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Just a small glimpse of what is to come

The Fielding Memorial Cross-Country Race that was hosted at Kivi Park last week (unofficially dubbed the Pre-OFSAA race) served a couple of primary purposes, from a local perspective, for the group that will either be racing, or organizing, the provincial championship at the same venue come Saturday, November 2nd.

For chairperson Karen Passi and her crew, the day-long race setting provided a valuable walk-through in many key areas of logistics, all while taking advantage of a field size that was only roughly one third or so the numbers that are expected when all of the top cross-country runners in Ontario, a grouping some 1500 strong, invade Sudbury early next month.

For SDSSAA runners, especially those who are expected to safely navigate their way through the competition on both a city and regional (NOSSA) level, qualifying in the end for OFSAA, the Fielding event allowed for a small sample sized look as to some of the speed that exists in outposts ranging from Barrie to Pembroke, from Peterborough to St Catharines.

Keep in mind, for just a moment, that there appeared to be very few representatives from the Ottawa district, the GTA, southwestern Ontario, nor the traditional provincial powerhouses that exist independently for schools like Thousand Island Secondary School in Brockville, or even Ecole Secondaire Thιriault, much closer to home in Timmins.

Where a fifth place finish for Sacrι-Coeur Griffons novice multi-sport athlete Mia Toner is clearly encouraging, the reality at OFSAA is that a placement somewhere between 25th and 50th might well have to be considered a very successful race. Or the young curler turned runner could prove me entirely wrong. Time will tell.

Suffice to say that the field will be substantially stronger, and deeper, some thirty days from now.

“None of my competitors that I really know outside of school showed up, so they are not here,” suggested novice champion Kyla Martin from St Joan of Arc in Barrie, who covered the four kilometer course in 16:51, comfortably ahead of Gabby Wall from Collingwood (17:10). “With running cross country and track competitively, I got to know my strong competitors that I am going to be going against, so I kind of have a feel for the names and who is going to show.”

To be clear, Martin approaches her track and field and cross-country pursuits in much the same manner that Mia Toner approaches curling. Both young ladies have their sights set on excellence that could easily extend beyond the scope of our provincial borders. A member of the South Simcoe Dufferin Track & Field Club the past few years, Martin is but one of what is expected to be hundreds of active track club athletes who will compete at OFSAA.

“I started getting more serious in grade six,” she said. “It’s great to have a team that supports you and coaches that help you get better. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Erik Unger can relate.

The 14 year old Peterborough native not only currently holds the Athletics Ontario 1000m age group record (U12) and captured a national age group 2000m event in Finland, his country of birth, but also took top spot in Sudbury last week, posting a 22 second victory over Kamran Brar of Maxwell Heights in Oshawa.

“I am training a lot harder and more frequently, this year, trying to get ready for OFSAA,” noted the freshman at Adam Scott Secondary School, who also keeps busy with both competitive nordic skiing, in the winter, all while playing with a Peterborough Petes “AA” hockey team. Unger is almost certainly one of the new high-school faces who should be watched when Ontario secondary school bragging rights are on the line on November 2nd.

“With my track club (Gazelles Track & Field Club), I came in first at provincials, and OFSAA is basically provincials,” said Unger, who sees himself far more as an aficionado of cross-country than track. “I’m a distance runner, so I will run anywhere from three to twelve laps in track, and that can get kind of boring,” he said.

“With cross-country, at least there’s scenery for us to look at - and I’m really good at hills.”

In terms of locals who are well worth following, Avery Sutherland of Lo-Ellen finished second only to Hailey Abbott of Collingwood in the junior girls race, with Sutherland coming off an 11th place finish one year ago as a midget at the 2018 OFSAA meet. A bronze medal winner at provincials in grade nine and 6th overall in junior boys last fall, Calum Passi of Lasalle will be in tough in his first year at the senior boys bracket.

On Thursday at Kivi Park, Passi came in 6th, covering 6 kms in a time of 22:48, though placements three to six were separated by just three seconds in all. Meredith Kusnierczyk (Lo-Ellen) was the top local in the senior girls race (6th – 27:57), well back of race winner Jadyn Keeler of Innisdale Secondary in Barrie, while Ian MacKenzie (Confederation) hopes to utilize a summer of triathlon training to match or better his 13th place OFSAA finish as a midget last year.

