By Dan Plouffe
Adam Sanger, Callum Saravanamuttoo, Sebastian Cino, Owen Pensom and Ben Rundle posted the lowest team score of the day (26) in the largest field of the day (162 senior boys entered) to finish the NCSSAA cross-country running championships the way it started – with Glebe on top.
It’s a perch the Gryphons would like to maintain come the Nov. 2 OFSAA provincials in Sudbury.
Glebe has several returnees from last year’s OFSAA 6th-place senior boys’ team (including leaders Sanger and Saravanamuttoo), while the Grade 11s now on the senior team were OFSAA champs as juniors last year.
“If you add 4 or 5 other really fast runners to the team, that’s certainly good,” notes Sanger. “We have a really good team this year, so we’re hoping to do really well.
“It’s nice because we all train together a lot. Not just in school, but out of school as well with our club. We get to push ourselves every workout.”
The Louis-Riel Rebelles needed just about every placement point they grinded out to edge Ridgemont 76-79 for the second OFSAA team berth.
“The race was really hard, especially with the Green’s Creek hill, but when we heard we qualified, that made it all worth it,” underlines Maxime Filion, who led the squad with a 5th-place finish. “We were all really happy. It was a fun time.”
This year’s Grade 12 Louis-Riel runners made it to OFSAA in 2016 and 2017, but plummeted to 16th in the senior boys’ team rankings at last year’s city finals.
The return to OFSAA was led by 2018 junior boys’ silver medallist Maxime Filion (5th) and fellow Grade 11 Eric Lajeunesse (20th), while Antoine Ducharme rose from an 81st-place senior boys’ finish last year to 24th, and Thomas Pollock from 38th to 27th.
“This year Thomas decided to recruit a lot,” highlights Filion, noting that few of their team members are actually devoted to XC, most instead hailing from the school’s soccer and volleyball sports-études programs.
A club soccer player for Ottawa TFC and at Louis-Riel himself, Filion was unsure whether he’d be able to grab an OFSAA individual berth himself, so was thrilled to see his full team qualify.
“They’re really an amazing group,” Filion says of his team of 13 senior boys who ran at cities. “It’s such a great time running with them and having fun with them.”
Ridgemont runner rebounds from rough season to regain city title
Joe Fast was back in fine form at the national capital finals, returning to his familiar gold medal position with a blazing 20:50.2 run of the 6.37 km Hornets Nest course.
“I felt pretty good,” recounts the Ridgemont Spartans runner, relieved to be feeling healthy in advance of OFSAA. “I want to have a good race in Sudbury. Last year was so disappointing. Hopefully I get a medal. Obviously I’m shooting for a win and I’d love to win. We’ll have to see. I’ll give it my best.”
The OFSAA midget and junior boys’ champion in 2016 and 2017 finished off the podium in Ottawa and 49th at OFSAA last season.
“I was trying to go to all these races – race a lot, train a lot – and I just over-trained and just had a really tough season,” reflects Fast, who’s only competed in local meets this fall. “I learned from that. I’m doing the opposite now, and it’s working out.”
Looking back on his struggles, Fast says it’s made him stronger now.
“It taught me a huge lesson. Recovery is important. You can’t just get out there and run hard every day and hope it works out,” highlights the Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club athlete. “It’s also very humbling to struggle so much in races. Now it’s nice to kind of feel good when I’m racing.”
Fast was disappointed that his Spartans teammates wouldn’t get to join him in OFSAA competition, but underlined how much he’s enjoyed running with them since Grade 9 when they became the first Ridgemont team to race at OFSAA in 50+ years.
“It’s awesome. You get to share your experience with them. You get to train with them all the time, you get to share your success, share your tough workouts,” he outlines. “It makes it so much more fun.”
Fast also thanked the Ridgemont coaches for their role in his success, particularly Katie Lalonde.
“She’s grown the cross-country program so much in the 4 years I’ve been here,” notes Fast, who submitted his application to Princeton University a few days before the city championships. “Now cross-country is big at Ridgemont, and that’s due to her.”
Individual OFSAA qualifiers were Fast, Ashbury’s Luke Allan, Longfields-Davidson Heights’ Jackson Roy, A.Y. Jackson’s Colby Frost and Sir Robert Borden’s Cameron Porter.
Shout-out for sportsmanship
From deeper in the senior boys’ field comes a brief moment that nonetheless deserves recognition for a couple of competitors who embraced a positive spirit.
Near the peak of the Green’s Creek toboggan hill came a muddy section of the course that made the steepest portion of the lengthy climb that much more challenging. A good chunk of the junior and senior boys’ fields chose to avoid the mess and take a little shortcut around the corner (the girls’ runners, conversely, had no trouble staying within the flags…)
Within that ultra-competitive setting though were a group of boys who stayed on course, including John McCrae’s Ryan Lawless and Paul-Desmarais’ Ryan Jetten. Jetten slipped on the mud and was likely headed down for a tumble when Lawless’ arm came out next to him for support.
Jetten gave a quick smile and “thanks!” between hard breaths, and both athletes carried on to finish in the middle of the pack – Lawless in 70th and Jetten 83rd.
It makes you wonder how many more moments like that go unnoticed away from the front-runners.
All in all, the national capital championships featured a handful of unexpected triumphs, numerous standout feats, and many more athletes running to improve their fitness for other athletic pursuits, or simply to live a healthy lifestyle.
“That’s what makes sport so exciting,” concludes the coach of the city-champion Gryphons, Kirk Dillabaugh. “There were some outstanding performances from some individual athletes and schools. Congratulations to everyone who ran (at cities).
“A big thank you to Louis-Riel for hosting the meet, congratulations to all the athletes, and best of luck to everyone from NC next week at OFSAA.”
Find more coverage of the 2019 NCSSAA XC Championships via: https://sportsottawa.com/2019/10/29/2019-ncssaa-xc-championships-coverage/