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Gaels use home advantage to win national Cross Country championship

WATCH: The Queen's Gaels took advantage of their home course on Fort Henry Hill to win the U-Sport women's cross country championship.

After being ranked No. 1 throughout the entire season, the Queen’s Gaels came through on the final race of the year to capture their first U-Sports Cross Country Championship at Fort Henry Hill in Kingston, Ont.

Hometown hero Branna MacDougall was the top placing Gael, who reached the podium in third place behind overall winner Lucia Stafford from Toronto and silver medalist Anne-Marie Comeau from Laval.

“To finally win a team championship is just unbelievable,” said MacDougall, a graduate of Kingston’s Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School.

READ MORE: Queen’s Gaels believe this is the year they win the cross-country gold medal

For the past three years, Queen’s has finished in second place in the overall team standings. In a pre-race press conference coach Steve Boyd felt this was the year his squad would finally prevail.

“Steve believed in us and this gold medal is for him,” MacDougall said.

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“I’m so excited we finally won our team title and to do it at home is extra special.”

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“I was eighth last year and I felt I let the team down. I’m glad my third place showing helped our cause in the overall standings.”

It was a truly a team effort en route to the gold medal: Kara Blair finished in fourth place while Brogan MacDougall was fifth; Marley Beckett came in at 16 and Tori Bouck took 24 to round out the Gaels 53 points. The University of Guelph was second with 74, followed by Laval.

“Were very, very excited,” said Gaels co-captain Kara Blair.

The fourth-year history student from Westport, Ont. was proud of her fourth place performance.

“I was 45th last year so to come in fourth was pretty special,” she said.

“My goal was top-15, but coach Boyd told me that was a conservative goal and he knew I could do better. I guess he was right. Knowing I helped our team to victory is such a special feeling.”

READ MORE: Kingston duo takes on Canada’s best runners at U-Sports Cross Country Championships

In the men’s race, Kieran Lumb from the University of British Columbia won the gold medal.

Mitchell Ubene from Guelph was second while Calgary’s Russell Pennock captured the bronze medal.

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For the second straight year, the University of Calgary Dino’s won the men’s team championship. McMaster was second followed by the Guelph Gryphons.