From Hallee to Cerena, Beavers to Rams, champions on the Springwater trails
Sunday, October 6, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
ORWELL, ON. - The St. Joseph's Rams junior boys and Dorchester Beavers' novice girls keep rolling, Cerena Aitken-Guignard continues to make a name for herself and Hallee Knelsen wins her first senior race.
All these running feats occurred at the Springwater Invitational, the third meet of the Thames Valley Regional Athletics cross country, at the Springwater Conservation Area, Thursday, October 3.
At her usual training spot, Knelsen broke away from London Central's Elysse Fleming and Medway's Clarissa Sladek, late in the 6.1-kiometre race, to win her first career invitational by 19 seconds.
"It feels good getting my first win as a first year senior," said the 16-year old Grade 11 student at East Elgin Secondary. "My goal was to stay with them as long as I could and use whatever I had left for my 800 (metre) kick at the end. I could feel the pace picking up as soon as we came out of the woods. I pulled away a lot more than I expected. It's a big confidence boost."
Last season, Knelsen finished third at WOSSAA as a junior, but had a disappointing OFSAA outing.
"I did struggle a lot last year in cross country. I started this year with a fresh mind set."
Aitken-Guignard is off to a sizzling start to the season, now a winner of back to back junior girls' races. Crossing the line in 21:36, the St. Joseph's Ram finished 35 seconds ahead of Stratford St. Mike's Laine Young, on the 5.1-kilometre course.
"I wasn't expecting it. This season has been going well so far," said Aitken-Guignard. "This year I feel more relaxed and I've grown. I have a really good coach (Harry Stantsos) and he has helped me improve a lot."
Aitken-Guignard only placed 13th a year ago at WOSSAA, but now is beating many of those top 12 runners, much to her surprise.
"I was expecting top 10 but I definitely wasn't expecting to do as well as I did. Now it's maintaining it and trying my best," Aitken-Guignard said. "Over the summer I've been doing at lot of long runs. I'm able to keep a consistent pace and I've been doing a lot of hills. Hills are one of my strengths."
The St. Joseph's Rams junior boys made a name for themselves last season, capping it off with a top 10 result at OFSAA. Now the team is back aiming higher and with an addition, Brent Haggerty, moving over from Parkside C.I.
"Our team was so good last season. Brent is a huge addition. Now our goal overall is to win OFSAA, but we'll see what happens," said Aiden Coles, who won the junior boys' race two seconds ahead of his brother, Tristan, over a 5.1-kilometre course.
Haggerty was third, followed by Aiden Holder, in ninth spot, handily giving the Rams the team title with a paltry 15 points.
The Rams actually had six in the top 12, as Harrison Belanger was 10th and James Hill, 12th and with Liam Francis and Ethan Slatts, coming in at 28th and 29th, respectively, could have had a B team that would have placed second.
"Our team is so close and everyone pushes each other," Aiden said.
One challenge remains for the Coles brothers since day one of last season, beating London Central's Heath McAllister, the OFSAA midget boys champion last season.
"Me and my brother want to be beat him," admits Aiden.
Led by a fifth place finish from Hannah McIntyre, Dorchester's novice ladies won their second team title of the season. Jenna Wideman, Devin Dance and Tegan Ceccanese placed 14th, 15th and 19th, respectively.
"Girls are good competitors and rarely miss a practice," Dorchester coach James Tennant said. "I've been lucky with this group. There is a mix of talent, leadership and effort. Anyone can coach them."
Along with the junior boys, St. Joe's had three other runners finish top 10. Christine Annett had her third top 10 result of the season, finishing ninth, in novice girls. Ram Will Mantel was fifth in novice boys, just 12 seconds back of race winner Justin Lamb, of London Mother Teresa. Ashley Betancourt placed eighth in junior girls.
Parkside's Mason Basson and Vincent Moore, were fifth and seventh, respectively, in junior boys.
Dorchester's Ashley Legg was fourth in junior girls.
Coach Tennant's daughter, Mary, placed eighth, in senior girls, for London CCH.
Former Mitchell Hepburn Mustang, Sydney Murdock, now at London Oakridge, was third, in novice girls.
The key race for all these runners will be the WOSSAA championships, at the Fanshawe Golf Club, October 24th. Qualifiers from this meet advance to OFSAA, in Sudbury, November 2nd.
At this rate, there may just be a bus needed for the trip north.