ran to a 12th place finish.”

“I’m proud of our athletes, and cannot wait to get started on our build to a successful 2017 season.”

UBC Okanagan’s finishes at the CCAA national cross country championships (M | W)

2016 (12th | 1st) @ Sault College, Crimson Ridge Course, Sault Ste. Marie, ON
2015 (10th | 2nd) @ St. Lawrence College, Memorial Park, Brockville, ON
2014 (7th | 5th) @ SAIT, Confederation Park, Calgary, AB
2013 (10th | 1st) @ Humber College, Humber Arboretum, Etobicoke, ON.
2012 (10th | 4th) @ Ste. Lambert, Parc Michel-Chartrand in Longueuil, QB
2011 (13th | 13th) @ Thompson Rivers, MacArthur Island Park, Kamloops, BC

Place Bib  Name             Guntime     City              Pace  Pace Units   Teampoints 
4     74   Veronika Fagan   18:49       PACW - UBC-O      3:46  /Km          3 
15    115  Camille Galloway 19:43       PACW - UBC-O      3:57  /Km          13
20    77   Josie Storey     20:11       PACW - UBC-O      4:03  /Km          16
23    78   Anna Merino      20:22       PACW - UBC-O      4:05  /Km          18 
28    73   Alex Beswick     20:31       PACW - UBC-O      4:07  /Km          (22) 
43    76   Alea Stockton    21:06       PACW - UBC-O      4:14  /Km          (35)

Place Bib  Name             Guntime     City              Pace  Pace Units   Teampoints 
31    199  Cael Warner      28:08       PACW - UBC-O      3:31  /Km          26 
44    198  Michael Mitchell 28:38       PACW - UBC-O      3:35  /Km          36 
54    196  Samuel Goodrich  29:02       PACW - UBC-O      3:38  /Km          43 
78    197  Cailan Libby     30:39       PACW - UBC-O      3:50  /Km          62 
79    200  Austin White     30:50       PACW - UBC-O      3:52  /Km          (63) 
87    195  Kyle Foster      31:37       PACW - UBC-O      3:58  /Km          (70)