OUA Cross-Country

Tuesday, November 1, 2005


Written by Release

It was a fulfilling and exciting day for the Gryphon cross-country teams yesterday at the OUA Championships held at Fort Henry Heights in Kingston. As defending the champs, the women were ready for a strong challenge from a revamped UofT squad, and the men were about to see the outcome of a very hard six months of training as they squared off against perennial rivals and defending OUA and CIS champs Windsor, returning their entire squad from the previous year.

One of the biggest challenges with racing at the Heights is the weather. The course is completely exposed and sits on the Lake Ontario shoreline and we expected full-on heavy winds. Fortunately, the expected gusts didn’t show up and the races went off under clear and sunny skies with a light breeze.

The women moved into a dominant position early on. UofT's Beth Wightman (a three-time CIS champ for Queen's now doing grad work) pushed to the front early on and was only followed by our own Laura Moulton. Laura was gapped by about 1500m in and then held on to a controlled silver medal finish as neither of the top two women were challenged for their spots. Behind them was a battle royale, however, as a large and hungry pack took turns swapping leads and trying to burn each other off. Once that group began to break apart it was clear the final core of survivors would include several Gryphs. Third-year runners Erin Sask and Julia Beniusis showed they have moved into the upper class of the OUA by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, the first time either of them has taken OUA All-Star status. Quite a change from last year as Erin had to deal with the death of a family member just prior to this meet and Julia was out for the season after a biking accident. Captain Liz Forbes recovered form a start that saw her back of where she was planning to be, to moving well through the field and stepping up to grab her second All-Star award in as many years with a 7th-place finish. Graduating runner Kate Henderson moved spectacularly through the back of the race to also take her first All-Star Award. Kate was sitting in 16th position with 1km to go and blew the doors off the pack around her (including four previous All-Stars) to move into 9th. It was a commanding 27-47 point win, with third place Western well back in 75 and the other 12 teams following progressively from there.

The men started shortly thereafter with the much-anticipated show-down with Windsor. The air was abuzz with anticipation - recent history and the general consensus seeming to be that Windsor was unstoppable. We were additionally hampered by having one of our big guns, two-time All-Canadian Andre-Paul Baillargeon-Smith, felled by a severe bug in the final days leading into the race. Sick enough that he could not run on Wednesday and was flat out on his back on Thursday, we had made the decision he would likely not suit up and that alternate Joe Brunsting would step in. In the new-version OUA regs, no declarations are made - you simply have seven runners take off when the gun goes. A light run by AP on Friday night in our pre-comp still was not conclusive and it wasn't until minutes before the gun went off that we finally gave him the green-light to go for it. Pre-race favourite Cristiano Mauricio moved to the front early on and, mimicking the women's race, the only runner to challenge him was a Gryphon. Cleve Thorson battled it out until 6km of the 10km course and then was gapped and held on to an uncontested silver-medal finish in a fine 31:26. Behind Cleve, a war of attrition was taking place, as Windsor launched their #'s 2-5 men into the top 10, along with Steve Koziarski, Greg Hutchinson, and AP from the Gryphs. Following behind a good 50m was the Gryph's chase pack of Brendan Hunt (in his first OUA appearance since 2002 after bouts of sickness), Angus Macaulay (in his first OUA appearance) and rookie Matt Brunsting. These three quietly chipped away at the lead pack, which began to break apart at 6km as first one and the another Lancer tired and began to fall back. Our men moved fabulously-well over the back end of the course, grinding out the field and pushing into the front to have all five scorers finish with OUA All-Star honours and our two displacers come in in 14th and 15th for a very strong 17-point win.

Truly a golden experience inside and out - made all the more powerful by the presence of a huge crew of Gryphon supporters, seemingly outnumbering the host's presence and certainly the loudest and most colourful mob on the hill. Next stop - the CIS champs in Halifax in two weeks, where a number of alumni and friends have made a second home and their welcoming arms are ready to bring us gently in and prop us up as we take aim at a couple of national title runs.

Gryphon Honours

Team Medals
Women - gold
Men - gold

Individual Medalists
Laura Moulton - silver
Cleve Thorson - silver

OUA All-Stars (as many as the rest of the OUA combined)
Women: Laura Moulton, Erin Sask, Julia Beniusis, Liz Forbes, Kate Henderson
Men: Cleve Thorson, Greg Hutchinson, Steve Koziarski, AP Baillargeon-Smith, Brendan Hunt

OUA Men's Rookie of the Year - Matt Brunsting

OUA Women's coach of the Year - Dave Scott-Thomas
OUA Men's coach of the Year - Dave Scott-Thomas

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