OTTAWA (CIS) – Canadian Interuniversity Sport announced on Wednesday the 11 student-athletes who will represent Canada at the 20th FISU world university cross country championships in Italy next March.
The biennial competition is set for Saturday, March 12 in Cassino, a city of 36,000 in the province of Frosinone, at the southern end of the region of Lazio.
As was the case in 2014 in Entebbe, Uganda, the Maple Leaf contingent is comprised entirely of athletes who merited CIS all-Canadian status this past university season.
Highlighting the men's roster are three members of the reigning national champion University of Victoria Vikes, who put an end to a nine-year domination by the Guelph Gryphons at last month's CIS championships. Ryan Cassidy of Grande-Digue, N.B., Olivier Collin of Saint-Lazare, Que., and Forrest Simpson of Nanaimo, B.C., are representing the Vikes and will be accompanied in Italy by Dalhousie's Matt McNeil (Saint John, N.B.), McMaster's Blair Morgan (Yarker, Ont.) and Lakehead's Kevin Tree (Tottenham, Ont.).
Of the group, Tree had the best result at the mid-November CIS national meet in Guelph with a silver medal. Morgan is the only team member with previous FISU championships experience, a 43rd-place finish at the 2014 competition in Uganda.
Earlier this year, Tree and Cassidy competed at Pan American championships in Colombia and the world championships in China.
On the women's side, the Canadian lineup headed to Cassino includes Calgary's Emma Cook-Clarke (Calgary), Alberta's Karissa LePage (Regina), Windsor's Stefanie Smith (London, Ont.), Queen's Claire Sumner (Calgary) and Dalhousie's Colleen Wilson (Ancaster, Ont.).
Smith claimed CIS bronze last month in Guelph.
"Earning the opportunity to represent your country in an international competition is a special moment in any athlete's career and will be something these athletes remember the rest of their lives," said Canadian head coach Kip Sigsworth from Lakehead University, who will mentor the group along with assistant coaches Brant Stachel from Queen's and Paula Schnurr from McMaster. "The FISU championships will be a very competitive meet and can act as a stepping stone for athletes looking to compete at an even higher level down the road. Cross country running in the CIS is currently very strong and I am excited to see what this group can do at the FISU meet in March. Both the men's and women's teams have good front-end talent as well as great depth."
Canada hopes to build on a solid overall performance two years ago in Uganda, where the women captured team bronze to match the country's best-ever result first established in 2010 on home soil in Kingston, Ont. For their part, the men placed sixth in the standings.
In individual competition, Julie-Anne Staehli from Queen's University and Tristan Woodfine of the University of Guelph both crossed the line in seventh place.
With his result, Woodfine equalled the best finish in history by a Canadian male at the FISU championships (Rob Lonergan, 1982, Darmstadt, Germany). The top Canadian female performance remains a fifth position by Megan Brown of the University of Toronto in 2010 in Kingston.
In men's team competition, Canada's best result is fourth, also in 2010.
Uganda (women) and Kenya (men) are the reigning FISU team champions.
Name - University - Hometown - Academics - CIS Eligibility
Emma Cook-Clarke Calgary Calgary, Alta. Science 3
Karissa LePage Alberta Regina, Sask. Graduate Studies 5
Stefanie Smith Windsor London, Ont. Human Kinetics 3
Claire Sumner Queen's Calgary, Alta. Chemistry 3
Colleen Wilson Dalhousie Ancaster, Ont. Oceanography 4
Ryan Cassidy Victoria Grande-Digue, N.B. Education 5
Olivier Collin Victoria Saint-Lazare, Que. Kinesiology 4
Matt McNeil Dalhousie Saint John, N.B. Engineering 5
Blair Morgan McMaster Yarker, Ont. Engineering 5
Forrest Simpson Victoria Nanaimo, B.C. Business 4
Kevin Tree Lakehead Tottenham, Ont. Kinesiology 4
* Year of CIS eligibility during 2015 cross country season
Head Coach & Team Leader: Kip Sigsworth (Lakehead University)
Assistant Coach: Brant Stachel (Queen's University)
Assistant Coach: Paula Schnurr (McMaster University)