Men’s cross-country will depend on depth to defend national title in Quebec
"I think we are in a really good spot coming into the weekend. Luckily we haven't raced too often so we've been able to focus on these championships," said Vikes assistant coach Hilary Stellingwerff. "Everybody is looking great and peaking at the right time so we're pretty excited."
The Vikes come into the event ranked No. 2 in the latest U Sports top ten polls. A victory at the B.C. Provincial Championships over all the other B.C. universities, including No. 4 Trinity Western, was their most recent outing.
The 53rd edition of the U Sports Cross-Country National Championships offers the Vikes the opportunity to not only defend the title that they won last year but also to claim the sixth title in the program's history.
The makeup of this iteration of the Vikes is different from years past, while they may not have multiple athletes in the top pack there is very little drop off throughout their roster.
"Our next four athletes are going to be closer to our top group so we have a deeper team this year," said Fougner. "We may not have the guys at the top end of the field but we are a deeper team and sometimes that's more important.”
The race will take place on the Plains of Abraham, located near the middle of Quebec City. The course has a downhill start and a steep uphill climb near the end of the race to get back onto the plateau where the finish line is located.
"It is a challenging course so fitness will be important this weekend," said Vikes head coach Brent Fougner." I think we are more fit than we were last year.”
Brent Fougner, Vikes head coach
"The pressure is on the home team, (Laval University) because they are ranked number one. Being out west we never get the recognition leading into the championship no matter how good we are. We always seem to come in as underdogs."
On Shoayb Bascal, who led the Vikes with a fourth place finish at provincials
"Shoayb will be going out with the lead group. He's definitely got a green light to go and I think he's capable of coming away from nationals as an All-Canadian if not with a medal. He's certainly beaten some very good guys this year and is the guy we are looking to lead us out there.”
Shoayb Bascal, Fifth-year Vike
"We are really excited to be racing this weekend and have the chance to defend our national title, the guys look really good right now, everyone is really fit. I feel very confident individually as well. I am going to try my hardest to do what it takes to help the team win another national championship."