Sports

Canadian Cross-Country Championships on Saturday

It’s shaping up for another cold, water logged, late November day at Jericho Beach in Vancouver but that won’t stop several hundred of Canada’s best long distance runners from splashing through the mud wearing just singlet and shorts.

The Canadian Cross Country Championships takes place on Saturday, November 24 at Jericho, starting at 10 am. Indeed, it’ll be tough enough for competitors dealing with a saturated race course, never mind heavy layers of wet clothing. While fans and supporters will feel the chill without the right gear, the racer’s temperature will rise quickly and it may as well be Hawaii to them.

Rain or hail, you’ll enjoy watching at one of the most picturesque and spectator friendly sites to view elite athletes strutting their stuff along the 1km and 2km loops of the men’s 10 km and the women’s 7 km races, respectively. It’s your opportunity to watch several Canadian Olympians as they compete for individual and team selection to the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships March 24th 2013 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

The Nationals consists of junior, senior and masters races for men and women and is hosted by Hershey Harriers Athletic Club and Ocean Athletics Track and Field Club. Watch for 23-year-old Olympian Cam Levins from Black Creek, B.C. who is favored to take his third-straight senior men’s 10km title. Levins competed in the London Olympics in the 10,000m and 5,000m, placing 11th and 15th respectively.

In a recent phone interview with Levins from Utah, he said, “Competing on Saturday, my main focus will be to qualify for the Worlds. It isn’t all on my focus to keep my title. The top six athletes get to go to the worlds and on Saturday I hope to do that.”

There will be other top performers gunning for it as well, with two of Levin’s main threats being fellow Olympian and St. Catherines, Ontario native, Mohammed Ahmed - also a London 10,000 meter finalist who recently won The Great Lakes Regional Cross Country Meet. CIS National Cross Country Champion and 2012 Vancouver Sun Run winner Kelly Wiebe, a Swift Current, Saskatchewan native, will contend, as will North Vancouver’s Chris Winter.

For Montreal’s 23-year-old Ryan Noel-Hodge, this will be his third nationals. He said via email, “On Saturday I expect to place in the top 20. It will be a more competitive field than the University Championships I raced two weeks ago, with Olympians in the mix.”

It will be exciting as well for the women’s senior division, with top performances expected in the 7km distance. Ontario XC champion Megan Brown aims to win her first national title. She said via email this week, "I am coming into the race with one goal: To win my first National XC title.  I am confident in my fitness and preparation for what will likely be a mud-bath type race on Saturday.”

"Right now, there doesn’t seem to be one clear favorite,” Brown surmised, adding, “There are a handful of girls who will be racing for a medal. The conditions will definitely demand a high level of mental toughness, which is exactly what XCountry is about.”

Olympic 5000m semi finalist Sheila Reid, a twotime (2010 and 2011) NCAA XC champion will be in the hunt for a medal. Olympian and North Vancouver resident, Jessica Smith will compete, along with B.C. XC champion Natasha Fraser, who is also the 2012 Vancouver Sun Run winner and Annie Leblanc from Quebec. Last year’s senior champ, Kendra Schaaf will be back to defend her title, adding more star power to an impressive field of elites.

The junior men’s race will feature Aaron Hendrix, Rob Denault, Cleo Boyd, and UBC’s Maria Bernard, who competed at the 2012 World Junior Athletics Championships. The masters race has five-year age groups that start at 35-plus. Local recreational and high school runners will be able to test drive their fitness level on the 5km course. Hot drinks will be available. I hope to see you there!

Information: http://www.xcountry.athletics.ca/

—with files from John Moe

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