All four Canadian teams place in top 10 at today's World Cross Country Championships

Emily Hooper - Athletics Canada


Second article: Thelma Wright
National Event Group Coach, Endurance
Entraîneur nationale de groupe, d'épreuves, endurance
Athletics Canada/Athletisme Canada


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Bydgoszcz, Poland - All four Canadian teams finished in the top ten at today's International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships.  The senior women's team placed eighth, the junior men and senior women placed ninth while the junior men's team placed tenth.   


In the senior men's 12km race Mohammed Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ont., led the team to a ninth place finish, Ahmed crossed the finish line in 22nd place overall in 33:56.  "I got out waiting, the pace was slow which was awesome, I felt great until the final two laps." He adds: "The hill in the last couple laps was the toughest and I was moving backwards but slowly; I was battling hard but it was impossible to make up ground at the end of the race with the slippery conditions and pace of the leaders. It was a good performance but I am disappointed as I was aiming for a top 16 finish."


Chris Winter of Vancouver B.C. was the second Canadian to cross the finish line in the men's senior race placing 33rd in 34:15. "The entire week was amazing, the confidence the team showed going into this event definitely helped drive my performance. I was able to stay relaxed and execute my job. I never felt this good in my life, 10km felt easy and the race really started in the last 2km."


The senior women's team surprised themselves with individual 24th and 25th place finishes over 8km by Natasha Fraser of Port Moody, B.C. and Rachel Cliff of Vancouver, B.C., both finished in 25:30. The team met their objective with an 8th place finish overall in the team standings. "Individually I am super stoked and excited", comments Natasha Fraser. She adds "to finish in the top 25 is amazing and I am so excited."


Rachel Cliff adds "I am shocked and so excited for the team and Natasha and I. We are from the same area and worked together aiming to go hard and push for a top 50 finish. To be in the top 25 makes me speechless, it all came together."


The junior men's team placed 10th overall. Benjamin Flanagan of Kitchener, Ont., led the junior men's 8km race with an individual finish of 34th in 23:21. "I couldn't be happier with mine or the team's performance", explains Flanagan. He adds "It was a fast race and I was aiming for a top 50 performance." Kingsville, Ont.'s Ryan Sleiman finished in 43rd with 23:32 and Troy Smith of Grimsby, Ont., in 53rd with 23:40.


In the junior women's 6km race the team finished 9th overall. Madeline Yungblut of Wroxeter, Ont., led the women finishing in 46th with 20:34. Madeline McDonald of Toronto, Ont., was 47th in 20:36 and Jillian Forsey of Kippens, NFLD., was 49th with 20:40.


For complete results visit:



Below is an informal emial from Thelma Wright, sent shortly after the four races were completed:


Thelma Wright
National Event Group Coach, Endurance
Entraîneur nationale de groupe, d'épreuves, endurance
Athletics Canada/Athletisme Canada

The course was icy, then muddy and bark-mulch a foot deep dumped in places. So it was a real grinder type of course. A hill near the end of each lap was reminiscent of the Guelph Cross Country hill, straight up then straight down with a dangerous corner to the left at the bottom before a 250m sprint to finish. Lap was a short 2km loop though. I am thinking more like 1900m. When you see the times and know how tough it was it will make sense. Temperatures on race day actually quite pleasant, probably about 2C and not too much wind.

THE MOST AMAZING THING to see going on while watching our SENIOR MEN was four USA finishers in the top-20 and the USA men beating out KENYA For SECOND PLACE 52 points to 54!!! It was such a positive result, not only for USA and NACAC, but for cross-country on the world stage. Everyone saying that no one can beat the Africans and cross-country is dominated by East Africa, but USA did it and did it with a big statement. Even the top Australian placed 8th.

Rest of our races went like this:

Jr. Women: Team 9th of 15 teams

Tough going from the start for the girls, but Maddie MacDonald clearly was our front runner, in approximately 20th spot. The others were well back. Madeline Yungblut was leading the others in approximately 40th position.

