Gryphon women keep cross-country title, men dethroned

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

ETOBICOKE — It was a bittersweet day for the Guelph Gryphons at the OUA cross-country championships Sunday at Centennial Park.

“Maybe a little more bitter than sweet at this particular second,” Guelph coach Dave Scott-Thomas said at the end of the meet that saw the Gryphons repeat as women’s team champions and be dethroned in the men’s race. “But that’s sports.”

The Gryphons won the OUA women’s team title for the 13th consecutive year, but the men had their streak of 11 straight championship wins halted.

“I’d say this was a working-class race from both genders,” Scott-Thomas said. “Certainly the OUA has narrowed the gap that we ever might have had, which is probably a good thing. We’re running good teams so the league has just gotten better. As somebody who cares about his sport, you have to appreciate that.”

The Guelph women won the team title after posting a score of 46 points to place 12 ahead of the runner-up Queen’s Gaels. First five finishers from each team scored points for their teams while most teams fielded seven runners. All seven Gryphon runners finished in the top 21 with their top five finishing in the top 13.

Only one other team, the fourth-place Western Mustangs, had more than two runners in the top 13 as they had three.

“We were a little ragged going in,” Scott-Thomas said of the women’s team. “Our girl who has been running No. 1, Heather Petrick, was hit by a car not quite two weeks ago. It ran into her while she was biking so we actually hadn’t run her much. She’s a risk taker. She put herself in it and then got tired off the back end. We’ll see her stronger for CIs. Kate Ayers was in it with 800m to go and looked like she might win it. She finished fourth, so that’s a shootout. Our chase pack did a great job. As much as we didn’t have as many low sticks as we’re used to and no individual medalists, as a team we ran great.”

For the Gryphs, Ayers was fourth overall in the six-kilometre race with a time of 20 minutes, 18.7 seconds. Petrick was eighth in 20:46.5 and followed by Sophia Watts ninth in 21:01.2, Cheryse Mitton 12th in 21:27.2, Katrina Allison 13th in 21:27.9, Danielle Jossinet 15th in 21:32.1 and Madeline Youngblut 21st in 21:52.7.

Claire Sumner of Queen’s was the individual champion as she completed the distance in 20:16.7. Lucia Stafford of the host Toronto Varsity Blues was second in 20:17.1 and Julie-Anne Staehli of Queen’s was third in 20:18.6.

“It wasn’t kind of the dominant wins we’ve seen in the past, but we’re playing for CIs and taking a shot at winning that,” Scott-Thomas said. “So similar to last year, that’s our priority and the team’s fit and ready to go.”

While the Gryphon men’s team was dethroned, it wasn’t a surprise as the Gryphs are a younger group this year. They fielded a team with an average age of less than 20. Mitchell Ubene, Andrew Shepherd and Kyle Madden were first-year Gryphons while Ben Workman and Mark Patton are in their second years, Mostafa Elkurdy in his third and Brayden Seneca in his fifth.

“We’re running a very, very young men’s team. It is the youngest team that we’ve ever put on the line,” Scott-Thomas said. “Five of our seven guys ran the first 10k of their lives today. We knew we had to play off the back end. We don’t have the sort of punchy up-front guys that we used to have, so we were going to have to try to just swarm the field and put five in the top 20. Truthfully, the race played out the way we assessed it would in terms of who was up front and what teams were there and they just played depth a little better than us.”

Laurier was the only other school to field a team with three rookies.

Western took the men’s team title with a score of 53 while the Windsor Lancers were second at 60 and the Gryphons were third at 72.

“The right teams won in the right order today,” Scott-Thomas said. “Western was the best team and they ran the best race and Windsor did. I’m proud of our guys. As much as I’d like to keep winning, we’ve got that tradition, but with three rookies and two second-year guys on the line today, we’ve got something to build on. I’m happy with that.”

For Guelph, Seneca was fifth in the 10km race in 31:03.6 and he led Workman in ninth in 31:06.9, Patton in 11th in 31:13.9, Ubene in 17th in 31:33.7, Shepherd in 28th in 32:01.9, Madden in 31st in 32:07.6 and Elkurdy in 41st in 32:38.0.

Corey Bellemore of Windsor won in 30:35.8 while Kevin Tree of the Lakehead Thunderwolves was second in 30:43.2 and Jack Sheffar of Western was third in 30:48.5.

The women’s race had 98 finishers while the men’s race had 101.

Runners who finished in the top 14 in either race were named all-stars with those in the top seven on the first team and the other seven on the second team.

Next up for the university runners is the U Sports (formerly CIS) championship meet at Quebec City Nov. 12. The Gryphon men had a streak of nine consecutive national titles halted last year when Victoria won at the meet hosted by the Gryphons. The Gryphon women won last year for the 11th consecutive time.