Athletics High Schools

Knights capture cross-country crown by .01 seconds

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By Dan Plouffe, published Nov. 2, 2010 in Ottawa This Week – West

There was no doubt it was going to be a close race between the Nepean Knights and the Colonel By Cougars in the senior girls’ team competition at last week’s national capital cross-country running championships.

Nepean’s Charlotte van Walraven (left) beat a Colonel By Cougars runner to the finish line by one-hundredth of a second to give her senior girls’ team a cross-country city championship on Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Hornets Nest in Blackburn Hamlet. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Last year, Colonel By won the city title, although Nepean finished higher at the OFSAA provincial championships. A week before this year’s city finals, each team won its conference meet by a very comfortable margins, setting the stage for the showdown on Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Hornets Nest in Blackburn Hamlet.

In the end, the finish couldn’t possibly have been any tighter.

Ruth Burrowes was the first Knights runner to cross the finish line in fifth place, followed closely by teammates Clara Moore and Kayla Jones in seventh and ninth. The Cougars, meanwhile, came through in second, eighth and 12th with their first three of four scoring runners.

That meant the gold medal would come down to the race between each team’s fourth runners – Emily Seale of Colonel By and Nepean’s Charlotte van Walraven, who had battled throughout the five-kilometre and were neck-and-neck heading into the final uphill and straightaway sprint.

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If Seale won, the teams’ scores would be tied, but Colonel By would claim victory by virtue of having the higher-placed fourth runner. Let’s go to van Walraven for the play-by-play of the finish.

“I was dreading that last hill the whole way,” recounts the Grade 12 student. “I hear the Colonel By coach yelling, ‘Get Charlotte! If we don’t get her, then we can’t win!’ So then I thought, ‘OK, she cannot pass me!’

“She did pass me on the uphill, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no!’ because I usually don’t have a very good sprint at the end, but I wanted it really badly. She kind of died because she went so hard up the hill, so I passed her and I had the best sprint finish of my life. It was really close, for sure.”

The official time? van Walraven: 21 minutes, 21.93 seconds. Seale: 21:21.94. One-hundredth of a second decided it.

Charlotte van Walraven. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“The whole race, I was thinking, ‘OK, every place counts. I have to beat the Colonel By people,’” van Walraven explains. “We’re all really good friends, so it doesn’t really matter who wins, but we really wanted to win for sure.”

The final result might not have been quite as close had Moore not tripped on two occasions during the race, although the Ottawa Lions athlete notes that the victory demonstrates that they’ve got a strong team since others can step up even if something unexpected occurs. No. 5 runner Kiah Thorslund wasn’t too much further back either, finishing within a minute of van Walraven in 24th spot.

“It’s really, really good because we all push ourselves in training, and outside,” Moore says, adding that the Nepean athletes have several different sporting focuses with a couple of cross-country skiers and soccer players. “It’s kind of cool because we all do different things, but we all push ourselves and still do really well with the depth on our team.”

The Knights would like to improve on their 22nd-place showing from last year’s OFSAA when they compete in the 2010 provincials on Saturday, Nov. 6 in Etobicoke.

The Nepean senior girls will be joined at OFSAA by the midget boys’ team of Jacob Schroeter, Makai Roberge, Peter Silins, Rowan Abraham and Daniel Toplis – the second-place finishers in their category.

Bronze medallist Alex Berhe of Woodroffe also earned a trip to OFSAA thanks to his third-place effort in the senior boys’ race.

The best two teams of five runners (with the placings of the top four athletes combining to form the team score) from the national capital meet qualified for OFSAA, along with the top-three individuals not already qualified with their team.

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