EDMONTON – The 2017 U SPORTS Cross Country Championships are slated for this Sunday in Victoria, as the nation's top university distance runners compete at Beacon Hill Park.
The University of Victoria is hosting the event – which also doubles as the Canada West conference championships – for the first time since 2007, which was also the last time the event travelled to Western Canada.
In terms of Canada West contenders this weekend, the Trinity Western Spartans enter the competition looking to repeat as conference champs on both the men's and women's side. While TWU is hoping to repeat as CW champs, the Spartans also have their sights set on moving up the national ladder, after finishing second (men's) and third overall (women's) respectively last season in the U SPORTS team results. TWU sat inside the U SPORTS Top 10 all season, sitting fifth in both polls released back on October 31.
A pair of fifth-year athletes in Declan White (men's) and Regan Yee (women's) anchor the Spartans. White finished second overall last season at nationals in Quebec City, while Yee came in fifth at the event. Both enter the weekend after strong results at the BC Provincial Championships in late October, as White finished seventh, and Yee came in fifth.
In terms of Canada West challengers, TWU's biggest competition in their pursuit of CW titles will likely come in the form of the host Vikes, who finished second (men's) and third (women's) in the CW team standings in 2016.
Both Victoria teams enter the race after sitting inside the U SPORTS Top 10 all season, with both peaking at No. 7 in the last polls of the season.
The host Vikes were the last team to capture national gold in 2015, when the men topped the standings, while the on the women's side it's been more than a decade since the last CW team earned gold. That came in 2003 when the Calgary Dinos were CIS' cross country's top women's side.
Looking outside the conference, a couple of teams stand out in terms of competition, as the Laval Rouge et Or are the defending men's champs, while the Guelph Gryphons enter the weekend riding an unprecedented 12-year streak as women's national champions.
This year's race marks a new length for the women, who will be running two more kilometres than year's past. The women's four-lap race, which now stands at 8 km, gets started at 1 p.m. PST Sunday, before the men run five laps (10 km) beginning at 2 p.m. PST.
You can catch all the action by tuning into U SPORTS Live.
2016 CW finish: N/A (men's), 6th (women's)
2016 U SPORTS finish: N/A (men's), 17th (women's)
Last CW championship / total CW championships): 1969 / 2 (men's); highest finish in women's - 2nd place four times (last 2011)
Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 1969 / 1 (men's); highest finish in women's - 3rd in 1997
Returning top finisher
Women: Courtney Hufsmith – 127th, 25:28.1
Number of competitors:
1 total (Hufsmith)
Courtney Hufsmith has been the top competitor for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in 2017. The second-year Business student from Saskatoon has crossed the finish line first in both the Cougar Trot in Regina and the Huskie-hosted Sled Dog Open (30:54) in Saskatoon. The Sled Dog finish was a personal best. She also had the top finish in the Stewart Cup crossing the finish line fourth.