The University of Victoria Vikes cross country teams will get the opportunity to race at home this weekend for the second-ever Vikes Invitational hosted at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria on Oct. 13. The event will also serve as the cross country portion of the Legends Cup in the head-to-head series with UBC.
Following last season’s successful hosting of a Vikes Invitational event and the U SPORTS national championships, several teams from the Canada West will return to Victoria for the iconic men’s 10-km and women’s 8-km races. The university races will follow a morning of elementary and high school races that anticipate over 300 youth participating.
Canada West contenders attending include Regina, UBC, Trinity Western, MacEwan and Thompson Rivers.
On the women’s side, the Vikes will be looking towards 2017 U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian Alison Irvine (née Hooper) and Chloe Hegland. Both were pivotal in the Vikes women capturing the Canada West banner in 2017.
“We have a deeper team than before,” said Vikes head coach Brent Fougner, the 2017 Canada West Women’s Coach of the Year. “Alison and Chloe will be on top of their game and are on track to do really well at nationals. Behind them, there is a big group of Vikes that are working really well together. They are really compatible in their training and I think that will work to their advantage this weekend.”
For the Vikes men, fourth year Alexander Nemethy has emerged as the team’s top runner. Nemethy was the top finisher at the team’s opening meet on Sept. 29 in Stanford, Calif. Vike Josh Kozelj will also be expected to be at the front of the pack, as the third year was just one place back from Nemethy in Stanford.
“Alex has been really pushing Josh so far this year and the two of them are working so hard,” added Fougner. “We also have a group of athletes just sort of coming back after some injuries in the summer. They have had to take the time needed to build back up their volume.”
In that returning group are Brendan Hoff and Chet Goerzen, while also expected to race strong are Ben Weir and Jonny Toombs. Last season’s Canada West Rookie of the Year Brandon Vail will not be competing at this point in the season due to some injuries.
“Right now, we want to really just keep everyone healthy,” noted Fougner, whose teams have the B.C. Championships on Oct. 27 ahead of the U SPORTS National Championship on Nov. 10 in Kingston, Ont.
This weekend will be a good opportunity for the Vikes to enjoy home course advantage. Though the location is the same, the 2-km loop course will look a little different from last year’s national championship.
“It’s not harder or easier but it’s just different,” described Fougner. “This time we are going over Beacon Hill right up and over by the flag pole. The team just loves it and it’s going to be exciting to watch because it has a downhill finish.”
“We have been training on it, maybe three sessions, and everyone really enjoys this course. It’s a lot of fun.”
Elementary school races will start the day at 10:00 a.m. and will be followed by a 6-km boys and 4-km girls high school race. The university teams will race at 12:00 p.m. for the women and 1:00 p.m. for the men.
Walk-up registrations for the elementary and high school races will still be accepted on the morning of Oct. 13. The Vikes will wrap up the day with a meet-and-greet event with their alumni later that night. Live results from the day will be available at racedaytiming.ca.