VICTORIA – It was a blistering start to the 2017 cross country schedule for the UVic Vikes as they opened up their season with a first and second place finish at the Charles Bowles Invitational in Salem, OR on Sep. 30.

“With a big graduation last year of our top cross country runners our rookies and returning athletes showed that the legacy of the program is in good hands,” said Vikes head coach Brent Fougner.

The women’s team finished first overall, 17 points better than the second place UBC Thunderbirds. Even missing key veterans such as Chloe HeglandEmma Bibault and Laurin Thorne, the Vikes showed off their incredible depth on the day with six runners finishing in the top 16 overall and just one finishing outside the top 20.

Alison Hooper led the way for the Vikes women, returning to the team after a two year absence, Hooper looked more than comfortable in the Vikes blue and gold, finishing the race in first place and doing so 14 seconds quicker than her closest competitor.

“Her leadership will be huge as we work towards nationals,” said Fougner of Hooper.

Emma Edmonds and Chloe Hewitt both finished inside the top 10 while Andie Wood and Laurel Bookerwere in the top 15. Nicole Bernardi and Georgia Ginther rounded out the scoring for the Vikes in 16th and 21st respectively.

“The team ran as planned and raced as a pack through most of the race controlling the early pace,” said Fougner. “The women’s distance at U SPORTS nationals moves up to 8 km this year, so our positive race strategy will prove valuable moving towards November.”

The men finished second as team, coming in behind Mt. San Antonio College but well ahead of third place UBC.
Jonathan Toombs led the way but there were a number of Vikes that finished within ten seconds of each other for top 16 finishes. Toombs came across the line in seventh while Derrick Evans was tenth, Brandon Vail was 15th and Thomas Oxland was 16th.

“Evans and Toombs lived in the shadows of our veterans last year but have stepped up to help lead this young team,” said Fougner. “Rookie Brandon Vail put on a Vikes singlet for the first time and showed his potential in a big way.”

Next up for the Vikes is the UVic Invitational taking place on Oct. 14 as the team continues to prepare for the U SPORTS National Championships taking place in Victoria on Nov. 12.

With a first and a second place on the board already, the Vikes are undoubtedly looking strong as they try to win it all on home soil.

“It was a great start to season for both teams,” said Fougner.

Women’s Results

1. Alison Hooper: 17:34
7. Emma Edmonds: 18:07
8. Chloe Hewitt: 18:09
11. Andie Wood:  18:22
15. Laurel Booker: 18:22
16. Nicole Bernardi: 18:46
21. Georgia Ginther: 19:07

Men’s Results 

7. Jonathan Toombs: 24:56
10.  Derrick Evans: 25:00
15. Brandon Vail: 25:08
16. Thomas Oxland: 25:10
26. Ben Weir: 25:29
31. Josh Kozelj: 25:37