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  Making X-C trails to the provincials


     Erb, Knelsen, Aitken-Guignard, and St. Joe's senior girls, head to OFSAA


     Thursday, October 28, 2017


  • Friends celebrate Arielle
  • St. Joe's SG team


By Rob J. Ross

CLINTON, ON. - Perhaps Hallee Knelsen, Connor Erb and Arielle Aitken Guignard may want to text St. Joseph's Rams' Kyleigh Stubbs and Jocelyn Delgado.

The trio, all in grade nine, will be making their debut at the OFSAA cross country championships, while Stubbs and Delgado, part of the St. Joe's senior girls' team, are off to their fourth high school provincial race, after qualifying at the WOSSAA meet, held at St. Anne's high school.

Knelsen, of the East Elgin Eagles, placed third in the midget girls' four-kilometre race, while Aitken Guignard, from St. Joe's, followed in sixth place.

Erb, out of Lord Dorchester, was eighth, in the midget boys' four-km event.

The top two teams, plus the top five individuals, not on those top two teams, in each division, advance to the OFSAA championships, November 4, in Petawawa. Check the schedule: OFSAA X-C

It is the third consecutive year a St. Joe's team heads to OFSAA and back to back, for the senior squad. Stubbs and Delgado, each qualified as individuals in grade nine. This year, the Rams finished second, behind London Banting, with Rebecca DeKay, the senior girls' race champion.

"We have made history for St. Joe's so many years and to finally have the relief that we did it again and see the joy on the other girls' faces is so amazing," said Stubbs, who finished 13th, one position ahead of Delgado. Team-mates Grace Gillett and Kaila Novak, soon followed, finishing 16th and 17th, respectively.  "As soon as we came through the chute, I turned around and everyone was in. I was like, we got this. We all wanted to go and it was in the back of our minds all season."

The fifth member eligible for OFSAA is Alyce McLean, who finished 30th.

Stubbs credits coaches Annette Barry and Mark Hardy for keeping the team motivated.

"They knew we had the potential to go back but they never really put the pressure on us. That allowed us to run our own races that we knew we could run, without that pressure component."

Throughout the race, Stubbs knew approximately where her team-mates were in the race, thanks to Barry's voice that can heard all along the trail.

"One thing about Mrs. Barry is that she stands out from a lot of other coaches. You can hear her wherever she is, so I listen to her," laughs Stubbs.

Joining St. Joe's senior ladies will be Aitken Guignard, who grabbed the fifth and final qualifying spot in the race of her career.

"I'm really excited about it," said Aitken Guignard, of OFSAA. "It's going to be hard, but I'm going to have a fun time."

Aitken Guignard finished the course eight seconds under 18 minutes.

"I haven't had a super great run since grade six. So I'm happy that today was a good run," said Aitken Guignard, who placed second in the 1500-metres at the TVDSB final meet, three years ago, running for Elgin Court elementary school.

Knelsen crossed the finish line in 17 minutes flat, just six seconds behind winner Elysse Fleming, of London Central. Early in the race, Knelsen was part of a group of five runners that separated themselves from the field.

"I kind of knew at a certain point I was going to be in the top five. That was exciting but I didn't slow down until the end. I still wanted to finish in the best place that I could," Knelsen said. "Around the end of first loop, there was just five of us and no one for a ways back. I was feeling good."

A quick start proved vital for Knelsen earning a spot at OFSAA.

"I definitely went out faster then I did at the invitationals, because I knew I had too and a bad start could cost you the race. I'm not the best at starting but I've been working on that. I passed a lot of people (over the opening 500 metres) and got in a good position."

Knelsen is the first East Elgin Eagle to qualify for OFSAA X-C, since Kyle O'Neill in 2006.

At Dorchester, Erb follows in the footsteps of several runners who moved on from WOSSAA in recent years, such as Patrick Deane, Dana Earhart and Emily Ashby.

Although Erb was hoping the LDSS midget boys' team would move on to OFSAA. They placed fourth, in a tight battle with London Oakridge, the team champion and London CCH and St. Marys DCI.

"I didn't think I could (qualify) individually, but I thought we could as a team. My goal was to beat the first CCH kid," Erb said. "We were trying to beat CCH, as a team. We didn't beat them, but I did beat all of the CCH kids so I was pretty excited about that."

Erb sensed he was in a good spot himself midway through the race.

"Connor Erb did exactly what he needed to do. He got out there, got in the mix and he ran tough. That's exactly what I wanted to see," LDSS coach James Tennant said. "It's really too bad that they (midget team) ended up fourth. They just missed beating CCH and St. Marys snuck in there."

Dorchester's junior boys' team placed fifth.

"It was a really good season for both boys' teams, but unfortunately they didn't qualify (for OFSAA)."

Alyssa Bennett had the top result for the Parkside Stampeders, finishing 17th, in the junior girls race.

For the Central Elgin Titans, Amanda Vlasman placed 20th, in the senior girls' race, followed by Elise Bundchuh, in 21st. In midget girls, Petra Salin was 21st and Sydney Lee, 24th.

Amber Burr, of the Arthur Voaden Vikings, was 30th, in the junior girls' race.