QUÉBEC– Mitchell Ubene of the Guelph Gryphons and Jessy Lacourse from the Laval Rouge et Or were recognized as the U SPORTS Cross Country Athletes of the Year following the 2021 U SPORTS Cross Country Championships presented by Quebec Egg Producers Federation hosted by the Université Laval on Saturday.
On the men’s side, Matthew Beaudet of McGill took home Rookie of the Year honours, while Calgary’s Eric Lutz received the Community Service Student-Athlete Award.
Lauren McNeil of UBC-Okanagan took home Rookie of the Year honours on the women’s side, while Guelph’s Kiana Gibson received the Community Serivce Student-Athlete Award.
After Laval’s double championship at the 2021 U SPORTS Cross Country Championship, head coach Félix-Antoine Lapointe received the Fox 40 Coach of the Year nod for both the men’s and women’s teams.
MEN’S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Mitchell Ubene, Guelph
On the men’s side, Mitchell Ubene of Guelph ran a perfect race, essentially leading from start to finish to win the gold medal with a time of 24:27. Ubene, who finished second at the 2019 U SPORTS Championship, was proud to trade silver for gold.
“That was all that was on my mind. It’s my last year, so I was hungry. I wanted to leave it all out there and I’m super happy. The two Laval guys, Jean-Simon Desgagnés and Thomas Fafard started to make a couple of moves up the hill,” said Ubene, “With about one kilometre to go, the leading pack split up and it was just a sprint downhill and it was an insane finish! We knew it would be a crazy close race with Laval. Congratulations to them, but I’m really happy about how our team raced as well.”
Ubene led the Guelph Gryphons to a silver medal at championships, narrowly being bested by Laval by five points. Ubene also won individual gold at the OUA Championships, where he led the Gryphons to a conference title.
- Mitchell Ubene, Guelph, 24:27.5
- Thomas Fafard, Laval, 24:28.6
- Jean-Simon Desgagnés, Laval, 24:30.3
WOMEN’S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Jessy Lacourse, Laval
Jessy Lacourse completed a perfect season on Saturday after winning all three events she started in the fall. In second place for most of the eight-kilometre race, she found the energy to overtake UBC-Okanagan's Lauren McNeil in the final two-kilometre loop and cross the finish line with a time of 28:25, three seconds ahead of the silver medalist.
"Honestly, I couldn't believe it. Lauren McNeil, who was next to me, went head-to-head with me a lot longer than I thought she would. Hats off to her. It wasn't easy and I couldn't have run the race I did without her. To win on the Plains of Abraham with everyone cheering me on, that will remain a highlight of my career, no matter what happens next,” said Lacourse.
Lacourse’s individual gold is the first in program history for Laval, while the first-place team finish is the second for the Rouge et Or.
- Jessy Lacourse, Laval, 28:25.5
- Lauren McNeil, UBCO, 28:28.2
- Catherine Beauchemin, Laval, 28:41.8
MEN’S ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Matthew Beaudet, McGill
McGill’s Matthew Beaudet received Rookie of the Year honours after completing the Plains of Abraham course in a time of 24:47.5, finishing seventh of 130 entrants in the race.
Beaudet’s time led to All-Canadian honours for the Montreal native and marked the eighth time a McGill athlete qualified as an All-Canadian on the men’s side.
Beaudet’s seventh-place finish at the national championship came after winning individual gold at the RSEQ Championship, the first McGill athlete to do so since 2005.
WOMEN’S ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lauren McNeil, UBC-Okanagan
Lauren McNeil of UBC-Okanagan took home Rookie of the Year honours after finishing second place in the individual standings with a time of 28:28.2.
McNeil, a Buxton, EN. native pushed hard out of the gate and battled with Jessy Lacourse for the individual title missing the gold by three seconds. McNeil led for a large part of the race, with Lacourse usurping the “Buxton Bullet” toward the end of the race.
McNeil came second in the Canada West Championship held in Saskatoon, helping lead the Heat to a fifth-place U SPORTS ranking heading into the national championships.
MEN’S STUDENT-ATHLETE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: Eric Lutz, Calgary
Eric Lutz has been named the recipient of the Student-Athlete Community Service Award for his exemplary achievements in athletics, academics and in community service.
Not only is Lutz a second-team All-Canadian, but the fourth-year social work major is a Child and Youth Care Counsellor for Hull Service as well as a practicum student at Alberta Children's Services in Clagary.
Lutz assesses families using skills in critical thinking, interviewing, observation, information gathering, and child protection resulting in the best interest, safety, and wellbeing of children/youth. Through developing rapport with families and communities, Lutz’s focus is on family preservation and cultural, physical, relational, and legal permanency for children/youth.
