By Dan Plouffe
Caitlin Gormley and Zoe Wojtyk set the tone for the day in the first race of the Oct. 24 NCSSAA cross-country running championships, as the Glebe Gryphons finished 1-2 in the novice girls’ race to launch their school to a comfortable victory in the team competition.
“Frankly, I’m very surprised (to win),” said Gormley, who covered the 4.23 km Hornets Nest course in 17:17.5. “I had a cramp the entire way through the race, so I was pretty sure that at the end, I was just going to give up.”
For much of the race, Gormley was playing a mental battle with herself as much as she was racing any competitors, thinking: “’Oh well, it’s not that bad, I could slow down, it’s not the end of the world, I’m sure my team will be great without me,’ but you just kind of have to ignore that,” smiles Gormley, who drew the determination to continue from her many family members there to cheer her on. “I knew they were rooting for me and I really didn’t want to let them down.”
Talia Bennett, Abbey McColgan and Ellie Keith followed Gormley and Wojtyk shortly after to give Glebe a dominant victory of 79 placement points over the next closest team.
The Gryphons have won 8 of the past 9 novice girls’ city titles – a record Glebe coach Kirk Dillabaugh attributes largely to the strong elementary/middle school XC programs in their area.
“We’re really lucky to have a couple of feeder schools with really big cross-country programs,” Dillabaugh highlights. “And the other part of it is we’ve had a tradition of success, so kids want to be a part of a big team and a successful team.
“There aren’t very many good runners who come to Glebe and don’t end up running cross-country. I know some other schools struggle with that a little bit.
“But really, it’s about getting them out and getting them to have fun. And if they have fun, then they’re going to stick with it.”
Gormley’s path in XC started at Hopewell Avenue Public School, though not the first year she could have raced “because I thought it was going to be extremely boring,” recalls the soccer and hockey player who quickly learned otherwise once she gave running a try.
Several past Hopewell classmates are now at her side with the Gryphons, while Wojtyk is her soccer teammate with the Ottawa Internationals. They make a fun group together, and Gormley is “so excited” to share her first trip to OFSAA with them.
“I’m super pumped. It’s in Sudbury – it’ll probably be freezing cold,” she adds, without a moment’s break from her smile and positive outlook, “and I’ll get to hang out with my awesome teammates as well.”
Arriving at Glebe and knowing the program’s tradition of success both in Ottawa and in Ontario is a motivator in itself, Gormley indicates.
“It pushes me to train harder,” she explains. “There are a lot of great athletes – seniors and juniors – and we all train together, so it really lets you push yourself to your limit and see what you can do.”
Béatrice-Desloges’ Zoé Lortie, Marika Schryburt, Myriam Audet and Madeleine Tremblay scored 109 points to edge Nepean (115) and St. Pius (118) for the national capital association’s second novice girls’ OFSAA team berth.
Bronze medallist Clara Hegan of Nepean, Merivale’s Charlotte Burgess, Earl of March’s Amelia Van Brabant, Colonel By’s Jemima Saravanamuttoo and St. Joseph’s Alexis Benz earned the individual OFSAA qualification positions in the field of 98 runners.
Find more coverage of the 2019 NCSSAA XC Championships via: https://sportsottawa.com/2019/10/29/2019-ncssaa-xc-championships-coverage/