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T-BIRDS FLYING SOUTH FOR CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Published by
saynsley   on Nov 1 2011, 03:18 AM

October 31, 2011

 

By Ben Thistlewood,

 

Cross country enters the post-season this weekend, with the third-ranked women and 22nd-ranked men chasing their NAIA AII Conference titles Saturday, in San Diego, Calif. Both teams are looking to win, and perform well enough to qualify for the NAIA Championships.

 

WOMEN’S TEAM OUTLOOK

The women’s chief opponent on paper is the San Marcos Cougars, currently ranked second in the national polls – one spot ahead of UBC. San Marcos’ women have also won the three straight AII cross country titles.

 

“The Cougars are always dangerous on their home course,” says head coach Marek Jedrzejek. “However, we have a strong and deep group of women this year, and we believe we have a good shot at the title.”

 

First-year Maria Bernard leads a women’s team that includes a mix of veterans and newcomers. Back in September, Bernard, who has competed internationally with Canada’s junior national team on several occasions, won her first race wearing the UBC blue and gold, the Sundodger Invitaitional. She has since continued to produce strong results, including most recently a fifth-place performance at the UBC Invitational, and is in good shape heading into conference, says Jedrzejek.

 

“So far I've been fairly happy with my season,” says Bernard. “I think that each one of my races has been very different but has gone well. There are still a few kinks to work out but I feel happy with what's behind me and excited for more opportunities to come.”

 

Of the more experienced runners, Nelly Amenyogbe, a two-time All-American marathoner, is a strong late-season performer, and was fifth at the conference meet last year. Sarah Reimer, also a marathoner, finished 11th in the conference one year ago. Zanny Venner and Heather Slinn also have experience at this meet. Making their first conference appearances are Catherine Farish, Jackie Regan, Amelie de Fenoyl and Micha Gutmanis.

 

MEN’S TEAM OUTLOOK

The men are also looking to upset San Marcos, who are eighth in the polls and vying for their third straight AII title.

 

“We believe that we’re better than we’ve shown in the past few races, and we’re going to be fierce out there,” says Jedrzejek. “Our best performance of the season is yet to come.”

 

Jedrzejek has good reason to believe that, with his top three returning athletes from the conference meet last year – Luc Bruchet, Jordan Smith, and Theo Hunt – having just begun to race to their potentials. Hunt and Bruchet, who was an All-American in 2009, only opened their seasons at the UBC Invitational two weeks ago, while Smith, who has finished in the top-ten at conference twice, is still getting back up to full speed after some injury setbacks this fall.

 

Says Smith, “Things are beginning to fall into place for the men's team. After placing Luc, Theo, and I as our top 3 runners in our last meet before regionals, it signals that the seniors are back and are ready to lead the team... Each week that goes by we have been getting stronger and stronger, and I expect the team to have a huge race.”

 

The men return five runners altogether from last year’s team, with Justin Kent, who finished 11th last year, and Tim Huebsch, who was 23rd, also making the trip. Jack Williams, Simon Bill, Matt Galea and Alex Kilpatrick are running in their first conference meet.

 

RACE INFORMATION

Competition gets underway at 9:00 am, with the men’s eight-kilometre race, while the women’s five-kilometre race will run at 10:00 am.

 

The races are to be run on the campus of Cal State San Marcos, in the San Diego suburb of San Marcos, about fifty kilometres north of the city.

 

There may be a live video feed – more information to come on that.

 

Follow @ubctrack on Twitter for the latest updates.

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