Dorchester's novice girls are a provincial contender as the cross country season
heads towards the TVRA conference and WOSSAA championships
Saturday, October 12, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
LONDON, ON. - Every new season can bring the unexpected.
Heading into the high school cross country season, Dorchester Beavers' coach James Tennant knew the talent he had returning to the school, including a junior boys' team that advanced to OFSAA a year ago, now running at the senior level.
The unexpected during the first week of cross country practices and first meet on the schedule, included a group of Grade nine girls from various elementary schools, including Northdale Central and West Nissouri.
Six weeks into the season the Dorchester novice girls are well known out on the trails, thanks to two team titles and two silvers, from four invitational meets.
"I'm very pleasantly surprised. Those girls are really nice girls and what sets them apart from a lot of other teams that I've had in the past, is that they show up every day and they work hard every day," Tennant said. "They have really made huge improvements. They've made a lot of progress. It's hard for them to see at times, but they've made a lot of progress."
So much that the Beavers have become the favourite to win at the Western Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association (WOSSAA) meet and advance OFSAA, the high school provincial championships.
"What's so nice is that they pack up so well. They can score under 25, which is really important," said Tennant. "If one doesn't have it that particular week, the next one is really close behind. It's been fun to watch them. I don't think the seventh runner has been in the second half of the field."
Runners are scored by the position they finish and the top four runners count towards team points.
Their success is as much a surprise to the runners themselves, as it is to their coach.
"I don't think anyone expected us to be a good team that could come first at the meets," said Tegan Ceccanese, following their race at the Fanshawe Golf Club on Thursday. "The second meet (at Springbank Park in London) we started to come together and we came first by a lot. We were surprised."
The ladies won again at Springwater and finished second at Fanshawe, the site of this year's WOSSAA meet. Both times the Beavers were the runner-up, it was to Sarnia Northern.
"We like to run together and keep each other up. There's the team atmosphere and we've a really good coach," said Ceccanese. "We just stick together when we run. We like to push each other in practices and work really hard. We have the drive to get better each race."
Hannah MacIntyre has the team's top results, with a pair of top five finishes. But MacIntyre is recovering from an injury earlier this year and has not competed in every race, ensuring she's well enough for the championship run, starting with the Thames Valley Regional Athletics (TVRA) Tri-County meet, October 16th, in Strathroy.
Jenna Wideman was seventh at Springbank and led the Beavers at Fanshawe, finishing 19th.
An example of how well the girls pack together was displayed at Springwater, where MacIntyre was fifth, followed by Wideman, 14th, Devin Dance, 15th and Ceccanese, 19th. At Fanshawe, without MacIntyre running, Wideman was 19th, Ceccanese, 26th, Dance, 27th, Nicola Hammond, 44th and their fifth, Allie Humphries, 52nd. The race featured over 120 runners.
The girls' team goal has vastly changed since the first of practice in early September.
"None of us were even expecting to be even close to OFSAA and now our goal is to get to OFSAA," Ceccanese said.
That meet is November 2, in Sudbury.
LDSS senior and novice boys contenders
This year Dorchester has three teams that have a legitimate shot at qualifying for OFSAA.
"The opportunity is there for them," said Tennant. "We've (Beavers) never had three teams with the chance to go through."
The senior boys, led by Connor Erb and Owen Pink, were at OFSAA last year as juniors.
"They're going to have to battle hard," Tennant said.
This year injuries have toyed with the team. Pink is coming off a hamstring injury and both Dilpreet Sandhu and Evan Gillies have missed races.
Erb, who has been to OFSAA cross country in each of his first two years, has the team's best individual results with a fifth place finish in two races.
"Connor continues to excel in workouts and in races," said Tennant. "He's really starting to come into his own knowing how to race, when to work and relax on the course. It's nice to see him developing."
Erb had a DNF (did not finish) at Fanshawe, after taking a tree branch to the face near his left eye, forcing him out of the race.
Owen Pink led the senior boys at Fanshawe placing sixth, in a massive race in terms of numbers with 230 runners.
In novice boys, London Central is the front runner, followed by Stratford St. Mike's.
"We're the number three team, but we're not far off the number two spot," said Tennant. "Those boys have a shot of making it to OFSAA too, but they have to win those little battles against St. Mike's."
Fanshawe Invitational recap
Aiden Coles, Tristan Coles and Brent Haggerty finished 1-2-3 to lead the St. Joseph's Rams to a fourth junior boys' team title this season. Teammates Aiden Holder and Harrison Belanger placed ninth and 10th.
East Elgin Eagle Hallee Knelsen placed second to senior girls' race winner Abigail Kraayenbrink, of F.E. Wingham Madill, in a race that had 170 runners.
St. Joseph's Ram Cerena Aitken-Guignard was third in junior girls, followed by Dallas Cooper, in 14th.
Parkside Stampeders' Mason Basson and Vincent Moore were sixth and seventh, respectively, in junior boys.
Ram Christine Annett had her fourth top 10 in four races, with a ninth place result, in novice girls.
Rams' Diego Alban-Gasca and Gabriel Dala, placed fourth and eighth, in the para race.
Blake Kokko had the Central Elgin Titans best result, finishing 31st, in the senior boys' race, while Titan Haylee Vlasman was 39th, in the senior girls' race.
Former Mitchell Hepburn Mustang, now at London Oakridge, Sydney Murdock was second in novice girls. Murdock has two seconds and a third, in three races, all won by London CCH's Paige Marchant.