“Eric has an impressive resume of accomplishments and involvements on and off the field of play. He is driven to reach his goals and is determined to make a positive impact on the lives of others along the way,” said Dinos coach, Jessica Zelinka. “Eric is a respected teammate, competitor, leader, and model student-athlete. He has the innate ability to bring a positive attitude into every situation and is always authentic with his actions. Strong communities are built from the strong character traits that Eric exemplifies in his day-to-day life.”
WOMEN’S STUDENT-ATHLETE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: Kiana Gibson, Guelph
Gibson is the founder of MealCare Guelph, a student-led initiative that diverts leftover food from campus dining halls to people in need. She coordinated with Hospitality Services to save recoverable food, implemented a donation procedure, and hired a team of 20 volunteers to expand operations.
Since 2019, Gibson has dedicated innumerable hours to help divert over 18,600 pounds of food to the Student Food Bank, as well as homeless shelters across the city of Guelph.
MealCare recently launched a new initiative called the Community Fridge, which is a fridge on campus stocked with fresh produce, snacks, and grab-&-go meals to break down stigma surrounding student food insecurity.
From May-August 2020, Gibson lived in Nicaragua. While there, she volunteered with “SoyNica”, a local, non-profit organization that provides workshops to underprivileged mothers on breastfeeding and infant nutrition.
Kiana works as a Student-Athlete Mentor, which supports first-year student-athletes in their transition to university. Each week, she meets individually with 12 mentees to offer academic support, discuss athletic challenges, and provide mental health resources. She has coordinated workshops on time management and delivered a “Ted Talk” on the value of meal prepping.
“From the first time I spoke to Kiana I knew that she was a very special individual, and as I review Kiana’s resume I am in awe of her dedication and motivation to not only better herself but to care for and benefit those around her,” said Gryphons coach Terry Radchenko.
FOX 40 COACH OF THE YEAR: Félix-Antoine Lapointe, Laval
After sweeping the national championships with team gold for both men’s and women’s cross country, Félix-Antoine Lapointe was awarded the Fox 40 Coach of the Year.
On the men’s side Lapointe spearheaded the Rouge et Or to conference a conference title at the RSEQ championship meet with nine runners placing in the top 10.
In the women’s contingent, Lapointe led the Rouge et Or to a podium sweep at the RSEQ Championship and landed two runners on the podium at nationals, including individual leader Jessy Lacourse.
Lapointe, a former Rouge et Or athlete, became head coach in 2011, after having spent the previous year as an assistant. It wasn't long before he left his mark, as the men's team has won the provincial title in each season since joining. Lapointe also led the Rouge et Or men's team to their first Canadian title in 2016, with his charges climbing to the national podium for six consecutive years from 2012 to 2017.
With the women's team, Lapointe won four Quebec titles, in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 and a bronze medal in 2019 before gold in 2021.
Lapointe was Named U SPORTS Men's Coach of the Year in 2016 and Women's 2018
- 1. Mitchell Ubene, Guelph, 24:27.5
- 2. Thomas Fafard, Laval, 24:28.6
- 3. Jean-Simon Desgagnés, Laval, 24:30.3
- 4. Andrew Davis, McMaster, 24:38.9
- 5. John Perrier, Guelph, 24:40.3
- 6. Thomas Nobbs, UBC, 24:41.4
- 7. Matthew Beaudet, McGill, 24:47.5
- 8. Eric Lutz, Calgary, 24:51.0
- 9. Nicholas Bannon, Guelph, 24:53.4
- 10.Max Turek, McMaster, 24:56.7
- 11. Jonathan Tedeschi, Laval, 24:59.2
- 12. Tyler Dozzi, UBC, 25:07.0
- 13. Mitchell Kirby, Queen’s, 25:08.1
- 14. Joshua Kozelj, UBC, 25:12.4
- 1. Jessy Lacourse, Laval, 28:25.5
- 2. Lauren McNeil, UBCO, 28:28.2
- 3. Catherine Beauchemin, Laval, 28:41.8
- 4. Anne-Marie Comeau, Laval, 28:43.2
- 5. Kaytlin Harrison, Saskatchewan, 28:45.6
- 6. Joanna Brown, UBCO, 28:47.6
- 7. Jazz Shukla, Toronto, 29:08.0
- 8. Kiana Gibson, Guelph, 29:09.0
- 9. Jade Bérubé, Laval, 29:13.3
- 10. Olivia Roussel, Guelph, 29:17.3
- 11. Heidi Ohrling, Western, 29:30.4
- 12. Mackenzie Campbell, UBC, 29:35.5
- 13. Siona Chisholm, StFX, 29:39.1
- 14. Zoe Burke, Western, 29:40.2