Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gryphon runners prepare to take on the world

With the national competition handled with relative ease, several members of the Guelph Gryphons cross-country team will now ply their trade on the world stage, as members of the Canadian team in Sunday’s Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) world championships that will be held in Kingston, ON.

Gryphons lead the way on the men’s side, led by two-time CIS cross-country champion Matt Brunsting, who will be joined by his Gryphon teammates Allan Brett and Kyle Boorsma, along with Nigel Wray, who will serve as the alternate. The six-member men’s team will also feature Dave Weston and Kyle O’Neill from Western, and Kelly Wiebe from the University of Regina.

On the women’s side, the Gryphons will also have a commanding presence, led by CIS silver medalist Lindsay Carson, along with her teammate Rachel Cliff, who recently won a pair CIS gold medals in track and field. They will be joined on the five-member team by two-time CIS cross-country champion Megan Brown from U of T, Sherbrooke’s Valerie Belanger and Jess Pearo from McMaster.

Chris Moulton, one of the Gryphons coaches, will also be on a staff led by Western’s Bob Vigars.

“This event is so unique because of the range of athletes that participate,” said Moulton, who did note that in order to participate, runners must be full-time university students. “Many of these athletes have international experience and can range in age from 18 to 29.”

In fact, all of the Gryphons participants have international experience, except for Brunsting, who has been injured on two previous occasions, which kept him from running.

Moulton will be working predominantly with the Canadian men’s team in Kingston, helping to prepare them for Sunday’s 10km event, while McMaster coach Rory Sneyd will lend his expertise to the women’s 5km event.

“We’ll cross over wherever we need to,” said Moulton. “But, my role will be very logistical and managerial, which is great for me, because it fits with what I do in Guelph.”

Canada has never medaled at the FISU cross-country championships, and although Moulton did not want to tie himself to a prediction, he is optimistic for both genders.

“This is one of the strongest [Canadian] teams that we’ve ever put forward in recent years,” he said. “The level of CIS cross-country running keeps getting stronger and stronger.

“I’m looking at our potential top three women with Lindsay, Rachel and Megan and those are three unbelievable talents who have competed internationally. We’re blessed.”

Brunsting voluntarily held back throughout the indoor season in preparation for the FISU championships, and will be looking to continue his success on the Fort Henry Hill course, the site of his CIS title in November.

“This will be a great way for Matt to finish his university career,” said Moulton. “He has unbelievable faith in himself and a big part of his year was planning for the FISU race.”

Despite their outstanding history of experience and success running at the international level, Brunsting and Carson have also been dogged by injuries this season. Moulton, however, quieted any speculation that two of Canada’s top runners would be hampered this weekend.

“Lindsay raced 5km in Hamilton last weekend and finished with a time of 17:10, which is pretty good. She’s coming along quite well and she’s such a tough athlete,” he said. “She’s fit, healthy and ready to go.

“Matt just does so well in cross-country. His health is good. His past two weeks of training have been great. He’s ready to go.”

Moulton believes that hosting the event will provide a degree of home field advantage for the Canadian team, which has never run FISU cross-country on Canadian soil.

“This race has never been held in North America, so hopefully it provides a boost,” said Moulton, who also recognized the strengths posed by teams from Japan, France and Great Britain. “I really think that we can be in the mix. We’re a deep team.”

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