© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

The University of Victoria Vikes men’s cross country team did something that no other team has done in nine years, beat the University of Guelph Gryphons in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Cross Country Championships. Only two teams have had the national title in 16 years, the Windsor Lancers with three championship victories and the Guelph Gryphons who won nine in a row and four in a row, broken up only by the Lancers’ three consecutive wins from 2003 to 2005.

“I knew we could win if we had our top four in the front pack. By beating the other teams up front it left some breathing room for our fifth scorer,” shared Coach Brent Fougner. “The guys ran amazing and I couldn’t be more proud of all seven of the today.  Ryan Cassidy finishes off his CIS career with another All-Canadian Award and a banner as well. It doesn’t get any better than this!”

Olivier Collin who led the team during the race has battled numerous injuries for years, which has kept him from performing at his best. In 2010, while attending Fresno State University he had a magical type of year that demonstrated his talent. He ran several personal bests on the track that continue to be his best performances today, however, this year he was finally feeling both fit and free of major injury. Collin finished fourth overall.

“Yesterday was all about the team. We all wanted to dominate out there,” said the 26-year-old. “As a team it was honestly one of the coolest moments of my career to have two of my teammates Ryan and Forrest Simpson on my side with a lap to go. I knew that if we closed the last lap like we raced the first three, we would pull it off.”

The last time the Victoria men won a national title was in 1997 when they capped off a four-year consecutive win streak by taking the title in London, Ontario, home of Western University.

The Gryphons were not easy to beat as they came from behind during the race. The entered the day wanting redemption from a sub-par performance (according to their standards) at the Ontario University Championships (OUA), which turned out to be the closest OUA finish in several years. The Gryphons escaped defeat at the hands of the Lancers by just one point.

When asked about the defeat Coach Chris Moulton said, “On the guys side as I said before the race, any one of six teams could win.  At 5k we were still in fifth place with 139 points, so there were a lot of teams in the mix. Victoria was aggressive from the front and any time you have four runners in the top-11 you are going to have a very good shot at the win. Obviously we would have loved to win at home but we simply weren’t good enough to do it and got beat.  Great to see Aaron Hendrikx get the win in his final year, he graduates as a five-time first team All-Canadian and two-time CIS individual champion, an incredibly impressive career.”

Part of the Gryphons dynasty continues though. The women kept their win streak alive and moved to 11-consective national championships. Although there were some threats from two other teams especially the Trinity Western University team, the Gryphons finished first as a team, while TWU’s Sarah Inglis won the race.

“We are thrilled to have captured the women’s title for the 11th straight year.  Trinity Western gave us a great run; we had it as a three point race going into the last lap. Full credit to Mark Bomba (coach) and his team, they came right at us and put four in before our third. We know they will be very strong next year.”