(Photo: Michael Parkinson)
KINGSTON, Ont. (October 23, 2014) - There is arguably no team in collegiate sports that has dominated a league the past 10 years like the Guelph Gryphons cross-country team.
On the men's side, Guelph has won every OUA championship since 2005 and has won 13 of 15 titles dating back to 1999 – only the Windsor Lancers men's team has been able to knock off Guelph, winning back-to-back championships in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
Somehow, the Guelph women have been even more dominant having won every OUA championship since the 2003-04 season.
Heading into the OUA Cross-Country Championships this Saturday in Kingston, Ont., the Gryphons are once again the favourites to bring home another championship banner; both the men and the women are ranked No. 1 in the CIS Top 10.
Guelph's women's pursuit of the rare 11-peat is led by four returning first-team all-stars: Katrina Allison (Vancouver, B.C), Carise Thompson (Lynden, Ont.), Madeline Yungblut (Wroexter, Ont.), and Heather Petrick (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.). The Gryphons proved this season they are not only one of the best teams in the country, but in North America as well. The women's team won the Paul Short run in Lehigh, Pennsylvania defeating the Georgetown Hoyas and the Florida State Seminoles who were ranked fifth and sixth respectively in the NCAA. The Gryphons also swept the top six spots at the Vic Matthews Open in Guelph.
The Toronto Varsity Blues enter this weekend looking to win their first women's cross-country championship since 2002-03. The Blues put together a strong season and had four runners place in the top 15 at the Brock Invitational, the final event of the season. Colleen Hennessy (Oakville, Ont.) was a second-team all-star in 2013 and returned to the Blues this year. Sydney Currier (Ottawa, Ont.) and Aija Thompson (Montreal, Que.) will also be relied upon after finishing in the top 10 at the Brock race. Gabriela Stafford (Toronto, Ont.) was the Blues' best runner this season. She took home individual golds earlier in the season at the Queen's Invitational and Western International – two of the season's most competitive events.
Four other OUA schools appear in the CIS Top 10 for women's cross-country: Western (4), Queen's (5), McMaster (8), and Laurentian (10).
The Mustangs dominated when they hosted the Western International, taking home a team gold medal ahead of some very strong competition, as Toronto, McMaster, Queen's, and Laurentian all competed in the event. The Mustangs will be relying heavily once again on a strong performance from Amanda Truelove (Barrie, Ont.). She was a second-team all-star in 2013 and was the top Mustang at the Western International, taking home an individual silver medal. The Mustangs finished in a distant second at last year's OUA Championship and would love nothing more than to pull off a historic upset of Guelph.
Queen's was the last school prior to Guelph to stand atop the women's podium, and the Gaels are hoping to recapture some of that 2003 magic at home this year. Julie-Anne Staehli (Lucknow, Ont.) is the Gaels only returning first-team all-star, however the team boasts plenty of young talent. First-year runner Claire Sumner (Calgary, Alta.) led the Gaels with a second-place finish at the Queen's Invitational, while second-year teammate Shannen Murray (Brucefield, Ont.) finished ninth.
McMaster and Laurentian also rank in the top-10 and have turned in some very impressive finishes this season. The schools finished third and fourth, respectively, at the Western International, and then finished in second and fourth at the Queen's Invitational a few weeks later.
Other schools competing in the women's event are the Brock Badgers, Lakehead Thunderwolves, Laurier Golden Hawks, Algoma Thunderbirds, Nipissing Lakers, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Trent Excalibur, Waterloo Warriors, Windsor Lancers, and York Lions.
On the men's side, the aforementioned Gryphons are heavy favourites once again heading into the championship. The team returns its three first-team all-star runners that swept OUA podium last year. Aaron Hendrikx (Parkhill, Ont.), Ross Proudfoot (Sudbury, Ont.), and Tristen Woodfine (Cobden, Ont.) are hoping for a repeat performance in Kingston. Despite missing Woodfine for the Paul Short Run, Guelph still finished second in a race loaded with NCAA talent.
The McMaster Marauders finished second at last year's OUA Championship, and are once again looking up at the no.1-ranked Gryphons; McMaster is currently ranked no. 2 in the CIS Top 10. The Marauders return two all-stars of their own from last year's silver-winning squad; first-teamer Blair Morgan (Yarker, Ont.) and second-teamer Connor Darlington (Whitby, Ont.) will lead McMaster. Darlington won individual gold at the Don Mills/Waterloo Open this season.
The last team outside of Guelph to win an OUA men's team gold was the Windsor Lancers – that feat came in 2004-05. The Lancers are ranked fourth in the CIS heading into Saturday. Windsor is fresh off a win at the Wisconsin-Parkside Invitational and put together a very successful season running both in OUA and NCAA events. Paul Janikowski (LaSalle, Ont.) is the team's lone returning all-star from 2013.
A dark-horse contender this weekend is the Lakehed Thunderwolves. The team heads to the championship ranked sixth in CIS and is led by Kevin Tree (Tottenham, Ont.) a fourth-year runner who has had success running in Kingston when he won the Queen's Invitational on Oct. 11. Lakehead's best ever finish at the OUA Championship is fifth-place, a mark it set two seasons ago.
Other schools competing in the men's competition are the Queen's Gaels, Brock Badgers, Laurier Golden Hawks, Algoma Thunderbirds, Nipissing Lakers, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Toronto Varsity Blues, Trent Excalibur, Waterloo Warriors, Western Mustangs, and York Lions.