© Copyright – 2012 – Athletics Illustrated

Jim Clifford

The entries have closed for Athletics Canada’s 2012 Cross Country Championships that takes place in Vancouver, BC on Saturday, November 24th at Jericho Beach. The fields for this event are outstanding; the deepest in many years.

Team Canada berths to compete in the IAAF World Cross Country Championshipson March 24th in  Poland are on the line for Senior and Junior runners. There are  several Olympians and top contenders in all categories ready to toe the line.

Senior Men

The favourite has to be Cam Levins of Black Creek, BC.  Levins has won this event the previous two years in a row, and really lit up the track this year with two NCAA Championships in the 5,000m and 10,000m distances and Top 20 finishes in both events at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Levins is rounding into form and recovering from a recent illness. He may be the favourite however, Mohammed Ahmed looks very strong.

Ahmed from Ontario might be the contender for the crown if he has anything left after finishing eight in the NCAA Cross Country Championships today, where he represented the Wisconsin Badgers.  Ahmed was also a London Olympian in the 10,000m event.

North Vancouver native Chris Winter was top-five last year and could move up to a podium finish this year. Winter won the BC Cross Country Championships on October 27th, but he will have a tough battle with Barry Britt of Alberta and Kelly Wiebe of Saskatchewan. Wiebe won the CIS crown earlier this month.  Other Team Canada contenders will include Kevin Friesen (BC), Stephen Colle (QC), Peter Corrigan (AB) and Jerry Ziak (BC).

Senior Women

Megan Brown from Ontario is the favourite after finishing second last year. She is coming back in great shape. Brown has international experience, for example she finished in fifth place at the World University Cross Country Championships in 2010. Medal contenders include Annie Leblanc (QC), Justine Johnson (BC), and Natasha Fraser who was the BC Champion last month.  Other Team Canada contenders should include Genevieve Lalonde (NB), Rachel Cliff (ON), Olympian Jessica Smith (BC), and youngster Fiona Benson (BC).

Junior Men

The top returning runner from 2011 is third place Robert Denault of Ontario. He could be challenged by Ontario high-schooler Ben Flanagan who just won the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association Championships (OFSAA) and was third at NACAC Cross Country Championships in March, 2012.

Brandon Kirkup of Ontario and Jack Williams of White Rock are medal contenders along with Team Canada runners Troy Smith, Jeremy Coughler and Ryan Sleiman. BC runners that should contest for a Team Canada spot include Christian Gravel, Joel Deshiffart and Tim Delcourt.  The Newmarket Huskies of Ontario are sending a very dominant team as well.

Junior Women

This category is more difficult to predict than the others, changes seem to happen monthly.  Gabriella Stafford of Ontario was the OFSAA winner and likely to contend with Maria Bernard (UBC) of Alberta who just finished sixth at NAIA champs today. Jackie Regan (UBC) of Vancouver who was seventh at the NAIA Champs will be tough to beat.  BC Champs winner Kala Stone is a Team Canada contender along with BC athletes Emma Balazs, Peggy Noel (SFU), Kansas Mackenzie (SFU), Alex Siemens and Regan Yee.  Again the Newmarket Huskies have a large and talented team.