The University of Victoria Vikes women’s cross country team finished their 8-km national championship appearance sixth in the country and second in the conference. Results from the U SPORTS National Championship, hosted by Queen’s at Fort Henry Hill in Hamilton, Ont., also determine the Canada West team and individual champions. Fourth-year masters student Alison Irvine was the lone Vike to be recognized in the Top 10 earning U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian honours for her eighth-place finish.
The Vikes finished sixth in the country, 11 points back of McGill (195) and 18 points ahead of seventh-placed Trinity Western (224). Laval earned their first ever national title taking the reins from 2017 champions Toronto, who last year ended a 12-year championship run by Guelph.
Irvine crossed in 28:34.0 to finish eighth in the country after being edged right at the line by Laval’s Jessy Lacourse. Irvine’s performance garnered her a U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian nod, while her result puts her second in the conference to earn a Canada West First Team All-Star recognition.
“I really went for it at the start to put myself in the best position possible,” said Irvine. “Getting eighth and missing the First Team All-Canadian is bittersweet, but my goal was Top 10 so overall I’m very happy.”
In the Canada West results the Vikes were just shy of defending their 2017 conference banner as the newly-joined UBC Thunderbirds earned their first title in their first year competing away from the NAIA conference. The Thunderbirds finished with 191 points, while the Vikes earned 206. Calgary’s Melissa Jones took the top honours for the conference as her fifth-place finish overall was the fastest Canada West time, while Irvine was second in Canada West with her 28:34.0 time.
“As a team I thought we dealt with the extreme elements well,” added Irvine, noting the cold winds they faced. “Our team fell short of our goal but we left everything on the course and I’m extremely proud of all the gals so onwards and upwards.”
Laval finished with two individual medalists as Aurélie Dubé-Lavoie and Catherine Beauchemin claimed the silver and bronze medals individually. Combined with two more All-Canadians in Anne-Marie Comeau and Jessy Lacourse and a 37th place finish from rookie Jade Bérube gave Laval the top spot with a total of 55 points. The Rouge et Or finished seven points ahead of second-place Queen’s and 53 points ahead of third-place Guelph.
Fifth-year Vike Chloe Hegland was the second-fastest time on her team finishing in 29:41.6 for 22nd place overall and seventh in the conference. Hegland was named a Canada West First Team All-Star. Vikes rookie Caitlin Mann impressed with a 45th place finish in 30:30.9 to be named a Canada West Second Team All-Star. Andie Wood and Georgia Ginther rounded out the team scores with 58th and 73rd U SPORTS finishes, respectively.
“There are two things you can’t control – the weather and your opponents,” said Vikes men’s and women’s cross country head coach Brent Fougner. “Our preparation and fitness this year was probably the best we have had for several years. The health of the team was good and on the day everyone ran to their best ability. I am proud of the team in its season even if we came up short today. Four athletes ran their last cross country race as a Vike – Ben Weir , Derrick Evans, Chloe Hegland and Alison Irvine. All of them have contributed a lot to this program and today, as they always have, they gave 100 per cent towards their team.”
The host Queen’s Gaels, who had been ranked No.1 all season fell just short of the national title with a team total of 62. The individual national champion was also a rookie as Brogan MacDougall ran a 27:48.6 to claim the gold medal. Her sister, Branna, was close behind with a ninth-place finish for the Gaels.
Brogan not only finished as the Athlete of the Year but was also the top rookie for the women.
Following the races Irvine was highlighted as a U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian to go with her Student-Athlete Community Service Award she won a day earlier.