And just like that, cross country season for the majority of Canadian distance runners has come to a close.
On Saturday, some of Canada’s best laced it up in the Canadian Cross Country Championship. Across the senior events, four Olympians laced up the spikes, most of whom finished on the podium.
On the women’s side, Gen Lalonde stormed to a dominant victory, using her finishing speed to beat Scottish athlete Sarah Inglis on the last lap. Inglis would finish second and Olympian Maria Bernard-Galea, would finish 3rd. Natasha Wodak, also an Olympian, would have to settle for fourth – but still made the Canadian podium.
The race itself blew up quickly, with a noticeable pack of five breaking away and Lalonde and Inglis pushing the pace most of the way.
On the men’s side, the race was run in a similar fashion. Mike Tate and Luc Bruchet, as predicted, took it out pretty hard. Connor Black, former USports champion went out with them and it quickly became a three man race (despite Ben Preisner’s best efforts). Tate and Burchet kept hitting the gas until Tate finally broke them on the last lap.
Although Bruchet really gav’er over the last 800M, Tate held him off for the win. Black took third, Preisner fourth and John Gay for fifth.
Here are my takeaways
- Mike Tate is a season closer
Last year, Mike Tate finished second in the Canadian Cross Country Championships, but alas, Tate is a runner-up no more. In 2018, he also reached the podium at the Boxing Day 10 miler, run in Hamilton, a podium he shared with Matt Hughes and Tristian Woodfine.
Whether it is the change of surface or the ability to withstand a long season, Tate’s form seems to come good at this time of year. I suspect we will see Tate put up another big performance on Boxing Day before heading to Victoria for the Pan American Cup to lead the Canadian team.
Tate boasts a lot of talent, but often doesn’t get the recognition from the Canadian running media. This win will do wonders for his name recognition and hopefully vault his career to the next level.
2. Lalonde is the class of the field
Geneviève Lalonde has once again proved that she is the class of the women’s field. After a long tough season, Lalonde finished strong with a dominating victory on the last lap.
For a moment, I thought the Olympian was in trouble. Sarah Inglis was pushing the pace and Lalonde looked to be working hard. It was only when they make the hay bale jumps however, that Lalonde looked in her element, putting three or four strides into Inglis over the span of 50 metres.
Lalonde is moving to Victoria in January and should be ready to run the Pan-American Cup Championships on her new home turf. But first, Lalonde (who, after Debues-Stafford, is Canada’s best female track runner) deserves some rest. In addition to her two National titles in 2019, Lalonde also lowered the Canadian steeplechase record – again.
3. Commentary struggles
The only downside of the Championships this year was the broadcast. I turned the broadcast on at the beginning of the senior women’s race and was surprised to hear no commentator. It took four or five minutes before I heard another word, and even still, the focus was mostly on the time the athletes were running, not necessarily describing what was going on in the race.
Of particular note was, during the men’s race, there was no recognition of who was leading the race for over a lap, and even then, Preisner and Bruchet were not mentioned or identified.
This should not be considered and admonishment of the commentator himself, as when he works on track meets, where times really matter, he is excellent. But in order to grow the sport and ensure the casual fans know what is occurring, it is important to identify all of the runners and explain what is going on during the race, including the tactics. As much as times matter on the track and the road, they do not matter as much over the country.
On the brightside, it was night to have a mobile camera that lead the runners so we could see all the action.
4. Who is Maria Bernard-Galea?
In my preview, I highlighted a handful of women that I was interested in watching race and who I though would compete for the title.
Someone I missed entirely on the start list was Maria Bernard-Galea.
Bernard-Galea is an Olympian who is a Steeplechase specialists (yes, two steeplechasers finished in the top three). She also competed at the World Championships in Doha this year. Her personal best over the Steeple is 9:36 and this was her first IAAF certified race over 3,000 metres this year. Based on her results, it appears as if she was injured in 2018.
Despite the fact that she is an Olympian, placing ahead of Natasha Wodak and Victoria Coates who are both distance specialists is quite a feat and should be a big coup for Bernard-Galea.
5. Looking forward to Pan-American Cup
Canada is hosting the Pan-American XC Cup in February 2020 and it promises to be a good one.
This is perhaps the most significant event Canada has hosted (in Athletics) since the World Half Marathon Championships, the Pan-American Games themselves, or when Usain Bolt made his appearance in Toronto.
Hosted on the Jack Nicolas designed golf course, the route is described like so on the event website: “there are hills too and two sand traps and one precipitous drop of approximately 20-metres. There is also a climb that takes runners over the final 180m of the 2000m course providing a 30m gain in elevation. This will be a challenging section. The climb takes runners back to the start area.”
For the senior women, the athletes that qualified for the event are Geneviève Lalonde, Maria Bernard-Galea, Victoria Coates, Regan Yee, and Kirsten Lee.
For the senior men, Mike Tate, Lucas Bruchet, Connor Black, Ben Preisner, John Gay and Brandon Allen all qualified.
Athletes have already indicated if they plan to race, but at the time of writing Athletics Canada has not made an announcement on the team.
Here is hoping the races are lived streamed.
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