© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
The 2015 iteration of the University of Victoria Vikes women’s cross country team will have a slightly new look as important veterans Kendra Pomfret and Nicole Soderberg are lost to graduation and Rachel Francois will be red-shirting this year.
Pomfret had a strong final track season in 2015, earning several new personal bests including in the 800-metre (2:05.08) and the 1500-metre distance events with her 4:15.49 performance on May 14th in Los Angeles. The team relays always performed at a high level and she was an important runner for the Vikes and a great example off the track with her community work and volunteerism. She will be missed, as will Nicole Soderberg who was perennially a strong runner for the Vikes; her personal best in the 800-metres matches Pomfret’s.
Rachel Francois over the past two years has developed into a very strong 800-metre runner and has been running on the outer edges of making Team Canada having run just a little more than a second outside of the Commonwealth, World Championships and Olympic standard of 2:01.00 with her 2:02.18 from 2014 and 2:02.25 in 2015. Francois will be concentrating on making the team to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Saying that, the coaching staff feels that the Vikes will have a strong season with the addition of Allison Hooper to the team, who took the 2014-2015 year off to focus on triathlon. There are also new recruits Andie Wood from Dryden Ontario, Luisa Schwarz who is from Fredericton, NB and Calgarians Laurin Thorne and Emma Dixon.
Some of the returning runners had productive summers and look strong for the cross country season include Emma Bibault who showed good range running bests of 4:35.68 in the 1500-metres, 9:53.50 at 3,000-metres and 17:20.89 for 5,000m. Chloe Hegland ran a new personal best of 17:03.36 in the 5,000-metre event over the summer. She was named Canada West Rookie of the Year in the 2014 CIS championships.
Veteran Shauna McInnis ran a 9:37 and a 17:05.40 this summer. Aside from spraining her ankle in the winter, McInnis was one of the stronger runners during the 2014 -2015 season. She was the top Vike competing in the 2014 Canadian Interuniversity Sport cross country championships, leading the team to a sixth place position nationally, which was an excellent performance consider Pomfret had to drop out of the race with a hip issue.
Brittany King is also back. She helped the Vikes earn Canada West second place finish at CIS cross country championships by being a scoring member finishing in 64th position.
“Last year the team placed sixth at CIS even with Pomfret having to drop out due to a hip injury. We are looking for a top-five finish and conference title this year,” shared Head Coach Brent Fougner. “Our team this year is a good mix of seasoned veterans and talented rookies. They are looking very good in training so far. I am looking forward to the season and the future of our women’s program. Assistant coach Hilary Stellingwerff has done a great job in recruiting and getting the girls focussed on the season.”
Stellingwerff is a 2012 London Olympian and specialises in the 1500-metre distance.
The men’s team that finished second last year at the CIS cross country championships will only be short two veterans one being the very valuable Thomas Riva, who left his mark on the CIS by winning three silver medals at the track championships, then he went on to crush the Canadian Track and Field Championships 1500-metre event by out-sprinting an international-level field that included Olympians Nate Brannen and Cameron Levins. It was a slow race for 1300-metres, but Riva had the strongest kick, which earned him a sense of redemption as he had earlier expected three golds at the CIS Championships.
There is a very strong team returning including Ryan Cassidy, Olivier Collins, Ben Weir, Cody Therrien, Cole Peterson and Derrick Evans as well as Forrest Simpson who is returning after recovering from a bike accident.
Cassidy earned CIS first Team All-Canadian honours as well as Canada West Male Athlete of the Year during 2014, helping the VIkes to their second place finish at national cross. He was the highest scoring Vike at CIS XC nationals finishing in seventh place and just 23 seconds from first place.
Olivier Collin finished second Vike and not far behind, time-wise. He is a very strong middle-distance runner and at the age of 26, is a veteran who should be one of the best runners in Canada. Although dated, he owns a solid 800-metre best of 1:46.21, 3:38.25 for 1500-metres and is a sub-four minute miler.
We have some strong new recruits in Thomas and Peter Oxland from Nanaimo, Sterling Gunther from White Rock, Vanderhoof’s Alex Nemethy, Tim Longley from Kentville, NS, Shoayb Bascal, who is a transfer from U of Findlay,” shared Fougner
“This team has the potential to be top three at CIS. With the return of Simpson this team is as good if not better than last year. Several of the rookies are looking good early in the season and will battle for the last few spots on this team,” added Fougner.