VICTORIA – The 2017-18 University of Victoria Vikes cross-country and track season is going to be an exciting one as the U SPORTS cross-country championship will return to Vancouver Island for the first time since 2007. The Nov. 11 Victoria-hosted championship is a timely opportunity for two Vikes returnees and two fresh faces to bolster the women’s program.

“We will have the potential to medal on the women’s side this year,” states Vikes assistant coach Hilary Stellingwerff, a two-time middle distance Olympian who has prioritized recruitment for head coach Brent Fougner. “There is still a lot that needs to happen but competing in nationals at home is a very unique opportunity. It rarely happens in your university athletic career so it will be very exciting.”

Part of that excitement lies in the incoming talents of 17-year-olds Georgia Ginther, a steeplechaser from Surrey, B.C. and Desirae Ridenour, an internationally ranked junior triathlete out of Cowichan Bay, B.C. Returning to the fold next year are former Vikes and also triathletes Alison Hooper (Victoria, B.C.) and Ellen Pennock (Calgary, Alta.).

“Alison and Ellen were stars with our program before and they bring a lot of experience and leadership,” adds Stellingwerff. “They also bring the experience of being a triathlete and Vikes runner, which will be great in helping Desirae transition. Ellen was here on the recruit visit with Desirae and she was able to talk her through the balancing act of being a triathlete and student-athlete.”

Ridenour has an extensive triathlete and track list of accomplishments but notably the Cowichan Secondary grad broke UVic Sports Hall of Fame and Vikes runner Debbie Scott’s Vancouver Island 1500-m Championship record this year. Ridenour seems to be laying down a fitting prelude after she also broke Scott’s island championship record in the 3-km last season. Both records were over 40 years old validating Ridenour’s current status as one of the top-20 under 19 triathletes in the world.

Georgia Ginther also has strong ties to UVic as her mother went to UVic and her brother, Sterling Ginther, just completed his rookie season with the Vikes men’s cross-country and track program.

“Georgia is a steeple chaser, which translates really well to cross-country,” described Stellingwerff of the Earl Marriott graduate. “The footing from jumping barriers and water requires a lot of muscular strength and endurance which will help in her cross-country racing. She will also race the 3000-m and 1500-m indoors and I’m excited to work with her on her speed in the indoor events and also see what she can do outdoors.”

Hooper, who returns to UVic to complete her master’s in public health, competed for the Vikes from 2012-14 and has been a Triathlon World Championship member from 2009-12. In her rookie Vikes season Hooper was a Canada West Second Team All-Star.

“I am really looking forward to being a part of a great team with great coaches,” said Hooper on her return. “Preparing to the best of our abilities to perform on home soil for the U SPORT nationals in November makes this year extra special.”

Pennock raced for the Vikes in 2011-12 and was a finalist for UVic Female Athlete of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the same season. The 2011 junior national cross-country champion had an outstanding opening to her Vikes career as she won Canada West Rookie of the Year, Canada West Athlete of the Year, CIS Rookie of the Year and was a Canada West First Team All-Star and CIS First Team All-Canadian all in 2011.

The Vikes will host the U SPORTS cross-country national championships on Nov. 11 in Victoria, while the track season will begin in January 2018.

2017-18 Vikes Women’s Cross-Country and Track Additions

Georgia Ginther
Age: 17
Events: 1500m, 3000m, Steeplechase
Height: 5’3
Intended major/program: Humanities/Business
High School: Earl Marriott Secondary
Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
Previous clubs: Coastal Track Club
Awards: BC Provincial Champion in 1500m Steeplechase (2015, 2016), 2nd in 2000m steeplechase at Legions (2016), Athlete of the Year (2014, 2015, 2016)

Allison Hooper
Age: 25
Events: Cross-country (5km, 10km)
Height: 5’2″
Intended major/program at UVic: Master in Public Health with a focus in Indigenous People’s Health
High School : Claremont Secondary (Victoria)
Hometown: Victoria, B.C
Previous teams/clubs: Uvic Vikes 2012-13, National Triathlon team member 2009-2012
Achievements: Triathlon World Championship member from 2009-2012

Ellen Pennock
Age: 24
Specialty Events: Triathlon (Olympic & Sprint Distances)
Height: 165cm
Intended major: Sciences
High School: Henry Wisewood High School
Hometown: Calgary, AB
Previous Clubs: UCAC
Previous Championships: 2011 CIS National Championships
Top Achievements: 2015 Pan American Games team member (triathlon), 2014 Commonwealth Games team member (triathlon), 2013 2nd U23 Triathlon World Championships, 2011 3rd at CIS National XC Championships, 2011 Cross-country Rookie of the Year

Desirae Ridenour
Age: 17
Events/Specialty Races: 1500m, 3000m, cross country.
Height: 5″6
Intended major/program: Sciences
High School (City): Cowichan Secondary (Duncan)
Hometown (City, Province): Cowichan Bay, B.C.
Previous teams/clubs: Duncan Stringrays Swim Team, National Performance Center Triathlon Canada
Previous competitions: BC High School Cross Country Championships: Grade 8-12, BC High School Track and Field Championships (1500m, 3000m): Grade 9-12.
Top achievements: 2017- Vancouver Island High School Championships (senior):  1500m & 3000m – 1st. Broke a 41 year old Vancouver Island record for 1500m (4:33.41); 2016- Vancouver Island High School Championships (senior):  1500m & 3000m – 1st.  Broke 40 year old Vancouver Island record for 3000m. ( 9:48.42); 2016 – BC High School Provincial Championships (senior): 1500 m & 3000 m – 1st; 2015- Vancouver Island High School Championships (junior):  1500 m and 3000 m- 1st (set new Vancouver Island record for 3000m). (10:16.58), 2015 – BC High School Provincial Championships (junior):  3000m- 1st.
Cross Country, 2012-2016: 5-time consecutive winner in the Vancouver Island Championships senior girls category; 2013-2016: Top 8 result in senior girls category at BC High School Provincial Championships | Triathlon:
·        2016- ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Junior Elite– Cozumel, Mexico – 6th
·        2016 – Canadian Junior Elite Nationals- Ottawa, Ontario – 1st
·        2016 – Canadian Junior Elite Series Race #2 – Montreal, Quebec – 1st
·        2016 – Canadian Junior Elite Series Race #3 – Verdun, Quebec – 1st
·        2016 – Canadian Junior Elite Series Race #4 – Edmonton, Alberta – 1st
Individual Awards: Named Junior Elite Female Triathlete of the Year by Triathlon Canada for 2016