The U of M Bisons men’s and women’s cross-country team participated in the Canada West championship this weekend. Individually the five athletes each finished with respectable times but were not able to come away with any team banners due to their low numbers.
Prior to the race, Bison cross-country head coach Claude Berube was excited to be back racing at Canada West. Although the Bisons did not send many athletes, he was happy that the five were able to compete after last year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“We have a very small competitive team this year, so it’s been a little bit different than normal years,” said Berube.
“The ones who are going to be going to Canada West have competed quite well for us.”
Historically, the men’s championship has been dominated by the University of Calgary Dinos, who won the last three banners. Without enough runners to compete for a banner, the Bisons were hoping to achieve individual success. Berube highlighted fifth-year runner Michael Wood as the Bison with the best chance to take home a medal.
“I think Michael Wood has probably been our number one guy most of the year, but any three of those guys could probably be contenders,” said Berube.
As expected, Michael Wood finished with the best time for the Bisons, in 35th place with a time of 26:37.5. Not too far behind him was fellow Bison Justin Kroeker. The first-year runner impressed in his championship debut, finishing in 38th place, less than a minute after Wood (27:02.8). Calvin Reimer was the last Bison to cross the finish line, running a time of 27:13.9, placing 42nd in the men’s eight-kilometre race.
Taking home the banner and pulling off the upset were the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, who finished with four runners in the top five, including Thomas Nobbs in first with a time of 24:30.6. Teammate Tyler Dozzi finished in second and Dino runner Eric Lutz finished in third.
On the women’s side, Berube praised Hailee Morisseau for her solid season.
“Hailee Morisseau has been our top female competitor all year,” said Berube.
Morisseau would continue leading the Bisons in Saturday’s race. The third-year runner finished in 14th place with a time of 30:31.9, earning Canada West second team all-star honours.
After running for Lakehead University between 2017 and 2018, Morisseau stepped away from cross-country to focus on her health. After deciding to make a comeback two weeks before the start of the 2021 season, Morisseau is happy with her decision to return to the sport and join the Bison family.
“I ran at Lakehead University for a couple years […] then I ended up taking a year right off of school mostly just due to injuries and a few health problems,” said Morisseau.
“So, I wasn’t running at all at that time, and then the pandemic happened. Then I was running a bit at that time, nothing serious, and then it was kind of a couple weeks before this cross-country season that I decided to run for the Bisons. I emailed Claude [Berube] probably a couple weeks before the time trial, so it was a bit of a last-minute decision to actually compete this year, but I’m glad I did.”
Fellow Bison Angela Kroeker also impressed. The rookie runner finished 40th in the women’s six-kilometre race — not bad for her first time at the championships.
The Thunderbirds also won the women’s banner on Saturday, taking home both banners. Katherine Newlove (12th), ZoË Doorenspleet (10th), Mackenzie Campbell (7th) and Glynis Sim (3rd) helped bring the Canada West banner back to Vancouver for the third straight season.
Individually, the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat’s Joanna Brown and Lauren McNeil were the top runners in the women’s race, finishing first and second.
After the races, Thomas Nobbs of the Thunderbirds and Joanna Brown of the Okanagan Heat were both named Canada West cross-country athletes of the year.
The Thunderbirds’ Spencer Hardy and the Okanagan Heat’s Lauren McNeil were both named rookies of the year.
The U Sports cross-country championships will be held Nov. 20 in Quebec City, Que.