Following are the top five finishers in all seven groupings, along with the top local athlete (if not in the top five):

Senior Boys Division – 6 kms
1st – Rudy Saal (CSC Jeanne-Lajoie – Pembroke) – 22:01.75
2nd – Owen Lockyer (Eden HS – St Catharines) – 22:27.41
3rd – Eric Campbell (Sir Winston Churchill – St Catharines) – 22:45.54
4th – Josh Bezanson (Sur Winston Curchill – St Catharines) – 22:45.88
5th – Sacha Schimmelpenninck (Sir Winston Churchill – St Catharines) – 22:46.45
6th – Calum Passi (Lasalle Secondary – Sudbury) – 22:48.94

Senior Girls Division – 6 kms
1st – Jadyn Keeler (Innisdale Secondary – Barrie) – 25:27.41
2nd – Sophie Levasseur (ESP L’Equinoxe – Pembroke) – 26:35.85
3rd – Lauren Brooks (Sir Winston Churchill – St Catharines) – 27:00.38
4th – Samantha Csisztu (CSC Jeanne Lajoie – Pembroke) – 27:25.15
5th – Elissa Frielink (Unity Christian – Barrie) – 27:43.40
7th – Meredith Kusnierczyk (Lo-Ellen Park – Sudbury) – 27:57.52

Junior Boys Division – 5 kms
1st – Daniel De Monte (St Michael’s College – Toronto) – 19:05.46
2nd – Sam Steer (MacKenzie HS – Deep River) – 19:11.29
3rd – Clinton Osawe (St Michael’s College – Toronto) – 19:34.66
4th – Caleb Wallis (Bear Creek SS – Barrie) – 19:53.05
5th – Max Roy (St Michael’s College – Toronto) – 19:58.20
7th – Ian MacKenzie (Confederation SS – Val Caron) – 20:09.30

Junior Girls Division – 5 kms
1st – Hailey Abbott (Collingwood HS – Collingwood) – 22:02.65
2nd – Avery Sutherland (Lo-Ellen Park – Sudbury) – 22:16.82
3rd – Bianca Saleirno (Sir Winston Churchill – St Catharines) – 22:48.49
4th – Chloe Punkari (Huntsville HS – Huntsville) – 23:09.09
5th – Lindsay Fletcher (St Joseph - Scollard Hall – North Bay) – 23:14.32

Novice Boys Division – 4 kms
1st – Erik Unger (Adam Scott CVI – Peterborough) – 13:53.97
2nd – Kamran Brar (Maxwell Heights – Oshawa) – 14:15.25
3rd – Nate Rose (Sir Winston Churchill – St Catharines) – 14:44.30
4th – Alex Pharand (Collθge Notre-Dame – Sudbury) – 14:51.86
5th – Carson Crane (Confederation SS – Val Caron) – 14:55.84

Novice Girls Division – 4 kms
1st – Kyla Martin (St Joan of Arc – Barrie) – 16:51.39
2nd – Gabby Wall (Collingwood HS – Collingwood) – 17:10.44
3rd – Mya Marshall (Huntsville HS – Huntsville) – 17:13.28
4th – Payton Dodd (Collingwood HS – Collingwood) – 17:55.53
5th – Mia Toner (ESC Sacrι-Coeur – Sudbury) – 18:03.38

Para – Boys Division – 3 kms
1st – Mark Cheek (Huntsville HS – Huntsville) – 14:02.68
2nd – John Parnell (Collingwood HS – Collingwood) – 15:44.30
3rd – Riley Cornthwaite (Lasalle Secondary – Sudbury) – 16:06.20
4th – Raiden Byers (Lasalle Secondary – Sudbury) – 17:44.58
5th – James Butcher (Lasalle Secondary – Sudbury) – 17:44.66
6th – Robert Porter-Miron (St Benedict CSS – Sudbury) – 17:52.63

Para – Girls Division – 3 kms
1st – Clarista Ardiel (Almaguin Highlands – South River) – 18:58.36
2nd – Shannon Swinson (Beamsville DSS – Beamsville) – 19:13.36
3rd – Brianna Moxam (Lasalle Secondary – Sudbury) – 24:30.43
4th – Allyssa Bouchard (Lo-Ellen Park – Sudbury) – 25:18.47

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