The Novice Girls just had to upset the apple-cart at the 2019 SDSSAA Cross-Country Championships hosted last week at Kivi Park.
While six of the seven classifications would see a singular top-ranked runner capture essentially every local race, from the start of the fall through to the miserable rainy mid-October day on which the city championships were contested, the Novice Girls featured a little flip-flopping.
Sophia Oommen of Lo-Ellen had captured the Naughton race, early on, but finished behind Mia Toner of Sacré Coeur at both the Rumble on the Rocks, as well as the Fielding Memorial (Pre-OFSAA) Race a few weeks back.
With SDSSAA gold on the line, Oommen had to out-kick Lo-Ellen teammate Gabby Alexander in order to secure top spot, with Emma Dawson (Lasalle) and Toner finishing third and fourth.
"I did what I was expecting to do," said Oommen. "I felt OK when the race started." Unlike some who much prefer to dart to the front, the 14 year old competitive soccer player is fine just biding her time, especially on a course that she knows well.
"A stronger start doesn't matter too much, because a lot of the girls tend to have a quicker start and then they kind of slow down," she said. "Near the end, there's the last hill - that's where some of the girls will slow down and where I start speeding up, because I know we're almost at the end of the race."
A fellow grade niner, Alex Pharand (Collège Notre-Dame) has been jostling with "AAA" hockey teammate and Confederations Chargers' freshman Carson Crane, with the CND representative finding a way to consistently edge past his friend, beating Crane by 12 seconds in the city final.
Armed with solid running credentials from his days in the elementary school ranks, Pharand has noticed a difference now that high-school has arrived. "It's a little more competitive, I take it more seriously, get ready more seriously for my races," he said.
"I make sure I am in good shape. And Neil (Castonguay) is a good coach. He pushes us and makes sure that we get better."
Though OHL scouts are already taking notice of Pharand as he dons the uniform of the Nickel City Bantam "AAA" Sons, the talented 14 year old is not about to shut any doors, athletically speaking, just yet.
"Obviously hockey is number one for me, but if that doesn't work out or something happens, I would maybe consider running as another sport," he said. "I feel that I would do pretty good in running."
There was a time when Calum Passi likely spoke exactly the same way with his personal tug-of-war between soccer and running. But after claiming a bronze medal in 2017 in the midget boys race at OFSAA in Pembroke, the dedicated Lasalle Lancer senior has focused much of his time and effort towards the trails and the track.
This year, for a change, he had some company on a local level, crossing the finish line about ten seconds ahead of Kendyn Mashinter of Lo-Ellen. "He really pushed me," said Passi. "I owe it all to that guy."
"I went out fast right at the beginning to try and gap him, but he just ate it away. With about 500 metres to go, I knew that he could sprint past me at the end, so I thought, I've just gotta go. It was hard."
Unlike newcomers like Oommen and Pharand, Passi enjoys a fair degree of familiarity with the Kivi course that will double as host to the 2019 OFSAA Championship, a course that he favours, on the balance of things.
"I do really like this course," said Passi. "There's some nice little single tracks, a nice amount of hills. It's challenging, very technical. I don't love the crusher dust. I would prefer dirt, so that we could longer spikes."
"But it's such a beautiful park, especially in the fall."
Lo-Ellen junior Avery Sutherland barely had time to notice the scenery. Covering the 5.3 kms distance in a time of 22:15, the Manitoulin Island native, who placed 11th at OFSAA as a midget last fall, was easily the class of this particular bracket locally, taking her age grouping by a margin of more than two full minutes over Abby Lanteigne of Lockerby.
The pack is closing in on Ian MacKenzie (Confederation), as the junior boys champion clocked in at 20:49 (5.3 kms), just ahead of Patrick Wiss of Lo-Ellen (20:57), while Meredith Kusnierczyk led a 1-2-3 Lo-Ellen Park senior girls sweep, out-racing teammates Kristen Mrozewski and Delaney Bourget.
Finally, Riley Cornthwaite (Lasalle) looks primed and ready for provincials, securing bragging rights in the para event, covering three kilometres in a time of 16:01. NOSSA races are scheduled for Wednesday (October 23rd) in Sault Ste Marie.
Following is a complete breakdown of the top five inviduals and top three teams for each of the different divisions:Senior Boys Division
1st - Calum Passi (Lasalle) - 22:40
2nd - Kendyn Mashinter (Lo-Ellen) - 22:50
3rd - Matthew Smith (Confederation) - 23:52
4th - André Larocque (Notre-Dame) - 23:53
5th - Austin Mashinter (Lo-Ellen) - 24:21
Senior Girls Division
1st - Meredith Kusnierczyk (Lo-Ellen) - 28:16
2nd - Kristen Mrozewski (Lo-Ellen) - 29:38
3rd - Delaney Bourget (Lo-Ellen) - 29:58
4th - Danica Levesque (Sacré Coeur) - 30:01
5th - Emily Binks (Lockerby) - 31:23
Junior Boys Division
1st - Ian MacKenzie (Confederation) - 20:49
2nd - Patrick Wiss (Lo-Ellen) - 20:57
3rd - Scott Rienguette (Bishop Carter) - 21:22
4th - Owen Roney (Chelmsford) - 21:41
5th - Grégoire Fleury (Lo-Ellen) - 21:44
Junior Girls Division
1st - Avery Sutherland (Lo-Ellen) - 22:15
2nd - Abby Lanteigne (Lockerby) - 24:25
3rd - Amanda Symington (Lo-Ellen) - 25:22
4th - Alison Symington (Lo-Ellen) - 25:33
5th - Sophie Gaffney (Lo-Ellen) - 25:50
Novice Boys Division
1st - Alex Pharand (Notre-Dame) - 15:04
2nd - Carson Crane (Confederation) - 15:16
3rd - Kaeden Ward (Lo-Ellen) - 15:30
4th - Landon Doyle (Confederation) - 15:43
5th - Alex Chartier (St Charles) - 15:54
Novice Girls Division
1st - Sophia Oommen (Lo-Ellen) - 17:39
2nd - Gabby Alexander (Lo-Ellen) - 17:56
3rd - Emma Dawson (Lasalle) - 18:18
4th - Mia Toner (Sacré-Coeur) - 18:54
5th - Caitlyn Luck (Lo_Ellen) - 19:35
1st - Riley Cornthwaite (Lasalle) - 16:01
2nd - Raiden Byers (Lasalle) - 17:39
3rd - James Butcher (Lasalle) - 19:20
4th - Brianna Moxam (Lasalle) - 25:51
Divisional Team Champions
Senior Boys: Lo-Ellen (20); Notre-Dame (55); Lockerby (56)
Senior Girls: Lo-Ellen (12); Bishop Carter (90); Marymunt (102)
Junior Boys: Lo-Ellen (30); Lockerby (78); Macdonald-Cartier (112)
Junior Girls: Lo-Ellen (13); Lockerby (38); Lasalle (48)
Novice Boys: Lo-Ellen (32); Confederation (40); Lasalle (67)
Novice Girls: Lo-Ellen (15); Marymount (62)