Second lap Yungblut could now see McDonald, but was still probably at least 10 places back.
Only on the last lap did we see more of our girls start to move through the field, with McDonald and Yungblut now closer together. Jillian Forsey and Natalia Hawthorne started to challenge for the third Canadian spot at this point.

Sara Wismer as the youngest and still a youth age ran with grit. Only Gabriella Stafford was truly disappointed with her race. (She was up the night before vomiting and on race day her legs like lead, but she admitted it may all have been nerves and overwhelmed by it all). So all good experience for these girls and they should be proud of their efforts.

Jr. Men,  10 of 17 rough estimate.

Ben Flanagan lead the Canadians for the first two laps and was clearly well out in front of the others, but the other five were closely bunched with Christian Gravel leading the next pack. Gravel never lost sight of Flanagan and for three laps was our second guy. Ryan Sleiman and Troy Smith really worked the third and fourth laps and came on very strong at the end to pull the team up and split Gravel back a spot. Gravel had put it all on the line and really was spent by the last lap. But he certainly pushed the others and helped the team.

Brandon Allen and Mike Tait were not in time that far behind, but considerable placings between.  Again a great experience and really they ran very well, especially Flanagan.

Sr. Women. 8 of 15 (originally 16 teams entered, but only 15 finished) Close to meeting the target of top 1/2 of teams in field.

Natasha Fraser was class all the way. Rachel Cliff was not to let her out of sights. Two of them ran superb. Wish everyone could see the determination from Natasha pushing the pace right from the gun, to Rachel just trying her damndest to keep her in her sights and then not letting the gap open and fighting hard in that third lap to stay in contact. Then the last lap they both were amazing. Cliff started reeling in Fraser, but she was hardly losing ground. Last uphill and down, Cliff goes flying by. Fraser with only 200m to go was now a good five meters behind, BUT She was not to be outclassed, and never say die. Hard to say who got who, but definitely they both were class all the way, identical times but placing Fraser 24th and Cliff 25th, they had an amazing sprint to the finish; would have loved to see the photo finish if they have it. 

Rachel Hannah was so determined and worked extremely hard to be our third finisher with Lindsay Carson coming on like gangbusters over the final lap and that is where she finally found her rhythm. Maria ran a valiant race for still being only 19-years-old, but her rhythm and cadence is what got her back behind the pack. She was strong on the hills and seemed fit but not fast enough Rachel Hannah 58, Lindsay Carson 60, Maria 76??

Sr. MEN  9/15

FALSE Start, you may have seen on replays, but amazingly  with a near inside berth our guys were not crushed at the second start. Mohammed Ahmed got the start of his life and found himself virtually leading the pack for the first 600m! By the end of 2k he was now about 15-17th spot and  he was never out of the top-20 for the rest of the race until the final 800m.  Twenty-second place for his young age is an awesome result. Cam Levins got a bit swallowed up and I think worked too hard to try to stay with and catch the lead pack. He was on antibiotics and had suffered from a bout with a chest infection and sinus issue over last three weeks so was not 100%. He looked like he was struggling by the second lap and was clearly working hard to try to stay up. By the third lap you knew he knew it was not going to be his day. Frustrated but he worked hard to stay focused and put in a giant effort.  

Chris Winter was not far back and ran a smooth and consistent race the whole five laps as did Matt Walters, in fact Walters ran the race of his life. He looked so relaxed and ran as smooth as any runner on the course on a difficult terrain. I joked with him that he didn’t look like he was trying hard enough or hurting enough. Afterwards he assured me he was dying! Still he was solid all the way and Winter found a lot to work through in the final 3km to catch Levins and finish as our second guy only 11 spots behind Ahmed at 33rd and Levins still found strength and determination to place 41st with Walters at 44!   Kelly Weibe was never in it, really was hurting and hard to find his form. He finished with both feet bleeding badly and a significantly bruised heel that he could hardly walk on. He persevered for the team and it must have been hard both physically and mentally.

Luc Bruchet worked hard but was unable to keep the rhythm and pace needed to stay with the middle pack so found himself running at times on his own, but worked consistently at the same pace much of the race.

Related Article:


Team Canada Ready for World Cross Country Championships