Athletes of Kingston: The MacDougall Sisters

By Ian MacAlpine

Over the last few years, Kingston sisters have ran their way to cross country provincial and national championship honours and have represented Canada on the international stage.

The MacDougall sisters, Branna, 21 and Brogan, 19, have accomplished some of those championships on home soil, the popular cross country course adjacent to Fort Henry, and doing it for Queen’s, their home town university.

At the USports cross country national championships on Nov. 9 at Fort Henry Branna finished third in the race with Brogan coming in a close fifth. Their performance, along with high finishes by teammates Marley Beckett, Tori Bouck and Kara Blair earned the Queen’s Gaels only 53 points (adding up the top five finishers results) in the women’s race which in cross country running lower is better and good for first place over the Guelph Gryphons and Laval Rouge.

In 2018, also at Fort Henry, Brogan, a USports rookie, won the women’s race wire to wire and jogged across the finish line with a big smile on her face as hundreds of local cross country fans cheered. Branna finished ninth in that race while nursing an injury contributing to a Queen’s second place finish behind Laval.

Branna, a third year engineering student at Queen’s, has an extensive running resume including other high finishes and titles.

In 2017, Branna won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title and was third at the USports championship. In 2018, Branna also finished second at the OUA championship behind her sister. Brogan, a second-year applied science student, also has an lengthy championship record before attending Queen’s including a pair of national junior championships while with the local Physi-Kult running club where Branna is also a member.

In separate interviews, Branna and Brogan talk about their love for cross country running and what it’s like to run the Fort Henry course in front of a home crowd.

How did you get into cross country?

Branna: “I was just this weirdly competitive kid and I always wanted to win and be the best. I like how running is dependent on you and I really like the competitiveness of it and that really drew me in. Every time I ran I really liked being alone and I liked the solitude about it. The more and more I did it the more I liked it.”

Brogan: “I really enjoy the purity of cross country. On the track, everything is time-oriented which can be very draining since you’re worrying about your splits every 400 metres. Cross country it’s just you battling your competitors and the elements. Time becomes irrelevant because the weather is poor and the conditions on every course are different.”

The Queen’s Gaels womens cross country team celebrates their USports victory at Fort Henry on Saturday Nov. 9, 2019.

Although cross country is an individual sport but at the USports level there’s a lot made of the team aspect of it. Do you like that?

Branna: “For me the individual part is the more important part but the team is a close second to that. You foster these really special relationships because you all love running. With my running friends I connect really well with them so you have this special relationship and you want to do well because they’re your best friends.”

Brogan: “In the past, I’ve always thought of cross country being an individual sport. This year, however, I got a new appreciation for team-orientated goals. I was injured going into the championship race and if I had been running for myself I wouldn’t have attempted to run USports. Since our team goal this year was so important to us all, I put aside my personal goals and ran so our team accomplish what we wanted to do.”

Queen’s Gaels, from left Marley Beckett, Brogan and Branna McDougall and Tori Bouck at the finish line when they realized Queen’s would win the women’s team championship at the USports Cross-Country championship at Fort Henry on Saturday November 9, 2019 / Ian MacAlpine

What do you like about running the Fort Henry course?

Branna: “It’s really fun, there’s a certain level of comfort to it. It’s my home course that I’ve run on so many times is a kind of feeling like you’re at home, that place is kind of a second home for me. It’s a comforting feeling knowing every turn, every blade of grass and to know what parts of the course really hurt and parts I can get going on.”

Brogan: “I love everything about Fort Henry. Its weather is always brutal, the course is always muddy and the course itself grinds you up, but that adds so much more fun to the race. Clive Morgan and the Physi-Kult team have done an incredible job hosting championships there for the past six years, I know a lot of runners, including myself, are going to miss running there.”

What kind of support from the Kingston community have you had?

Branna: “The main support I have is through my club Physi-Kult. The club is headed by Steve Boyd and Clive Morgan, all the masters athletes and all the other high school athletes who have gone through it that was my saving grace growing up and that’s where I feel I’ve been most supported.”

Brogan: I know a lot of people were out there cheering us on Saturday Nov. 9 which is always amazing to see. I had an experience a few days later, where I was seeing the doctor and was explaining to a nurse how our team had just won USports and a man waiting to see the doctor began cheering. It was interesting to see that the support in the Kingston community runs a lot deeper than we realize a lot of the time.”