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UVic cross-country rookies to run at world championships this month

It will be the first world champs since 2019 due to the pandemic

University of Victoria runners will represent Canada at the World Cross-Country Championships later this month.

Vikes rookies Tion McLeish and Jaxon Kuchar are set to make their Team Canada debuts at the Bathhurst, Australia meet on Feb. 19. Both will compete in the under-20 category after qualifying for worlds at the Canada West Championship last fall.

Kate Ayers, who trains with UVic as a member of the Victoria Endurance Club, will compete in the women’s open division.

The event will mark the first of its kind since 2019 after previous years were curtailed by the pandemic. It will be the first international competition for McLeish, a graduate of Oak Bay’s St. Michaels University School.

“I’ve always watched world championships, that’s where you want to end up in the sport and to put on the Canadian red is a pretty cool opportunity,” he said in a release. “I really want to make sure I score points for Canada so that’s my goal, but it’s going to be a learning experience for me and I want to make sure I have time to take it in and appreciate it.”

On top of their training for and competing in the Vikes indoor track season, McLeish and Kuchar have been prepping for the Australia heat with multiple sauna sessions every week and running in a heat training chamber set up in their coach’s garage.

The owner of the garage is Olympian and UVic cross-country coach Hilary Stellingwerff, who will help lead the 28-athlete Canadian team at the world championships. Stellingwerff coached Team Canada at the 2020 Pan American cross-country championships and competed at the 2005 worlds.

“I’m excited to use my experience as an athlete and a coach for this event. My first Commonwealth Games was in Melbourne, and I haven’t been back to Australia since, so I’m excited to get back there again,” Stellingwerff said. “I feel fortunate to have three Vikes athletes competing in this event, it’s going to be an awesome experience for them, and we’ve got a really strong Canadian team.”

A heat training chamber Vikes cross-country athletes are using to prepare for the Australia heat. (Courtesy of the UVic Vikes)

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