You have to give the kids credit.
Braving some of the worst conditions that OFSAA cross-country has ever seen, a gathering of provincial runners more than 1600 strong trekked their way through the new fallen snow on Saturday at Kivi Park, the trails gradually giving way to mud and very little traction, all with temperatures ranging right around the zero mark.
And while some might think that all of these factors add up to a huge advantage for the contingent of athletes representing schools north of Barrie, such simply wasnt the case which is what makes the jaw-dropping performance that was turned in by Confederation Chargers freshman Carson Crane all that more amazing.
After not capturing gold at either the SDSSAA or NOSSA championships he would finish just back of Collθge Notre-Dame rookie and AAA hockey teammate Alex Pharand at both events Crane would register the top performance by any local athlete, save the more modestly numbered para grouping, finishing eighth in his first appearance at the Ontario high-school showdown.
I knew that there was going to be some hard competition, stated Crane on Saturday. From pre-OFSAA, where I finished ninth, I knew that I would have to race really hard to finish 10th. That was my goal, top ten.
What Crane likely did not know was that only a fraction of the top runners in the province actually made their way up for the Fielding Memorial race in early October (unofficially, pre-OFSAA), and that the majority of local athletes who earned a top five finish at that race dropped down significantly on Saturday when all hands were on deck.
Racing with spikes for the very first time, Crane may have actually benefitted from his hockey background, as a throng of 255 competitors bolted at the sound of the gun. From the beginning, there were a lot of people in front of me and beside me, so I had to kind of keep my elbows up to get into a good spot, he said.
About halfway through the race, it was all bunched up, and then it finally broke through, and it was single running the rest of the way. On a local level, Adam Chebbi of Lo-Ellen also moved up, relative to his local peer group, placing 58th (15:39.42), while both Pharand (75th 15:56.23) and Alex Chartier of St Charles College (80th 15:58.05) fell victim to the treacherous footing, overcoming early tumbles before weaving their way through the pack.
If Crane remained a tad unaware of the magnitude of his competition, pretty much the norm for most grade nine entries at OFSAA, Laurentian cross-country coach Darren Jermyn was keenly aware of the scale of this event.
At the top end, these are very, very high level athletes, said Jermyn. Obviously the top in the province at the high school level, but many of them are top in the country at their age group, and many of them are at the elite level, where they compete internationally.
Senior girls champion Abbey Juhasz (Resurrection CSS Kitchener) has already given her verbal commitment to the Tulsa University Hurricanes track and field program, a recruiting coup that the Oklahoma based institution would particularly appreciate after their Canadian import posted a victory by some fifty seconds on Saturday.
I always look to get to the front pack first and then when that happened pretty quickly, I was pleasantly surprised, said Juhasz, who finished 14th one year ago, but raced while dealing with some nagging injuries. After I opened that gap, I felt really comfortable at that point and wanted to hold that lead as long as possible.
Last year, I was given a really good chance of winning OFSAA, before I was injured, just because of my pre-OFSAA time, which put me as a favourite to win. Because I was so injured, it did not work out for me that way. To put in so much hard work and have it not be possible for me because I didnt take good enough care of my body was really disappointing.
For as much as the running conditions were a key topic of conversation on Saturday, the results, by and large, carried only a small handful of surprises, at the front end of the pack. It wasnt actually that cold, said Darren Jermyn. It was more the footing, the footing was an issue.
But the top athletes are the fittest athletes, and they are also the most competitive athletes, and they find a way to win. Everybody runs on the same surface, everybody is wearing a pair of spikes, so the fittest kids and the fastest kids will win.
Following are results of the top three finishers in each race, along with the top three SDSSAA representatives in each race:Senior Men Division
1st Mathew Mason (Sir Wilfrid Laurier London) 21:12.54
2nd Scott Arndt (Waterloo) 21:15.00
3rd Dakota Goguen (Sir William Mulock Newmarket) 21:20.43
37th Calum Passi (Lasalle) 22:55.93
39th Kendyn Mashinter (Lo-Ellen) 22:57.69
70th Andrι Larocque (Notre-Dame) 23:29.63
Senior Women Division
1st Abbey Juhasz (Resurrection Kitchener) 24:25.40
2nd Petal Palmer (Mother Theresa Scarborough) 25:15.54
3rd Jadyn Keeler (Innisdale Barrie) 25:17.41
71st Meredith Kusnierczyk (Lo-Ellen) 28:24.28
101st Delaney Bourget (Lo-Ellen) 29:17.60
135th Kristen Mrozewski (Lo-Ellen) 29:58.62
Junior Men Division
1st Riley Flemington (Appleby College Oakville) 18:17.63
2nd Heath McAllister (London Central) 18:39.54
3rd William Cowling (Uxbridge) 18:41.16
69th Patrick Wiss (Lo-Ellen) 20:30.34
77th Ian MacKenzie (Confederation) 20:40.83
102nd Emmett Thomson (Lasalle) 21:02.46
Junior Women Division
1st Sofia Bowe (Etobicoke Arts Toronto) 21:28.27
2nd Sierra Rodrigues (St Michael CSS Bolton) 21:36.42
3rd Chantal Channing (Orangeville) 21:37.15
51st Avery Sutherland (Lo-Ellen) 23:23.46
114th Abby Lanteigne (Lockerby) 24:53.00
162nd Maggie Parks (Lo-Ellen) 25:54.72
Novice Men Division
1st Erik Unger (Adam Scott Peterborough) 13:56.14
2nd Noah Booth (Frontenac Kingston) 14:21.97
3rd Nate Rose (Winston Churchill St Catharines) 14:24.57
8th Carson Crane (Confederation) 14:49.22
58th Adam Chebbi (Lo-Ellen) 15:39.42
75th Alex Pharand (Notre-Dame) 15:56.23
Novice Women Division
1st Kyla Martin (Joan of Arc Barrie) 15:37.09
2nd Brooklyn Quanz (Saugeen Port Elgin) 15:53.04
3rd Alex Campbell (KCVI Kingston) 16:05.24
53rd Sophia Oommen (Lo-Ellen) 17:44.37
138th Gabby Alexander (Lo-Ellen) 18:59.64
141st - Mia Toner (Sacrι Coeur) - 19:06.11
Co-Ed Para Division
1st - Corey McCaugherty (Sydenham) - 13:26.21
2nd - Joshua Roberto (Paul Dwyer SS - Oshawa) - 13:55.31
3rd - Kobe Selman (St Catharines) - 13:55.89
7th - Raiden Byers (Lasalle) - 15:26.64
9th - Riley Cornthwaite (Lasalle) - 15:44.94
18th - James Butcher (Lasalle) - 17:21.82