Cross country races to CIS berths at the Fort

Women grab bronze, men fifth as OUA hosts

Second-year Alex Wilkie was the Gaels top male performer, finishing fifth.
Second-year Alex Wilkie was the Gaels top male performer, finishing fifth.
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Julie-Anne Staehli (left) finished on the podium for the second consecutive year, snagging the bronze medal.
Julie-Anne Staehli (left) finished on the podium for the second consecutive year, snagging the bronze medal.
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Home-field advantage helped the Gaels gain extra ground at the OUA cross country championships on Saturday.

Running at Fort Henry, the women’s team snagged the final podium spot, while the men’s team exceeded expectations by claiming fifth place.

On the women’s side, the Gaels were led by Julie-Anne Staehli, who captured the individual bronze medal one year after she finished second at provincials. Her time of 20:13.88 in the six-kilometre race put her 11 seconds back of the leader, the Guelph Gryphons’ Heather Petrick.

“We were a little bit worried about Julie-Anne Staehli coming in, because she had a bit of an Achilles problem,” said Gaels head coach Steve Boyd. “But the last eight or 10 days she was back on her feet and ready to go and so she led the team and finished a very close third.”

Staehli was joined on the OUA All-Star team by fellow Gaels Claire Sumner and Charlotte Dunlap, who finished sixth and 12th, respectively.

With a total of 86 points, Queen’s finished eight points behind the second-place Western Mustangs. Guelph once again captured the top spot, recording 30 points under cross country’s low-score system.

The result marked the Gryphons’ 11th straight women’s title.

While the Gaels’ goal was to grab the silver medal at the event, Boyd said the team was still happy with the third-place result.

“All things considered, they took advantage of the home course really effectively and got the job [done],” he said. “We made it to CIS, so we’ve got another chance to do it all over again.”

Despite having only one runner left over from last year’s OUA squad, the men’s team was able to grab the province’s final CIS berth with their fifth-place finish.

Boyd said the location of the race powered the team to the top-five finish.

“On the guys’ side in particular, it was huge. I actually don’t think our guys would have finished fifth on any course,” he said. “They just know the layout so well, they know how to pace properly over the whole distance. None of our scorers got passed in the last half of the race – in fact, most of them moved up.”

The Gaels were led by second-year Alex Wilkie, the only runner left from the 2013 team. He finished fifth, becoming Queen’s sole male All-Star this season.

“Alex was 51st at OUAs last year as a rookie, so to improve 46 spots is really impressive and was duly noted by the other athletes and coaches,” Boyd said. “He’s a big star in the making. He’ll be running to win this thing in the next couple of years.”

Wilkie’s teammate Eric Wynands finished 27th, best among all rookies in the race, handing him the OUA’s Rookie of the Year award.

Guelph took home the overall men’s title, giving the school their 10th straight sweep of the OUA championship.

Next up for the Gaels is the CIS championship meet in St John’s, Nfld. on Nov. 8. Staehli will be defending her national gold medal, while the women’s team will be looking to reach the podium again after their bronze-medal performance in 2013.

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