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The University of Guelph’s cross country teams have a special season in front of them for two reasons. First, they are hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Championships and they have the opportunity to match the longest consecutive win streak in CIS history – not just cross country running, but for any sport.

Guelph has hosted the cross country championships 10 times since 1963, while the first women’s national championships took place in Guelph in 1980. The Guelph men have won a total of 14 national titles, with nine of them in a row starting from 2006. The women have won 11 times, with 10 in a row since 2005; both are defending champions.

“We are very excited for this fall’s cross country season. We have strong teams and are hoping to defend our CIS title on both the men’s and women’s titles. The men are currently just one title behind Brock Wrestling (1998-2008) and UBC Swimming (1997-2007), while the women are one win behind UBC swimming (1997-2008),” shared Coach Chris Moulton.

The Gryphons will likely win both the men’s and women’s titles. According to the annual coaches poll suggest that they will both win. On the women’s side Trinity Western University may provide a challenge, although they have lost Fiona Benson, her big breakout started only after she graduated. While on the men’s side it will likely be a fight for second between McMaster, Windsor, Victoria and Laval.

As with every new year, universities lose athletes to graduation and gain new team members. Balancing the year-to-year attrition is clearly a skill that the team at Guelph have balanced well. Asked about the team make up this year, Moulton said, “In terms of this specific year we have seen some graduation, on the men’s side three of our top seven and two of our top seven women are not returning. Obviously losing athletes of Ross Proudfoot and Carise Thompson’s ability are big losses; after all, they were the CIS Champions last year. That being said it does open up the door for some of our younger athletes.”

The lead two men are Aaron Hendrikx and Tristan Woodfine; they are likely the strongest in the country. They finished 1-2 at the CIS Championships in 2013 and according to Moulton both are starting of the 2015-2016 year in good shape.

“Hendrikx will look to join Ross as a five-time First Team All-Canadian in cross country and Woodfine are aiming for his first CIS title after finishing second during each of the past two years. Our women’s side returns Katelyn Ayers, third last year, Katrina Allison, who placed fourth and Heather Petrick, who was the OUA Champion,” said Moulton.

Guelph’s depth is always very good and this year is no exception as they feel they had a strong recruiting class for example on the men’s side Ben Workman, who was third at the OFSAA Cross Country Championships, will look to make an immediate impact with the Gryphons as will and Mark Patton, who finished third at the Canadian Junior Championships in the 1500-metre event. He will look to extend his range to 10k in cross country.

Danielle Jossinet was added to the women’s side, she was second over 1500-metres at the OFSAA Championships and third in the 3,000-metres. Moulton and Head Coach Dave Scott-Thomas will also bring back Joanna Brown, who is currently racing at the World Triathlon Championships. Brown is a three-time All-Canadian, finishing 8th in 2013.

Moulton added, “A couple of athletes we are really excited about are Connor Black and Charlotte Ward. Both are going into their second year and are coming off outstanding summer seasons. Black was the Canadian Junior Champion over 5,000-metres and Ward was third in the 1500-metres and lowered her personal best by 16 seconds running 4:22. Both of them didn’t have huge credentials coming out of high school, but they have worked extremely hard during the past year and have seen great improvement. “

Other men’s teams to have consecutive cross country wins include four during the 1990s by the Victoria Vikes; the Windsor Lancers had three in a row from 2003 to 2005. Toronto had three in a row during the 1960s, while several teams have won back-to-back championships.

On the women’s side Victoria has had multiple wins in a row on two different occasions including 1998 to 2001 with four and three from 1985 to 1987. Western had four in a row from 1981 to 1984.

Twenty-eight percent of the time – men’s and women’s teams combined – since 1963 and 1980, respectively, the Gryphons have won the CIS Championships in cross country; the track numbers are very similar. The men have won 14 of 52 and the women 11 of 36, for a total of 25 of 88 titles.

On the men’s side it will be a fight for second between McMaster, Windsor, Victoria and Laval.