Friday, October 3, 2008

NCSSAA Championship Preview

Heading into the Conference Meets we've had a good look at many of the teams vying for the top 2 positions in each race and the coveted trip to Sarnia for the OFSAA Championships. There are always a few surprises as some coaches prefer to hide their talent and catch teams unaware on race day, but from what we have seen so far, here it goes:

Glebe, Colonel By and Nepean are the front runners battling for the 2008 Overall Aggregate Title in the 2008 fall harrier season. Glebe was the top Ottawa school at the Gryphon Open (3rd) and placed 4th overall down at TISS despite not running a Senior Girls team. Nepean was close behind in 5th. Colonel By will counter with strong girls teams, hoping to defend the Girls Overall title they won in 2007 and a Midget Boys team with OFSAA aspirations.

Here is a look at each race as we head into the Conference Meets.

Senior Boys
2007 Champs Earl of March will not have four runners to field a team this year so the title is up for grabs. There are four contenders for the top two spots. Hillcrest acquired transfer Cody Boast to boost their line-up and look to be a strong contender with a solid one-two punch of Wheeler and Boast, both with top 5 potential, and Hugh Gillen and Brendan Woods rounding out the four scorers. Merivale has a similar team with 2007 Junior Silver Medallist Sam Milliken and Kevin Berry up front and Nick Deek and Andrew O'Keefe a couple minutes back. Nepean will counter with gold medal favorite Ian Donald and then a tight packed 2 - 4 back in the high teens and low twenties. 2007 Junior Boys team champs Glebe will have to run strong to upset one of these three, but may get all four scorers in before any other teams 3rd, in an attempt to steal one of the two OFSAA spots.

Individuals to watch: Ian Donald (Nepean) - 2005, 2006, 2007 NC Champion, Phil Wheeler (Hillcrest), Tyson Loney (Earl of March), Tim Huebsch (Gloucester)

Senior Girls
The 2007 SG race provided the most thrilling finish with only 7 points separating 2nd through 5th. This years race should prove to be no less thrilling with at least 4 schools having legitimate shots at claiming the overall title. Defending champs Glebe returns their top three scorers from last years championship team (Alex Bateman, Alex MacIntosh, and Kashani Thomas), plus transfer Leslie Foley in hopes of retaining the title. Colonel By will also push for top honours lead by OFSAA junior silver medallist (2006) Lindsay Anderson who will be joined by the 2007 junior girls runner up team. Merviale has upfront talent in Lisa Giles and great depth, placing 7 runners in the top 30 at the Gryphon Open and is the only team this season to beat Ottawa Valley power house Renfrew CI. Merivale was the top NC school down at TISS despite not running Giles and looks to be the team to beat heading into the Conference Meets. The upset could come from All Saints with the outstanding 1-2 punch of Sarah Boyd (2007 OFSAA XC Bronze Medallist) and Joanna Brown (2008 OFSAA Junior 3000m silver medallist). All Saints has only raced once this season, with Boyd not finishing in form and their #3 having to drop from the field after losing a shoe in the infamous "pit" at the Hornet's Nest.

Individuals to watch: Joanna Brown (All Saints) looks downright scary. She beat the Folkema twins (Renfrew) by over 1 minute at the Hornet's nest and was never really tested. Heather Slinn (Hillcrest) - TISS champion, Lindsay Anderson (Colonel By) - 2006 OFSAA XC Junior Silver Medallist, Sarah Boyd (All Saints) - 2007 OFSAA XC Senior Bronze Medallist, Lisa Giles (Merivale)

Junior Boys
This once again appeared to be a two horse race, but the final prep meet of the season saw a surprise. 2007 Midget Boys Champs Glebe and runner up Nepean were heavy favorites to make the trip to Sarnia for most of the season, until coach Seb Lalonde unleashed his Rebelles at the Hornet's nest. While Glebe won the Gryphon Open they were two points down on Louis Riel at the the Haw-X-Country Open, based on the Rebelles placing 3 runners in the top 6 behind National Capital favorite Mohamed Souleiman. If the Rebelles can get a solid run from #4, they should have enough to win. Nepean beat Glebe down at TISS (2nd - 3rd) by a handy margin and is undefeated in two races against NC competition this fall. Glebe's saving grace is that they have yet to run a full team this fall, having missed at least two of their top 5 in each race this season.

Individuals to watch: Mohamed Souleiman (Louis Riel) - undefeated against NC competition this year, Ian Holstead (Colonel By), Cam Duffin (Nepean) - 2007 NC MB Champion, Chris Long (Glebe).

Junior Girls
2007 Midget Girls champs Colonel By is the odds on favorite to win the Junior Girls race this season. No school is able to match the 1-2 duo of Kathryn Tuck and Rachelle Beanlands, nor the depth of the Cougar squad. 2007 runner up Beatrice Desloges has not been able to field a team yet this year and this may open the door for a Glebe team that lacks the upfront talent, but has good depth through the middle. South Carleton and Ashbury had a close finish at the Haw-X meet and could also battle for one of the top 2 spots.

Individuals to watch: Kathryn Tuck (Colonel By) - 2007 NC MG Champion and teammate Rachelle Beanlands - 3rd in 2007, Alanna MacAuley (Earl of March) - 2007 runner up, Isabelle Kanz (Garneau), and Julia Francki (Sir Wil).

Midget Boys
Ah the wonderful grade 9's. So unpredictable! A very tight finish at the Gryphon Open to kick the season off saw 4 teams separated by only 14 points. Beatrice Desloges and Colonel By have very similar teams (in fact they tied with 76 points at the Haw-X Open), with a legitimate medal contender (Saville for CB and Plante for BD) upfront and then the rest a few minutes back. BD's strength lies in that they have 5 runners competing with each other for that valuable fourth spot, so they can afford to have one runner have an off day. Untested Franco Cite, who finished just behind BD at the Gryphon Open, have not raced since but have a solid top 4, while Glebe has the best 1-2 punch, but needs big runs from #3 and #4 to have any chance at all of cracking the top 2.

Individuals to watch: Adam Palamar (Merivale) - Gryphon Open / Almonte Invite Champion, Sebastien Saville (Colonel By) - Haw-X-Country Champ, Yannick Plante (Beatrice Desloges), Nathan Beauvias (South Carleton), David Borish (Glebe)

Midget Girls
Get ready to toss the dice because just about anything can and may happen here. Franco-Ouest, led by Emma Galbraith was the top NC school at the Gryphon Open early in the season by a healthy margin over runner up Glebe, but have not run since. Glebe was the top NC school at the Pirates Invite in Brockville, while Earl of March won the Haw-X-Country Open** (St. Matt's actually won the event, but their top runner, who finished 1st overall, is only in grade 8....YIKES!). Three races, three different winners, gives you some idea of what to expect (or not to expect) come the NC Championships. Franco gets the nod based on a 20 point victory over Glebe at the Gryphon Open. Glebe has a good shot at holding onto the 2nd spot over Earl of March, but who knows what else is out there we have yet to see this season!

Individuals to watch: Emma Galbraith (Franco-Ouest) - Gryphon Open runner-up, Allsion Penner (Earl of March) - Haw-X runner up, 3rd at TISS, Stephanie Gould (Louis Riel), Holly McCulloch (Glebe)

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