2023 U SPORTS XC Not Trackie Predictions: Pt. 1

*Warning. If you don’t want to risk getting triggered, skip the intro. Maybe you will find it funny though. WHO KNOWS. READ OR DON’T.

Super Cold Zero Kelvin Open

Alright folks, it’s that time of year again. Let’s cut the pleasantries and get straight to the grease. If you can survive this intro, you could probably survive a Winnipeg winter, although even those don’t reach zero Kelvin. I’ve been experiencing long COVID since June, so it’s personal now. We’re not holding much back here. This isn’t some Simi Valley standoff (13:16). You’ll be rewarded with some steaming hot predictions right after. We also promise this is the last time we will talk about COVID in a cold open.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been writing about how runners should exercise caution around the COVID pandemic. Why? It’s bad for your health. But more importantly, because we need to take responsibility for the health of others. If you want to take your health and stuff it in a garbage bin, that’s your prerogative, but taking someone else’s health and stuffing THAT in a garbage bin, that’s a hard no. We would say “go kick rocks,” but even strapping a missile to your foot and launching it at light speed to smash your phalanges off of that massive formation that randomly exists in the middle of Australia wouldn’t do justice for giving COVID to someone else.

How about just don’t be an asshole? Wear a mask in public spaces and stay home when you’re sick. This is early pandemic stuff folks. We know COVID spreads prior to showing symptoms, and we also know rapid tests are prone to false negatives. Plus, even if it’s not COVID, getting other people sick is a shit thing to do. To really drive the point home here, let’s look at a couple stats:

  • ~10% of infections result in long COVID (whether you are a healthy person or not, ask Jonathan Toews). Per a recent Public Health Agency of Canada report, 7% and 17.7% of people who experienced “mild” and “moderate” symptoms for the acute stage of their infection went on to develop long COVID.
  • COVID is not just a respiratory illness, it attacks many organs, including the blood vessels. Not ideal for endurance sports where oxygen exchange is of utmost importance. The damage is worse if you get infected more.

What to do with this information? Pretty easy. Try to get infected as few times as possible, as far apart as possible. AND FOR FLUFF’S SAKE, DON’T PUT OTHERS AT RISK.

It’s been unbelievable to see the number of endurance athletes who pride themselves on being tough but can’t even bring themselves to wear a mask and stay home when sick. Absolutely embarrassing. You run in the ballpark of 100km per week but can’t wear a mask? That’s softer cookies than an Oreo that’s been incubating in a glass of milk for fifteen days. Might as well just take shits wherever you want and stop wearing underwear if caring about public health is a problem for you. It’s too hard to go find a toilet all the time eh? That’s what people who complain about masks sound like to me (we’ll give the Laval boys an exception here –sometimes shit happens #SedonaGate). Also, it should be an N95 mask folks. Surgical masks at this point would be like using an abacus to do math instead of a calculator, although even that is better than nothing. Some smart scientists have compiled all of the links at which you can order N95 masks in Canada: maskevidence.org/findingn95s

Last fall, I had the poor experience of a coach telling me that we could ignore COVID now because it had been “long enough” and that vulnerable people “don’t do sports anyway,” which might be the worst thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve listened to scream out music. Caring about the health of others is something you do always. Also, aside from everyone being vulnerable to COVID, it’s not true that vulnerable people do not participate in sports. I know many competitive athletes with diabetes, asthma, or other health conditions that put them at even higher risk, and now we have a vast number of athletes with prior COVID infections that put them at higher risk too. This year there is also LITERALLY AN ENTIRE PANEL BEING HELD THE DAY BEFORE U SPORTS ON RED-S. Athletes experiencing this condition are CLEARLY at higher risk. The fact that there probably wasn’t a mask mandate at that panel is real rough. It’s like 60 grit sandpaper. 40 even. I hope they at least had N95 masks on hand to distribute.

