Cross country heading to OUA Championships cautiously optimistic

Women looking to win back-to-back banners, men hoping to improve on last season's bronze medal

Mitch De Lange (24) has led the men's team throughout the season.
Mitch De Lange (24) has led the men's team throughout the season.
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The men’s and women’s cross country teams will be in action this weekend at the OUA Championships at Western University. The former will try to place first for the second consecutive year and the latter hopes to move one spot up the podium.
 
Women’s cross country
 
Having ranked first in the country for the entire 2018-19 season thus far, the women’s cross country team is looking to earn their title as the province’s strongest team.
 
They’ll get their chance to win their second consecutive OUA banner on Saturday, and it’ll be
the first time sister duo Branna and Brogan MacDougall will be racing together at Queen’s.
 
While Brogan, the team’s top rookie, swiftly won both the Queen’s and Lehigh Invitationals this fall, Branna has watchedfrom the sidelines due to a nagging knee injury. This weekend’s championships will be her first race of the season.
 
Despite this, head coach Steve Boyd said he expects to see thesisters round out the competition’s top two places.
 
“[They’re] on fire right now,” Boyd said. “They’re going to be pretty much untouchable.”
 
Over the weekend, the women will be missing fifth-year Taylor Sills, their third to fourth best runner due to personal commitments. While Sills will be in the lineup for the U Sports Championships on Nov. 10 at Queen’s, Boyd said it may disrupt the team’s plans of finishing first at the event.
 
“It’s going to be tougher,” Boyd said. He added the team is using the championships as a warm-up for nationals, where he believes they have a chance to land first place as a team.
 
“We won last year really decisively and didn’t put it together for U Sports,” he said, citing last season’s second-place finish. “If anything we’re trying to change that … OUA’s should be a bit of a formality for us.”
 
Men’s cross country
 
At the beginning of the season, Boyd believed his men’s team could pull ahead one spot in the OUA rankings, overtaking McMaster for second place. This weekend, they’ll try to do it when they hit the course in London.
 
“[I] think we have the strongest men’s team since I’ve been here,” Boyd told The Journal on Tuesday.
 
In their three major races thus far, the Gaels have put their best foot forward. After winning the Queen’s Invitational on home turf, they followed up with a bronze medal at the Western Invitational and first place at the annual Lehigh Invitational.
 
The Gaels are currently dealing with minor injury issues, as frontrunner Mitch De Lange is managing an injury but is expected to run on Saturday. Boyd said it’s a minor setback for a team who’s shown immense depth in their top five runners.
 
Regardless of their result this weekend, the team will be competing at the U Sports Championships when the country descends upon Kingston for nationals. It’s where Boyd believes the men’s team will run their strongest race.
 
“We were originally looking at breaking through at OUA’s, but we’re deferring that now to U Sports,” Boyd said. “It may end up being a blessing in disguise.”

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