File photo. Lucas Bruchet at 2017 BC Cross Country Championships.

© Copyright – 2018 – Athletics Illustrated

It was cool, wet and muddy and the winds were variable throughout, but those conditions seem to suite Vancouver’s Luc Bruchet and Guelph’s Genevieve Lalonde who each won the 2018 Canadian Cross Country Championships Saturday, Nov. 24th in Kingston, Ontario’s Fort Henry Park.

In the U20 races, Tyler Dozzi of Vancouver and Brogan MacDougall of Kingston won their respective events.

Bruchet told Athletics Canada, “This one really meant a lot to me. I didn’t have a track season in the summer and this was redemption for me a little.”

The 2016 Rio Olympian was nursing an injury that kept him on the shelf. The 27-year-old won the race last year on the same course. He finished second in 2016 to Guelph’s Ross Proudfoot.

Mike Tate of Antigonish, NS finished second in the time of 30:07.60, just 12.7 seconds back of Bruchet.

Bruchet was representing Vancouver Thunderbirds, while Tate was running for Speed River Track and Field club.

The unattached Evan Esselink finished third in the time of 30:13.9.

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Senior Women

Genevieve Lalonde

The women’s race was won by 2016 Rio Olympian Genevieve Lalonde, a 3,000-metre steeplechase specialist. Lalonde finished in the time of 33:47.3. The Speed River Track and Field Club member defeated previous champions Natasha Wodak of Vancouver and Claire Sumner of Kingston, who finished in 34:06.4 and 34:16.8, respectively.

Wodak is the Canadian 10,000-metre record holder and a 2016 Rio Olympian. She won nationals in 2015.

“The race played out pretty smoothly on my end,” said Lalonde. “The plan was to stay conservative on the front end and key off the top runners because they are all extremely experienced and then work my way up if I felt good. I had a few checkpoints, if I was feeling good with two laps to go I could go, if not I would hold back.”

Around the 5K mark, she realized that the front group was getting smaller. At that time, it was down to Lalonde, Kate Ayers, Sumner and Wodak.

“I was feeling pretty good so I tested my legs a bit on the downhills and made a bit of a gap, I held that pace and the gap seemed to grow and then I realized that I was alone and so with one lap to go, I began to push a bit more and then with a km to go, I definitely worked pretty hard to make it to the end.”

Lalonde, who rarely races outside of the 1500m to 5,000m range, was not familiar with the approximate 10K distance that cross-country offers and certainly not the footing, but she knew she was fit going in. She is the Canadian record holder in the steeplechase with her 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships time of 9:29.99.

Asked about her goal going in she said, “My expectations going into any race are to win, again not knowing the distance at all I bounced between thinking I could be in the top-3 to top-10. Everything went according to plan though and I was able to execute on the day so I was extremely happy with that. I have had a really great season of training with my teammates at speed River.”

She was working with Kate Ayers, Jenna Westaway and the Guelph Gryphons squad so she knew after seeing them perform this season that she was in a good place to set something up special.

“It was pretty cool to be able to celebrate that with my coach and team at the finish line,” she added.

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Tyler Dozzi finishing the junior race at the 2018 Vikes Invitational. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

U20 Men

Tyler Dozzi won the U20 men’s race. He finished in the time of 24:48.9, bettering Andrew Alexander, who crossed the line in the time of 24:51.0 and Evan Burke 24:55.1.

Dozzi won the youth nationals in 2016, shortly after winning the provincial championships. The UBC Thunderbird is originally from Terrace, BC but moved to Victoria to attend Oak Bay High School a traditional powerhouse provincially. He also moved to Victoria to work with two-time Olympian Bruce Deacon with the Prairie Inn Harriers Youth Team. The training set him up for the big wins and making the Thunderbirds team.

“The race was tough, I definitely had to work hard for it,” said Dozzi. “Right from the gun, I knew I wanted to be near the front, to avoid getting stuck in the middle of the pack with no room when the course narrowed.”

Dozzi put himself at the front of the pack. His plan was to run relaxed, stay out of trouble with footing and to not lead into the wind.

“I took corners wide when necessary to avoid slipping, and I hung off the back of the leading groups whenever possible to avoid breaking the wind. It was a very windy day, and the weather could really work against you if you weren’t mindful of your positioning.”

For Dozzi the first three laps were all about trying to stay comfortable and on his feet.

