By Larry Moko
Just call it a test run.
A field of about 2,300 high school runners, including representatives from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association, assembled at Christie Conservation Area for the Dundas Valley cross-country meet Wednesday.
The huge event offered organizers a chance to make any necessary changes before the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship meet is held at the same site on Nov. 3. It also served to familiarize some of the competitors with what they can expect at OFSAA if they qualify.
The Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference and the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association are co-hosting next month’s provincial championships.
“Having it local this year is fantastic,” St. Mary Crusaders coach Rob Obrovac said.
“This course seems very fair. I like the wide-open start area. Since there’s nothing restricting you at the start, you can get that lead and maintain it.”
Crusaders’ veteran Abbey Maillet is hoping to qualify for OFSAA cross-country for a fourth-straight year. Last year, at OFSAA, she placed 80th in the senior girls’ race. On the Christie Conservation layout, she came 40th (26:01.6).
“This is my first Pre-OFSAA,” Maillet said. “All the schools around here get a glimpse at the course early. We’ll know what to expect.
“This is a lot flatter than it (OFSAA) has been in the past. There are a couple of sharp turns you’ve got to make, but other than that it’s really nice. I like how there’s no pavement. It’s gravel and grass.”
In addition to her prowess as a runner, Maillet continues to excel in rowing.
“I just missed making the U21 national team – by one spot,” the Leander Boat Club member. “I was on the team for like seven hours.
“I’m going to go for junior worlds this year and try to compete against the best athletes for my age. I’m really excited.”
The best finish by a HWCAA runner at Christie was 17th by Isabella Bauman of St. Mary in the junior girls’ category. Her time was 21:28.3. Last year, as a midget at OFSAA, Bauman was the highest-placing HWCAA runner (74th). Said Obrovac: “Isabella came off a summer of nationals in track and field. She has a comfort level now of being in Grade 10. I can sense it in her that she’s more calm and relaxed.”
The St. Mary senior boys’ team also includes Keven Brennan, who finished 234th in the largest age-group field of the day --- 482 runners. Brennan is a triathlete who has qualified for the 2019 World Junior Triathlon Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. He landed the berth with a second-place finish in his 16-19 age group at the Toronto Triathlon Festival last July.
In the para division, Ryan Sorley of the Bishop Ryan Celtics and Nicholas Franco of the Bishop Tonnos Titans, finished third and 11th, respectively. Their times were 13.36.5 and 19:54.7.
Other top 50 placings by HWCAA individuals were: 37th, Lachlan Perigord, St. Mary, junior boys, 19:27.1; 33rd, Gianni Pirrera, Bishop Ryan, midget boys, 16.16.4; 41st Sage Sulentic, St. Mary, midget boys, 16:32.5; 38th, Olivia Dodds, St. Thomas More, midget girls, 18:31.2; 31st Jessica Anziano, St. Thomas More, junior girls, 22:14.4; 40th, Selena Di Benedetto, Bishop Ryan, junior girls, 22:36.6.
The OFSAA qualifying races for Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic hopefuls are scheduled for Oct. 24 at Milton’s Hilton Falls Conservation Area.
Obrovac says he currently has 30 cross-country team members at St. Mary -- the largest number he’s ever worked with.
“I’ve heard a lot of our athletes say they are going to be coming back here over the next couple of weeks to run this course again on their own,” Obrovac said. “They can come back and train here any time they want.”