Strong performances from Gaels at World Cross Country Championships

Fitzgerald finishes 31st, MacDougall 49th in under-20 race

Fitzgerald (second from left) and MacDougall (third from left).
Fitzgerald (second from left) and MacDougall (third from left).
Credit: 
Makenna Fitzgerald
While Kingston’s Fort Henry hills are some of the most difficult in Canada, little could prepare Makenna Fitzgerald and Brogan MacDougall for what hit them at the World Cross Country Championships last Saturday in Aarhus, Denmark.
 
Featuring the strongest field of under-20 athletes in the world, Fitzgerald raced to 31st overall while MacDougall came in 47th in their first world championships. Fitzgerald ran the six-kilometre race in 22:46—two minutes back of the first place finisher and one second back of the top Canadian—while MacDougall finished in 23:18.
 
As a team, Canada finished sixth overall behind Ethiopia, Kenya, Japan, Uganda, and South Africa. The United States finished in 14th.
 
Meanwhile, Queen’s alum Claire Sumner finished in 66th place in the 10 kilometre senior women’s race with a time of 40:33.
 
“Honestly, it was pretty surreal,” Fitzgerald told The Journal after getting back to Kingston on Monday.” I don’t really know how to describe it—it was kind of, like, ‘How did I get here?’”
 
The two-kilometre course in Aarhus presented numerous unique challenges to runners, with the under-20 race consisting of three laps. Each lap included a 10 per cent grade climb up the roof of a museum, various sharp turns, a mud pit, and various sand pits. The senior women’s winner ran the course in 36:14—her personal best in the 10,000 metre is 29:59.
 
Fitzgerald realized what she was in for when the team walked around the course the day prior to the race.
 
“We were walking up the museum and were like, ‘Oh my god,’” she said.
 
Originally from Kamloops, B.C., Fitzgerald said her history training on hills provided a massive confidence boost on race day.
 
“I had no idea what was going to happen,” she said. “There were some people struggling and it gave me a little more mental encouragement by passing people on the hills.”
 
Despite facing some of the world’s toughest competition and difficult terrain, Fitzgerald said the race was “a lot more fun than I’d anticipated.”
 
Much of her reflection—on the race’s stakes, her competition, and featuring on a global stage—came after the race.
 
“I was thinking about [it] and was like, ‘Wow, I just ran the same race as all these incredible athletes.’”
 
In addition, Fitzgerald and MacDougall were able to meet and watch some of the world’s fastest distance athletes. In the men’s race, 2017 New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor competed alongside a massive pool of Olympians, while highly decorated Olympian and marathon runner Shalane Flanagan supported team USA from the sidelines. Fitzgerald had the chance to briefly meet Flanagan at the course.
 
“It was pretty cool to watch the women especially because they’re such good role models for us,” Fitzgerald said.
 
Now officially into their offseason, Fitzgerald and MacDougall will be preparing for the 2019 cross country season. The Gaels will be hosting the U Sports Championships for the second straight year next November, where they’ll look to secure their program’s first national championship.
 

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