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Capturing four of the six divisions from a team perspective at the 2022 SDSSAA Cross-Country Championships at Kivi Park last Wednesday, it's a pretty safe bet that the Lo-Ellen Park Knights are not about to go quietly off into the night, easily relinquishing their stranglehold on an athletic discipline that they have dominated for the past decade or so.

But with four of the six individual winners coming from other schools, including three of the four gold medal winners in the two youngest of the age brackets, there is clearly reason for optimism when it comes to cross-country running elsewhere in the region.

Though not at 100%, St Benedict Bears' freshman Caleb Mead did just enough to earn a three second win in the Novice Boys grouping ahead of teammate Sullivan Smith, with Lukas Morin of Collège Notre-Dame another thirty seconds back.

"My knees have been hurting, so I was trying to win it but not win it by a lot," said Mead, quite candidly. "Every couple of minutes, I looked back over my shoulder to see where Sully (Smith) was."

A race champion at the elementary level as well in recent years, the multi-sport athlete (Mead also plays competitive hockey and lacrosse) did not let the pandemic deter his chances to carry his success through into his high-school years.

"I kept running and kept trying to push myself during Covid," said Mead. "I think I got more serious because I got more mature. I just wanted to work harder."

The granddaughter of legendary Windy Lake supporter of all things sport Willy Cole, Novice Girls first place finisher Tyla MacLeod (Bishop A Carter) drew on his inspiration and a lot of self-motivation in getting her start on the trails in and around Dowling.

"My "Poppa" (Cole) would do running and cross country skiing races all of the time and I thought that was kind of cool," said MacLeod, who clipped Lily Bignucolo of Lo-Ellen by 16 seconds in breaking the tape quite comfortably.

"Whenever we had cross-country practice after school (Larchwood Public School), I would do it - but I would always wake up really early in the morning or workout late at night. I would just do it by myself."

Like so many young runners, MacLeod is instinctively inclined to avoid race situations where she cannot see her direct competition. "I stay around the faster people but try not to tire myself too much," said the grade nine student who turned 14 just over a week before her big win.

"I don't like when people are behind me because at the end, they can sprint past me. I try and stay behind them so I can pass them."

If there is a singular aspect of the teams that distinguishes Lo-Ellen from much of the rest, it lies in the depth of their running talent. Nico Labrecque had already established himself during his grade nine year (2021-2022) with the Knights, well before he ran away from the field this week, taking the Junior Boys race by 15 seconds.

Teammate and second place finisher Shiloh Sauve however is far more well-known for his basketball talents - though he's every quickly carving out a reputation with the Knights' running community as well.

"Running has always been something that I've liked," noted the 15 year old grade ten student who will take to the court for the Sudbury U16 Jam this winter. "I find that it's always been something that's helped me on the basketball court."

"I used to run for fun by then coach (Colin) Ward and coach Neil (Phipps) really got me into the training program and I really started to like it."

That said, like so many young athletes who enjoy a plethora of activities, there are only so many hours in the day to go around.

"It ends up with me doing two to three practices a day, going from running to basketball and basketball to running," said Sauve. "Then I'll miss a running practice and have to go do it later, on my own."

"It's a lot of training."

True - though the rewards come in spades for all those who have a chance to enjoy physical activity with a healthy mix of competition. Following are the tp five finishers in each of the six race categories:

Senior Girls - 6.4 kms
1st - Lauren Pineau (Lockerby) - 27:26
2nd - Georgia Lepage (St Benedict) - 27:51
3rd - Sophia Oommen (Lo-Ellen) - 28:34
4th - Katelyn DePoli (St Benedict) - 28:57
5th - Bay Jones (Lockerby) - 29:13

Senior Boys - 6.4 kms
1st - Kaeden Ward (Lo-Ellen) - 23:18
2nd - Owen Dobson (Lo-Ellen) - 23:22
3rd - Liam Binks (Lockerby) - 23:36
4th - Owen Roney (Lockerby) - 23:40
5th - Nolan Kuhlberg (Lo-Ellen) - 24:01

Junior Girls - 5.3 kms
1st - Lucia Salmaso (Marymount) - 23:07
2nd - Sasha Bouffard (Notre-Dame) - 23:35
3rd - Sidney Skrobot (Lo-Ellen) 24:27
4th - Maija Nener (Lo-Ellen) - 25:21
5th - Valérie Vaillancourt (Sacré-Coeur) - 26:00

Junior Boys - 5.3 kms
1st - Nicholas Labrecque (Lo-Ellen) - 19:34
2nd - Shiloh Sauve (Lo-Ellen) - 19:49
3rd - Adam Urso (St Charles) - 19:59
4th - Jack Ellis (Sudbury Secondary) - 20:27
5th - Max Portelance (Notre-Dame) - 20:41

Novice Girls - 4 kms
1st - Tyla MacLeod (Bishop Carter) - 16:42
2nd - Lily Bignucolo (Lo-Ellen) - 16:58
3rd - Misaki Diavolitsis (Lockerby) - 17:17
4th - Barbara Ceccon (Marymount) - 18:00
5th - Breeanna Sullivan (Notre-Dame) - 18:12

Novice Boys - 4 kms
1st - Caleb Mead (St Benedict) - 14:47
2nd - Sullivan Smith (St Benedict) - 14:50
3rd - Lukas Morin (Notre-Dame) - 15:23
4th - Raphael Belzile (Macdonald-Cartier) - 15:36
5th - Isaac Longston (Lockerby) - 15:39