ALRIGHT, this cold open has been harsh. It’s been like a Thunder Bay cold open. An Edmonton cold open even. Don’t get me wrong, I still give people the benefit of the doubt when I see them indoors without a mask. Public health authorities are not communicating the data they publish, and peer pressure can be hard. But holy heck, you gotta push through that peer pressure folks. Smarten up! Public health never stopped recommending masks, they just stopped requiring them. It shouldn’t have to be mandated for you to care about other people. Also, our mascot has been wearing a mask 24/7 since 2017! We’ve clarified PHAC’s advice below using dogshit computer generated ink, and it’s STILL an improvement. Great work public health (#sarcasm).

Also, check out our interview with friend of the show and long COVID researcher Braeden Charlton. Much cooler guy than us.

Lastly, sports are way worse if athletes are getting COVID (and long COVID). The professional cycling circuit figured this out. 16 riders had to abandon the Giro d’Italia in May due to COVID, while another 8 were reported to abandon due to “illness/sickness/flu.” After mask mandates and other COVID protections were reinstated, only 1 rider was reported to abandon due to “illness” during the Tour de France, and none abandoned due to COVID. During the Vuelta Espana, just 4 riders had to abandon due to illnesses or COVID, while two others, Andrea Bagioli and Sam Gaze, abandoned due to what sounds like long COVID. I am sure similar advantages were observed among team staff. The good thing about masks is that they also prevent other viral infections from spreading among team members. Even before COVID was a thing, it was common for runners to have poor races due to illnesses. A good chunk of those could have been prevented with masking. Think about maintaining the validity of the prediction contests people (sarcasm… kind of)!!!

The bottom line is, again, whether you want to risk getting COVID or not is up to you (and even this is generous folks, the unnecessary strain on the healthcare system is why we require helmets for motorcyclists and tell people to shut up if they complain). But AT MINIMUM but you shouldn’t be putting others at risk. In a U SPORTS sense, that means:

  • N95 masking for team travel and at hotels (you can reuse N95 masks multiple times).
  • Do not go to practice if sick (rapid tests are only accurate at showing positive results, and it is not beneficial to get teammates sick with non-COVID illnesses anyway).
  • Monitor your symptoms if you have recently gone to events that carry a high-risk of COVID infection (this means stay away from people and wear a mask after attending the after party).
  • Wear masks in classes at school.

Doing those things is pretty damn easy. We sent an email with these recommendations to every U SPORTS coach at the beginning of September and didn’t get any replies, so they either don’t respect us enough, which is fair, or don’t give a dang about your health, which seems more likely based on the lack of masks we’ve seen from coaches. F. Schools should be making this stuff easy to do by providing masks and guidance, but they aren’t, so we have to do it ourselves. Message us if you want help drafting an email to your athletics director or use our draft. This works better if you plan to send a lot of emails at once.

P.S. Please see this flowchart created by Sports Science Australia which can be used as a guide for return-to-sport protocols if an athlete does get COVID. Coming back too soon increases the risk of long COVID.

WHEW. On to the predictions.

Honny mentions, Women

In the honour roll we’re gonna lead off with the Windsor Lancers who had a chocolate bar level big showing from Janelle Bykowski at the OUA championships, where she finished 9th. They’re pretty solid after that too with tag team Nicole Larue and Samara Quanz, who finished 32nd and 57th last year. A strong showing from those three could put them into the top 10. It really depends on how many Malden Park fumes they’ve been able to suck down…

The Alberta Pandas  have a full squad of seven this year looking to channel Shrek and go FULL SWAMP MODE (per sources). You can tell they’re confident, they only sent 5 and 2 athletes in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Here’s more from our super secret sources out west:

“The team will be led by last year’s All-Canadian finisher Olivia Cooper. As the team’s Pinocchio, we can only assume Cooper’s nose must have sprouted when she claimed she got back to training only two weeks prior to her impressive 16th place finish at the CanWest champs. If that’s the case, we better watch out because last year’s 10th place finisher will only have been building fitness since then. Another seasoned vet leading the squad will be Jasmine Feddema. Much like that of Elizabeth the Dragon, Feddema is a fiery runner and this is her 5th USPORTS which means she definitely won’t be peeing her pants come Sunday. Donkey, a.k.a. Olivia Hopkins has been clutch for the squad this year coming in as their 2nd finisher at conference. And much like the infamous mule, rumor has it this girl gets the aerobic equivalent of an 8km race almost every day talking to her teammates about anything and everything…. Looks like it’s paying off. Zoe Flaman has been a consistent piece for the team this year and was deemed fit to fill the role of Shrek himself in the team’s remake. Flaman hopes to prove to the field It’s all Ogre now this weekend. The newest addition to the team is the rookie powerhouse squad of Julianna Chipuik, Jamie Gladdish, and Ella Heinrich. It appears the trio was assigned the Three Blind Mice which seems fitting considering they blinded the competition by sweeping spots three through five of Canada West’s All-Rookie team.”

