Thursday, November 08, 2007
Heather Sim, who placed fifth overall in 2006 and was named Canada West cross country Athlete of the Year, will no doubt be the Calgary Dinos' leader on Nov. 10. Sim has two new teammates, Jessica O'Connell and Faye Stenning, who hope to make waves in their rookie season. Last year's Coach of the Year, Doug Lamont, has several other new faces at this year's championship, but he hopes that Sim can inspire a young group to win another conference title.
Alberta looks to newcomer Paula Findlay, who is aiming for a top-seven finish and all-Canadian status. Danika Medinski and veteran Terra Manca each need to have a top finish and hope for others on the Pandas to surprise in order for Alberta to equal its second-place conference finish from 2006 in Quebec.
The Dinos cross country teams head to Victoria with titles to defend in both the men's and women's races.
A deep Calgary women's team sets out to defend its Canada West title - a banner the Dinos have claimed three of the last four years - while reigning CIS cross country and track Athlete of the Year Geoff Kerr will race to defend the individual gold medal he captured a year ago on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.
Coach Doug Lamont has his team ready to take on those challenges and is optimistic about the Dinos' chances.
"Our men's team is a lot stronger, and our depth is better," Lamont said. "I think on any given day we have the horses to challenge for the conference title. Conference-wise, it's probably ours to lose on the women's side."
Both Dinos teams will need exceptional performances to unseat powerhouse Guelph, the defending men's and women's national champions.
Kerr, who was undefeated in the 2006-07 season in every track and cross country event he raced, traveled to the Universiade in Bangkok this summer with Team Canada to compete in the 5000m event. He was the University of Calgary's male athlete of the year in 2006-07. His 2007 cross country season has again been strong, and he will challenge to repeat as champion.
"Geoff's in a really good space to do really well again," said Lamont. "It's not going to be an easy battle, but he'll be in the mix to win a medal."
Joining Kerr is a deeper men's side than the team that finished 11th in the country in Quebec City a year ago. Travis Cummings, a transfer from Queen's, brings depth and experience to the team, while sophomore Matt Cloutier has had an impressive season so far. Grant Burwash, Brad Hove, Ryan Russell, and David Zylberberg round out the seven-man squad for Calgary. Of those seven, only Cloutier, Hove, and Kerr ran for the team in 2006.
The women's team features seven racers that finished within 90 seconds of each other at the Stewart Cup event in Edmonton on Oct. 27, with the top five separated by only 45 seconds. Rookie sensations Jessica O'Connell and Faye Stenning, both from Calgary's Western Canada High School, should score well for the Dinos in only their first season, while Heather Sim is rushing to return to her all-Canadian form after battling injury. O'Connell is an athlete to watch in the future, having already been a member of two national teams.
Natalie Thompson, Hilary Johnston and Valerie Hurdle complete the Dinos' roster for the championships.