OTTAWA (CIS) – Eleven Canadian student-athletes are ready to shine on home soil as Queen's University and the city of Kingston, Ont., are set to host the 17th FISU world university cross country championships on April 11 on the historic course of Old Fort Henry.
Official championships website (including Team Canada bios): www.xc2010.com
Fifty female and 70 male runners from 18 countries are confirmed for Sunday's races. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for noon, the women's five-kilometre event gets underway at 1 p.m. and the men's 10 km follows at 2 p.m.
Canada hopes to improve on its results from the last FISU championships in Mauquenchy, France, in 2008, when the women's team finished ninth and the men placed 11th.
According to Shane Lakins, president of the 2010 organizing committee, while the Canadian selection is as strong as ever, the level of competition from visiting nations should once again be exceptional.
"On the men's side, defending champion France looks very strong. They return two of their top three runners and their fifth-place finisher from 2008, plus a top junior and champion marathoner," says Lakins. "Great Britain, Australia and Spain finished second, third and fourth two years ago. The Brits have no one returning, but Australia and Spain have their top athletes back and should again be in the mix."
"The Japanese are participating for the first time in the history of the event. They have four team members who ran - and ran well - at the world cross country championships in Poland two weeks ago, so they could very well win on their initial try."
"On the women's side, the top teams from 2008 should also be the main challengers. But Great Britain, Australia and Italy, who won gold, silver and bronze in France, will also be challenged by Japan as well as Portugal, which ended up in sixth place the last time around."
All 11 Canadian runners have the advantage of knowing the Old Fort Henry course very well as it was the site of the 2009 CIS championships last November.
Team Canada's women roster is comprised of University of Sherbrooke's Valérie Bélanger of Jonquière, Que., Toronto's Megan Brown of Puslinch, Ont., McMaster's Jessica Pearo of Richmond Hill, Ont., as well as Lindsay Carson of Cambridge, Ont., and Rachel Cliff of Vancouver, who teamed up to lead the Guelph Gryphons to their fifth straight CIS women's team banner last fall and are also the only returnees from the 2008 FISU championships.
Brown set an Old Fort Henry course 5-km record of 16:55.9 on Nov. 14 en route to her third CIS individual title. Carson (17:14.3), Bélanger (17:23.1), Pearo (17:24.2) and Cliff (17:32.3) finished second, third, fifth and eighth at the CIS meet, respectively, with Bélanger, Pearo and Cliff all registering personal best times on the distance.
"If Megan can run as fast this weekend, she has a good chance at a top-10 finish, which would be a huge improvement on Canadian placings in the past," says Lakins about Brown, whose personal best on five kilometres is 16:38.
Queen's graduate Leslie Sexton was Canada's top female finisher at the 2008 FISU championships with a 26th place. Cliff (28th) and Carson (29th) were Canada's other scorers.
The Canadian men roster for Sunday is comprised of a trio of Guelph Gryphons including Kyle Boorsma of Guelph, Ont., Allan Brett of Ottawa and Matt Brunsting of Stirling, Ont., as well as Western's Kyle O'Neill of Vienna, Ont., Regina's Kelly Weibe of Swift Current, Sask., and Windsor's Dave Weston of Windsor, Ont.
Brunsting and Weston both return from the team that represented Canada in Mauquenchy.
Like Brown on the women's side, Brunsting set an Old Fort Henry course record on Nov. 14 when he claimed his second consecutive CIS individual gold medal with a time of 30:34.3 on 10 kilometres, a performance that helped the Gryphon men capture a fourth straight team title.
Boorsma (30:44.8), Weibe (30:49.8), Weston (30:54.3) and Brett (30:57.9) followed in order at the finish line, while O'Neill (31:42.0) took 10th place. All of them, including Brunsting, set 10-km personal bests at the 2009 CIS meet.
Windsor's Andrew Coates was Canada's best individual finisher at the 2008 FISU championships with a 37th position, while Weston was Canada's third of four scorers with a 59th place.
"If Matt is at the top of his form, he could give Canada its best individual placing ever," says Lakins. "In fact, if the CIS medallists all run their best, the team should also have its best overall finish ever."
Name - University - Eligibility * - Hometown
Valérie Bélanger Sherbrooke 1 Jonquière,
Megan Brown Toronto 5 Puslinch, Ont.
Lindsay Carson Guelph 3 Cambridge, Ont.
Rachel Cliff Guelph 4 Vancouver, B.C.
Jessica Pearo McMaster 3 Richmond Hill, Ont.
Kyle Boorsma Guelph 4 Guelph, Ont.
Allan Brett Guelph 4 Ottawa, Ont.
Matt Brunsting Guelph 5 Stirling, Ont.
Kyle O'Neill Western 3 Vienna, Ont.
Kelly Weibe Regina 3 Swift Current, Sask.
Dave Weston Windsor 4 Windsor, Ont.
* Year of CIS eligibility in 2009-2010
Head Coach: Bob Vigars, Western
Assistant Coach: Chris Moulton, Guelph
Assistant Coach: Rory Sneyd, McMaster