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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
Sudbury runners show the way at NOSSA cross-country
by Randy Pascal

It was nothing if not a golden day for the Sudbury and area cross-country crew competing at the 2018 NOSSA Championships at Kivi Park last week. Not only did the Lo-Ellen Park Knights sweep every single one of the divisional team aggregate banners (six of them, in all), but SDSSAA representatives would also lay claim to five of the six individual gold medals that were up for grabs locally.

Avery Sutherland set the tone early, following up her midget girls SDSSAA title with a 24 second win over fellow Lo-Ellen teammate Alison Symington, with Amanda Symington (LOE) and Abby Lanteigne (Lockerby) also cracking the top five.

Another repeat winner, Confederation Chargers freshman Ian MacKenzie was slightly more dominant, crossing the line a full 37 seconds ahead of Mason Chitaroni of St Mary's in Sault Ste Marie.

An avid triathlete, MacKenzie took full advantage of venue familiarity, the NOSSA course mirroring the city championship trail of one week earlier. "It was a lot easier today because I actually knew the course this time," he said. "I had actually run the course before."

"The conditions were a bit warmer - it wasn't snowing this time. I knew the hills and the flats, where they would be. I knew that I just had to kick it on the downhills, since I knew when the uphills were coming."

With OFSAA scheduled for this coming Saturday (November 3rd) in Dundas, MacKenzie planned to join some of his teammates with the Hamilton Hammerheads Triathlon Club, getting out for a pre-race jaunt on the race course this past weekend.

Sisters Kalila and Chandyn Bachiu were in fine form again at NOSSA, as the Lo-Ellen tandem registered another one-two finish in the junior girls bracket. Kalila cruised to a comfortable victory, covering 5.1 kms in a time of 21:43, while Chandyn (22:16) had to outrace Taryn Greco of Superior Heights - SSM (22:17) down the final hill to the finish line.

A slight knee injury sustained playing volleyball presented not a whole lot more of a challenge than did the remainder of the junior boys field for defending OFSAA bronze medal winner Calum Passi of Lasalle. Finishing first in a time of 17:33 (5.1 kms), well ahead of Austin Mashinter of Lo-Ellen (18:53), Passi had to come up with some creative race tactics in order to truly push himself.

"I try and chase the bike," he said, looking to close the gap on the volunteers who man the pace lead bicycle and ensure that the participants do not veer off course at the front of the pack. "I try and treat the bike like a runner in front of me. I just really try and push it, simulating OFSAA."

Where there was little in the way of expectations some 12 months ago, when Passi became the first SDSSAA cross country runner to podium since the late 1990's, the driven young athlete is dealing with more of a target on his back, the second time around.

"It does put some pressure on me, but I really just try and not think about anybody else and just think about myself," noted the 15 year-old grade 10 Lancer. "Don't worry about the results. As long as I know that I've given it my all, that's all I can really ask for."

That said, it is likely much easier to remain grounded in reality when one follows in the footsteps on an older brother (Liam) who has lived through the ups and downs that generally accompany elite runners, and who will be making his first appearance at U-Sport nationals as a member of the Laurentian Voyageurs in November.

"He is a big inspiration to me, he's the one who got me into running," said Passi. "Having him around is such a huge advantage. I've seen him deal with injuries, and his perseverance, just seeing that, really gives me motivation."

"He gives me a lot of advice and wisdom," Passi added. "My whole family as well, my friends, coaches and teammates - everyone who surrounds me and supports me is fantastic."

If there was a singular highlight in the Lo-Ellen team dominance of the day, surely it came in the senior girls race. There sat a Knight, in every single one of the top six placements: Nathalie Marks de Chabris (1st - 26:01), Jayde Hurley (2nd - 26:41), Meredith Kusnierczyk (3rd - 26:42), Fiona Symington (4th - 26:42), Dylann Mazzuchin (5th - 27:03) and Delaney Bourget (6th - 27:08).

"I don't ever recall seeing a team sweep the top six positions," noted Lo-Ellen head coach Colin Ward. "They got the top four spots as juniors, last year, so it wasn't completely out of the blue. But it didn't happen right away in the race, it happened at the end."

"Dylann and Delaney caught Bella (Mastroianni - St Benedict) in the last half of the race. Our kids simply outlasted them. It was a testament to their fitness."

If the city championship performance, as a team, was impressive from a Lo-Ellen standpoint, the ability to nearly duplicate those results while now incorporating the top runners from North Bay and Sault Ste Marie and points in between took it up another notch.

"With the exception of a few kids who had a slightly better or slightly worse day (than SDSSAA), in general, we performed the same or slightly better," said Ward. "The times were slightly quicker. Their training and tapering is paying off. They are showing good consistency."

While the energetic coach has enjoyed many memorable OFSAA moments, over the years, he will be breaking new ground, once again, this coming weekend. "The whole trip, in general, should be a neat experience," said Ward.

"We've never brought six teams before. It's going to be a busy day. It's a great experience for the young ones, just seeing it all, hopefully inspiring a few of them. And then we kind of hope it gors the way they want it to go for the seniors."

Finally, in the only race that a local did not lay claim to first place, it wasn't as though SDSSAA had no contenders. Keon Wallingford (Widdifield - NB) pulled away from Lo-Ellen senior Auggy Marks de Chabris, right at the very end (21:18 vs 21:23), with another Knight nailing down third place in the form of Nick Lambert (21:40).

Sudbury athletes were also more than a little prominent in the 3 km para race, as Riley Cornthwaite of Lasalle (1st - 16:33), Jordan Burke of Lo-Ellen (2nd - 17:24), and Lancers Brianna Moxam (4th - 23:36) and Eleni Roumanes (5th - 27:48) all secured top five placings.

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