STATE COLLEGE, Penn. - In their final competition before next weekend's OUA Championship, the University of Guelph men's and women's cross country team showed they are poised to defend their OUA titles. The Gryphons competed in the Penn State National Invitational in State College, Penn. this past weekend as their final tune-up before the championship phase of the season. Headlining the Gryphons' performances was defending OUA champion Lindsay Carson's (Cambridge, Ont.) win in the women's six kilometre race.

Early in the race Carson led a trio of Gryphons into the lead pack of 20 along with teammates Courtney Laurie (Toronto, Ont.) and Rachel Cliff (Vancouver, B.C.). As the race wore on the pack thinned out, with Cliff falling back just before the mile mark and a lead group of 10 separating from a chase pack which included Laurie. At the two mile mark Carson was 10:38 as the lead group was down to eight, with Laurie coming through 12 seconds back and Cliff a further 10 seconds back of Laurie. Just after the two mile mark the race heads slightly downhill before the last major climb of the race just past two and half miles. As the lead group made their way up the hill West Virginia teammates Keri Bland and Clara Grandt broke open the lead pack with a strong surge, Carson quickly covered but Bland made another move opening up a 10-metre gap. The gapped remained until the last 500 metres when Carson started kicking for home, pulling up beside Bland and passing her with about 200 metres remaining. Bland could not respond to the move and Carson went on to the win in a time of 20:07, the second-fastest time ever on the historic Penn State Course.

While Carson was duking it out up front, Laurie and Cliff continued to fight for valuable places. Laurie finished an outstanding 12th overall, giving the Gryphons the second-best one-two punch in the race behind overall race winner West Virginia. Cliff finished a strong 35th showing she is ready to continue her streak of top five finishes at the OUA Championships after finishing fourth as a rookie in 2006 and fifth last year. After the Gryphons lead three, there was a gap of 45 seconds to a massive pack of Gryphons. Twenty-nine seconds was all that separate the Gryphons' fourth runner Karoline Hoy (Thunder Bay, Ont.) from the Gryphons' eighth runner Shantelle Novak (Regina, Sask.). This type of packing will be extremely important at the OUA Championship, where the Gryphons will be relying on their depth to support their strong front runners as they look to win their record fifth consecutive OUA championship. The Gryphons finished eighth overall falling to five top 40 programs in the NCAA.

Like the women, the men were led by a stand out individual performance and an impressive display of depth. With Kyle Boorsma (Guelph, Ont.) not competing, second-year runner Allan Brett (Ottawa, Ont.) stepped in and filled his shoes admirable. Brett and team captain Josh Roundell (Ottawa, Ont.) positioned themselves in the lead pack of 20 right from the start. As the leader past the mile mark, the pack had split in half with Brett still with the leaders and Roundell in the chase pack. At the two and a half mile mark, Brett and the lead group came through in 12:11 with Roundell close behind in 12:17 and then a pack of four Gryphons - Matt Brunsting (Stirling, Ont.), Derek Snider (Lindsay, Ont.), Rob Jackson (Guelph, Ont.) and Joe Brunsting (Stirling, Ont.) - all between 12:22 and 12:25. As the field past the three and half mile mark a lead group of five broke away with Brett unable to cover the move. Brett continued to hold his form and finished 13th with an outstanding time of 25:33 for the 5.2 mile course. His time is the second fastest ever performance by a Gryphon on the course trailing only former All-Canadian Cleve Thorson.

Behind Brett, the Gryphon pack led by Snider and Brunsting picked up Roundell and continued to move well. As they crossed the line Snider was the second Gryphon (37th overall) in 26:06, with Roundell right behind in 26:08 and Matt Brunsting in 26:11. Jackson and Brunsting working well together for nearly the entire race were next with Jackson 51st in 26:19 and Brunsting 56th in 26:24. The Gryphons second through six runners were separated by an incredible 18 seconds. Rounding out the Gryphons top seven was fourth-year runner John Parrott (Newmarket, Ont.), who had the best race of his career with a 26:39 clocking. Overall the Gryphon Men placed fifth overall ahead of NCAA powers Kentucky, Yale and Rice.

Like the Gryphon women, the Gryphon men will be looking to continue an impressive streak of OUA titles as they will look to add their fourth consecutive title Saturday at Fort Henry in Kingston.

Source: Gryphons Athletics