PREVIEW: Vikes host Nationals with designs on capturing titles
It's all been building towards this weekend for the UVic Vikes men's and women's cross country teams as they prepare to host the best teams from across the nation for the U SPORTS National Championships at Beacon Hill Park this Sunday, Nov. 12.
Both teams enter the race having been ranked in the U SPORTS Top 10 polls all season-long and both peaked at No. 7 in the last polls of the season.
Depth is the strength of both teams ahead of the championship, as they have ran in a pack throughout the season with multiple athletes leading the way at different points in time.
"That's very important for us," said Vikes head coach Brent Fougner. "On the men's or the women's teams we don't have that person that is going to crack to the top five or six. The teams that usually do well either have a few people up front and then hope that you have the depth, or you pack people in the top third of the field and that's where we sit."
As a team the Vikes women have had an incredibly strong start to the year, winning two of the meets they competed in and finishing second in the other.
Alison Hooper has been a standout for the team. The third-year athlete from Victoria has led the Vikes in all three of their events this season, finishing first at the Charles Bowes Invitational, 3rd in the Vikes Invitational and 12th at the B.C. Provincial Championships.
"Our goal for the next four is that they have to run as a team, two of them will score but the other two will displace other teams and that is going to be really important."
The men's team have finished with a podium result at all three of their meets so far this season, picking up second place results at both the Charles Bowles Invitational and the B.C. Provincial Championships as well as a third place finish at the Vikes Invitational.
Jonny Toombs has led the men in two of their three races. The second-year runner from Sooke, B.C. finished seventh at the Charles Bowles Invitational and sixth at the Vikes Invitational. Brandon Vail was the top finisher at the B.C. Provincial Championships, crossing the line in eighth.
About the Event
The 8 km race for the women is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and will consist of four laps around the course at Beacon Hill Park while the men start at 2 p.m. and will do five laps around the course.
One year ago the men and women the men and women travelled to Quebec City and left the Plains of Abraham with some great results.
The men finished sixth in the country and second in the Canada West conference while the women were ninth in the nation and third in conference.
The last time the men captured the National title was just two years ago in 2015, while the women's team was last national champions in 2001.
Brent Fougner, Vikes head coach
"Things are going really well with the team. The training is going better than we had hoped it would."
"The challenge on the women's side is that the race distance has been increased by 2 kilometres but the team has really reacted well to the additional volume."
"The rankings don't really mean anything because we don't really compete against the teams back East. On the day you are competing against people, teams and conferences that you haven't seen all year. It's really difficult to compare the quality of teams until you get on the course and race them. Our goal is to live up to our rankings but also to improve on that."
"It's always great to compete at home, not only because you have that support from spectators, family and alumni but the fact that we don't have to travel is huge. Travel to us is something that we always have to build into our preparation and this year we don't have to worry about that. That is pretty big in terms of recovery going into this week."