“I definitely started to feel the pain and burning earlier on. I didn’t think I was feeling great in the second and third laps, but I worked to keep up with the leaders, knowing that as long as I kept myself in contact, I could give myself the opportunity to really race to the end.”

“This is my favourite part of running, and what it all comes down to in championship races. As soon as one more runners started to fall back, I passed him and moved into third with about 1K to go. The leader (Andrew Alexander) started to try and break away then, but the 500m mark was coming up, and it was where I knew no matter how bad I was feeling, I could race hard and give it my all from that point.”

Rounding the tight corner into the final downhill with half of a km remaining he started to crank up the pace. “I quickly passed the second place runner, but had to keep grinding in order to catch Andrew. I passed him just before a slippery corner going into the final hill and didn’t look back. With 200m to go, I made sure to finish on empty, giving it absolutely everything I had. He wasn’t able to catch me, but it was a close race between the two of us.”

“The hard work has paid off this season, and I’m proud of my performance and thankful for all the support I’ve had leading up to this point.”

Full results>>

Brogan MacDougall winning the 2018 U Sport Cross Country Championships.

U20 Women

Brogan MacDougall competed in the U20 women’s race, but she could have put the scare into the top finishers in the senior race. Two weeks ago, she became just the second athlete all-time to win the University national championships at 17 years of age (U Sport, previously: CIS and CIAU).

She won U Sport on the same course that club nationals were held on at Fort Henry Park, running for the Queen’s University Gaels.

The Gaels athlete train in the park often; MacDougall had home course advantage as she also trains on the course with her sister Branna, who is also a teammate.

Asked if the conditions were any better than at U Sport, she told Athletics Illustrated, “I thought the conditions were better for my race yesterday than at U-Sports. As the day progressed, it got colder and started raining, making the course very muddy and slippery. For the U20 race, it was not very muddy yet and the sun was still out. It was slightly windy, but nothing compared to two weeks ago.”

Apparently, the race got off to a fast start. MacDougall wasn’t going to let the lead pack to get away from her, so she kept pace.

“I think we were sub 6:40 for the first 2K, so very quick,” said MacDougall. “A pack of girls separated from the rest on the second loop and I tried to keep the pace as honest as possible. At about 3.5K, I noticed that I gained a step on the group and decided that would be the best time to go, so I surged on the downhill and gained a few metres. After that, I was just trying to keep the pace hard enough that I wouldn’t get caught and at the end was mostly soaking up the experience of my last junior cross-country race.”

She finished in the time of 20:20.7, 12.2 seconds in front of Anne Forsyth. Maggie Smith crossed the line in the time of 20:53.4 for third place. MacDougall was running for her club Physi-Kult, while Forsyth was running for Speed River and Smith for Halifast out of Halifax, NS.

Taryn O’Neill finished fourth.

“I’m a little bummed to have missed out on the medals, but my goal was top-6 so I’m satisfied. It’s an honour to make another national team,” said O’Neill. “It’s taken me a bit of time to adjust to the new type of training at Villanova and I was a little injured at the beginning of the season, so fitness isn’t at its best.”

“Brogan took it out and Ann followed, as expected, the only wildcard was Maggie Smith. But as she is a future Villanova Wildcat I’m not too disappointed to be dropped by her. Those three have had amazing seasons and the podium was well-deserved.”

File photo. Taryn O’Neill, Kelowna

O’Neill stuck with the lead pack for just over one lap which is approximately 2K, and then she fell off a little.

“It was really windy so I tried to stay tucked in with them as long as possible. Then, of course, I was stranded on my own for the remainder, so that was a bit of a grind.”

“If this season had a better start to it then I would’ve liked to be up there with Brogan. I’m looking forward to some rest and then a building period in the winter. I cannot wait to represent Canada again with an amazing team of gritty runners!”

The Lake Country, BC athlete had a stellar final season at George Elliott High School last year, where she took down at least three records with apparent ease.

During one 24-hour period, the then 17-year-old won the senior girls 1,500-metre event and then the 3,000-metres the next day at the provincial high school championships. She set meet records in both races. The 3,000-metre performance is also a national high school record. It was that season that turned heads, especially in the NCAA.

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The national championships return to the west coast to the Greater Vancouver area in 2019, after their four-year stretch in Kingston, ON.