Last November, the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s cross country team raced to a national championship in Sault Ste. Marie, ON and will be out to defend that title on Saturday at the 2017 CCAA Cross-Country Running National Championships in Blainville, QC.
Collège Lionel-Groulx located in Sainte-Thérèse, QC will host the annual event Nov. 10 and 11 where both the Heat men’s and women’s cross country squads will compete on the Saturday.
The women’s 6k race will heed the starter’s pistol at 8:30 a.m. PST with the men rolling through an 8-kilometre course an hour later, race starts at 9:30 a.m. PST.
Only 20 minutes away from Montreal, Sainte-Thérèse is located in the Basses-Laurentides tourism region. The Championship races will be held at an Equestrian Park in Blainville on a mixed-terrain course will include gravel, grass and sand.
Women’s team outlook
The Heat women have now finished top-5 at the championships for five straight years with two golds and a silver in that run. They are sending back a veteran squad with UBCO’s top finisher from last year, Veronika Fagan, competing at a better pace then ever before.
Also returning from last year’s gold medal squad are Camille Galloway, Alex Beswick, and Josie Storey. Rachel Garrett and Julianna Neudorf who are the remaining racers travelling to Quebec and both were a part of the National Silver Medal squad from 2015.
Coach’s notes on the women’s team
“Our women’s team is in very good shape this year. We are returning four runners from the 2016 national championship team. The two runners that we are adding to this year’s squad have previous national championship experience. Both Rachel Garrett and Julianna Neudorf were part of the 2015 silver medal team.”
“The women’s team is led by Veronika Fagan who has taken a massive step forward in her fitness and has been running far faster than last year.”
“Camille Galloway is also rounding into fitness after a slow start due to a late track and field season where she competed for the Yukon at the Canada Summer Games.”
Men’s team outlook
This will be the largest and youngest contingent that UBC Okanagan will send to the upcoming national championship. Seven runners set to race for the Heat and six of the seven competing for their first time. Mike Mitchell is a third year runner who has finished 44th (28:38 -2016), and 59th (29:13 – 2015) in the last two national championships and will hope to lead the young squad to a first-ever podium finish.
Coach’s notes on the men’s team
“This should be an exciting test for our men’s team. We have only one returner from last year’s team, Mike Mitchell, who has led the team all season. We have loaded up on a group of talented first year runners. These are athletes that have shown they know how to compete well at championship events.”
“Dayton Bath and Owen Harris finished 24th and 25th at the 2016 BC high school cross country championships respectively, with Harris finishing 6th at the 2017 BC high school track and field championships in the 2000m steeplechase.”
“Evan Vadnai 8th at the 2016 Alberta high school cross country championships and 3rd at the 2017 Alberta high school track and field championships in the 800m.”
“They will be looking to translate their success to the next level at these national championships.”
Coach’s thoughts on the recent training sessions
“The team has been training very well the last couple of weeks. They have improved nicely over the season and are running more relaxed and faster than they were at the beginning of the season.”
Coach’s thoughts on weather and course conditions
“The course looks to be a fast course which should suit both our men’s and women’s teams very well.”
“This is a rare year where a Western Canadian team has been training in colder conditions than the minus one forecast for the National championships. This should give us an unexpected advantage.”
“The first day it snowed (in Kelowna on November 2) was the same day as the key workout of the year. That changed the workout from the fastest workout of the year to the hardest.”
“The team has responded very well to training in the snow and cold up to minus 13. The last week of snow running coupled with the Salmon arm race being in the snow has turned the tables on the normal equation.”