By: Alex Cyr
Some happenings at a typical U SPORTS weekend are easy to predict.
Will 2016 Olympian Charles Philibert-Thiboutot dominate the community race? Yes.
Will Kingston course mastermind Clive Morgan run the Fort Henry hills barefoot early on Saturday morning? Yes.
Will a few locals ask the Mustangs assistant coach and Gaels alumna Julie-Anne Staehli for an autograph? Probably.
Aside from those certainties, it’s improbable to make an accurate guess of any kind about Canada’s version of the NCAA championship before it happens. I put together some individual predictions a few weeks ago, and now they look silly. Mitchell Ubene hasn’t burned out, the Laval women are still nowhere to be seen, and Lucia Stafford decided to race and jumbled my entire rankings.
So I guess what coach Gary Malloy said to me after I showed him a twelve-page U SPORTS prediction thread polluted by trolls, anonymous users and Trackie’s infamous Pokésquad—a thread filled with wrong guesses and errors—still holds true: If you don’t like being wrong, don’t make predictions.
I’ve chosen to share more of my prognostications anyway, as Gary surely chuckles and shakes his head somewhere. Maybe I nail them, maybe I don’t. Either way, I will be in the announcing booth at U SPORTS, in case you want to come congratulate me, or kick me in the shins (aim for my right leg, please.) So, in order of ascending controversy…
1) The women race in a string, the men race in a pack
That’s how races have played out in recent years. I don’t think many women in Canada can run with Lucia Stafford, Brogan and Branna MacDougall. I think the big three know that as well as I do. They can each secure an individual medal if they take it out at breakneck pace - a pace that will sprawl the rest of the field skinnier than one of Angus Rawling’s legs (get it? Sprawling Rawling.)
Again this year, expect top-tier talent like Branna MacDougall to break away from the pack in the first few kilometres
There seems to be more parity in the men’s race this year. Just McMaster, Guelph, and Calgary have nearly 10 runners who could win on any given day, and then there are Desgagnés, Lumb, Radowitz, Frielink, Delange and more. Things might only get interesting between this group of 15-20 guys by the seventh or eighth kilometre, as I doubt any runner in this field has the Declan White-esque audacity to think they can break the field early and hang on for the win. Then again, I said the same thing in Newfoundland.
Trinity Western’s Declan White had gapped the field by nearly 300 metres at the 2014 CIS championship in Newfoundland. He finished in 17th place.
2) It’s a year of development for the AUS
I am mad at myself for this prediction, because I feel like I am disrespecting my roots. But, here we go.
Collectively, it’s a rebuilding year for the Atlantic teams. None of the top three women at this year’s conference championship cracked the top 90 at U SPORTS last year. All three—Roberts of Memorial, Hergett of St. FX and Thompson of Dalhousie—have made huge jumps this fall, but they may need more seasoning before becoming All-Canadians.
On the men’s side, the only athlete with a top-20 finish under his belt is Andrew Peverill of Saint Mary’s. Rookies like Jacob Benoit of St. FX and Will Cox of Dalhousie might have great showings and solid U SPORTS baptisms, but even a solid baptism embarrasses your parents and leaves you crying at the end. Expect more noise on the national stage from this cohort in a year or two.
Third year runner Andrew Peverill should crack this year’s top 20, but might be the only AUS athlete to do so
Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Jade Roberts, seconds after winning her first AUS title
3) Cross-country runners hear the name Royden Radowits for the first time, love how it sounds, and never forget it again.
He sounds more like Evel Knievel’s stunt double or the bad guy in a Power Rangers episode than a top U SPORTS cross-country runner, but here we are. The 22-year-old has little to brag about in terms of past U SPORTS finishes (112th in 2015 and 58th in 2017) so why do I think he has a good one coming?
After dealing with several injuries, he is finally healthy (I think).
He has posted solid results all year. He placed well against OUA competition early this season, and his 10th place finish at the Canada West championship was his only hiccup.
He has shown that he can perform under pressure by winning the bronze medal in the 3,000m at the 2018 U SPORTS championship.
This guy has been in the circuit for five years, and he has yet to make any mark on a meaningful cross-country race. So, do 14 men have better XC credentials than he does right now? Yes. But are 14 men hungrier than Radowits at this point? I doubt it. I’m predicting All-Canadian.
Radowits (bib 21) and teammate Matthew Hope, who could also crack the top-20 this weekend
4) Sixth-ranked University of Toronto women leapfrog three teams in the rankings and win a medal
Who do they have to beat to win a medal?
Laval, whose big guns have yet to race like big guns.
McGill, who are only ranked this high because they have been beating Laval’s dormant big guns.
UBC, who look dominant because they have no close competition in their conference.
Toronto is ranked below these three teams for two more reasons:
1) They are overshadowed by their conference rivals Queen’s and Guelph (and rightly so, those are the top two teams in the country.)
2) Not all coaches who vote in the polls have yet wrapped their minds around the fact that Lucia Stafford is racing and seems fitter than ever. She is the low stick the Blues were lacking.
Couple a possible Stafford win with top-25 finishes by Jazz Shukla and Katherine Lampard, and a savvy race by veteran Tanis Bolton, and the Blues are third.
5) The McMaster men win the championship
It just wouldn’t be interesting to predict Calgary for the win, because they likely will win.
But. They. Might. Not. (And it might not be Guelph that beats them.)
This is how the Marauders COULD win:
1) they need these four men to have the race of their lives:
Max Turek - 2018 OUA champion who has represented Canada internationally.
Sergio Raez-Villanueva - Last year’s 10,000m national champion had a “🔥 hot boy summer” in 2018 before it made any sense.
Alex Drover - Commandingly won the Hamilton Bayfront 8k, beating Frielink, Turek, Villanueva and Scheele in the process.
Andrew Davies - Sophomore and top McMaster man at this year’s OUA championship.
Each of these men have loads of All-Canadian potential.
Most members of McMaster’s 2018 OUA-winning team are back this year
2) They need a fifth man to come through
Josh McGillivray, Evan Ubene, and Dylan Alick all have top-25 wheels. McGillivray was 19th in 2017, but is coming back from injury.
The Marauders have a lot of talented runners, but they rarely all show up on the same day because, well, that’s hard to do. If each Marauder is the fastest version of himself in Kingston, they win gold.
Oh, and the individual race?
Lucia Stafford for the women and “Queen” Desgagnés for the men.
See you there.
Alex Cyr is a U SPORTS alumnus who lives and studies in Toronto, where he specializes in journalism and glute exercises. He is the author of Runners of the Nish and he likes to tell people he runs the mile in 4:05. One day, he will shut everybody up and run a marathon, dang it.