In the first national championship of her U SPORTS career rookie Kaitlyn Harrison rose to the occasion and then some, finishing 13th in the nation to lead the University of Saskatchewan Huskies cross country team to a seventh-place finish, their best since coming fourth in in 2011.
Finishing as the second-best team in Canada West, the Huskies used efforts from both rookies and veterans for the team result.
“I’m extremely happy. We set a goal of being a top ten team in the country pretty early on,” said Huskies head coach Jason Reindl. “We ran extremely hard and were able to surpass that goal.”
With her finish of 29:01.3, Harrison claimed Second Team All-Canadian honours as well as finishing as the second-fastest rookie in the nation, topped only by Naomi Lang of UBC.
Harrison who claimed first place at both the Cougar Trot and Saskatchewan provincial championships as well as a second-place result at the Sled Dog Open had a rookie season to remember.
“She really took all of her early success in and had a great season-capping performance today to finish as the second-best rookie in the country,” said Reindl.
Not far behind Harrison was standout Courtney Hufsmith. A second team All-Canadian last year, the fourth-year from Saskatoon just barely missed out on claiming that honour again, crossing the line in 15th place.
“Courtney never really felt comfortable and unfortunately didn’t really have her best today,” said Reindl. “At the same time she still had a great race, she definitely gritted it out and worked her hardest for the good of the team.”
The next finisher for Saskatchewan was another rookie, as Allison Grajczyk-Jelinski crossed the line 59th in a time of 30:29.1.
“To have her finish in the top third in the country is a pretty remarkable finish for a first year who is really just finding her legs in this sport,” said Reindl.
Completing the circle in the final race of her U SPORTS career was Courtney Moffatt. A member of the team in 2011 that finished fourth, the Education major helped out the team result with a time of 31:01.5
“For her to go from 5-km races to 6-km and now 8-km is outstanding,” said Reindl. “She’s been a leader on this team and she pushed hard in the last 1500-metres, gave it everything she had.”
Rounding out the scorers for Saskatchewan was Natalia Bidulka, who finished right on the heels of Moffatt in a time of 31:04.6
After being ranked No.1 throughout the entire U SPORTS season, the Queen’s Gaels came through on the final race of the year scoring a team total of 53 points to claim the national title.
On an action-packed Saturday afternoon, the host Gaels won their first U SPORTS Cross Country Championship at Fort Henry Hill in Kingston, Ont. The wind was strong and the snow lightly fell on the grass at the Fort but the competition stayed strong throughout the afternoon.
Hometown hero Branna MacDougall (28:01.0) was the top placing Gael, who reached the podium in third behind overall winner Lucia Stafford (27:30.3) from Toronto and silver medalist Anne-Marie Comeau (27:44.2) from Laval.
The Gaels’ title was a true team effort, with Kara Blair (28:17.3) and Brogan MacDougall (28:19.6) – younger sister to Branna – finishing in fourth and fifth place respectively, while Marley Beckett (29:08.3) came in 16th and Tori Bouck (29:29.7) came in 24th to round out the Gaels’ total 53 points.
The Guelph Gryphons came in second place with 74 points as Hannah Woodhouse (28:26.7) finished seventh overall and Danielle Jossinet (28:33.1) came in ninth.
Laval closed out the team podium earning bronze led by Comeau and Catherine Beauchemin (29:14.4), who finished 18th.
As the individual champion, Stafford took home Athlete of the Year honour, completing the conference and national double-gold winning both the OUA and U SPORTS titles.
13th: Kaitlyn Harrison – 29:01.3
15th: Courtney Hufsmith – 29:05.1
59th: Allison Grajczyk-Jelinski – 30:29.1
83rd: Courtney Moffatt – 31:01.5
86th: Natalia Bidulka – 31:04.6
112th: Hillary Mehlhorn – 31:50.3
117th: Jaira Cross Child – 32:05.2
1. Queen’s, 53
2. Guelph, 74
3. Laval, 96
4. UBC, 120
5. Toronto, 182
6. Western, 185
7. Saskatchewan, 234
8. McGill, 244
9. Trinity Western, 251
10. Montreal, 259
11. Calgary, 268
12. Victoria, 294
13. McMaster, 332
14. Dalhousie, 375
15. Windsor, 378
16. Waterloo, 379
17. Laurier, 404
18. StFX, 452
19. Sherbrooke, 502
First Team All-Canadians
1. Lucia Stafford, Toronto, 27:30.3
2. Anne-Marie Comeau, Laval, 27:44.2
3. Branna MacDougall, Queen’s, 28:01.0
4. Kara Blair, Queen’s, 28:17.3
5. Brogan MacDougall, Queen’s, 28:19.6
6. Kate Current, Western, 28:20.4
7. Hannah Woodhouse, Guelph, 28:26.7
Second Team All-Canadians
8. Nicola Symonds, UBC, 28:30.8
9. Danielle Jossinet, Guelph, 28:33.1
10. Joanna Williams, Trinity Western, 28:47.4
11. Naomi Lang, UBC, 28:56.5
12. Lizzy Laurie, Laurier, 29:00.8
13. Kaitlyn Harrison, Saskatchewan, 29:01.3
14. Eoldie De Coene, Montreal, 29:02.5
Athlete of the Year: Lucia Stafford, Toronto
Rookie of the Year: Naomi Lang, UBC
Fox 40 Coach of the Year: Steve Boyd, Queen’s
Student-Athlete Community Service Award: Caitlin Vail, Victoria