Damn. I’ll definitely be peeing my pants on Sunday to make up for Feddema’s lack of urination. This is the longest segment we’ve ever done for an honny mention. You have to think that’s a good sign that they might be top 10 material. Also, best Shrek character recreation goes to supporting teammate Serena Isley for Lord Farquaad (AKA Connor Lashley, @macboys). This is some elite stuff, and with a full team committed like this it proves the Pandas will be ready. Once that gun goes you off you better get your coffee grinder because they know how to give ‘em the beans.

Who else? Nous étions très optimistes à les Carabins de Montréal égard au début de la saison, mais Sherbrooke les a «brooké» au RSEQ. Si Garnier court à U SPORTS, cela pourrait être un shampoing suffisant pour les faire entrer dans le top 10. On oublie vite qu’Elodie de Coene a été méchante en 2019, terminant 14e à Kingston. Un peu de cette magie des Carabiniers pourrait être utile. Oui mes amis, je sais enfin ce qu’est un Carbin. La découverte a été pour le moins décevante. Je préfère imaginer une caravane mais au lieu d’une auto, c’est une poubelle («bin» en anglais) avec les roues.

Lastly, we have the Saskatchewan Huskies who will be relying on a big run from Kaitlyn Harrison to crack the top 10. We said this in the pre-conference update, she was fifth at U SPORTS in 2021. Can she do it again? Boxers might throw hands, but Kaitlyn has to throw some feet around out there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Jenna McFadyen is hitting the grass this year, so that means Jenica Swartz and Allison Grajczyk-Jelinski need to step to the pitching mound themselves and sling steaming hot feet fastballs (feetballs?) into the strike zone. I wonder if their expert social media graphics person can make some sort of meme out of that. Follow @huskiesendurance to check out their work.

Honny mentions, Men

Over on the men’s side, we have McGill. Los Pajaros Rojos aren’t sending a full squad this year but we like this Jerome Jacques guy. JJ all day baby.

Nous avons aussi une représentation de Sherbrooke vert et or ici. Ils sont menés par Felix Quirion et Xavier Lemaitre qui ont terminé quatrième et cinquième au RSEQ. «Quirion» est assez proche de «Quixote» pour moi. Il suffit de remplacer 3 des 7 lettres. Cette équipe devra se mettre à l’heure des moulins à vent pour se hisser parmi les dix premiers.

Who else? We have 2 remnants of the elite Dal Wrecking Crew™, Nick Robertson and Aiden Goslett, hanging around out there and idk why, I just imagine these guys making Jacob Benoit really mad all the time. The Tigahs aren’t sending a full squad, but if Nicky Robs and Bossy Glossy Goslett can piss Benoit off enough he might be able to hit up the first team all-Canadian section after placing 11th last year.

11th? Tough call. We think spots 9-11 are gonna be tight between McMaster, U of T, and Alberta. It really depends on who has done the most glute bridges to make sure the back end holds up. We’re putting the MAC BOYS in this spot for now. The facial hair game just isn’t strong enough and they’re a bunch of noobs. But Connor “whiplash” Lashley is firing on all cylinders. Like look at any cylinder right now and he’s firing on it. He also looks like Lord Farquaad WITHOUT having to dress up. Wow.

Lastly we’ll quickly shout out the Sask attack because they seem like absolute liabilities. Pretty sure some of the distance guys even did a heptathlon last year because they’re straight up natural athletes. The Fairchilds are definitely hosting BBQ parties on Kaden’s Deck. Love to see it.


Start the discussion at community.runninghottakes.com