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Newfound soccer player dominates at West XC

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Yves Sikubwabo set a course record of 23:53 on the new 7.3 km Hornets Nest senior boys’ cross-country running trail Thursday. Photo: Dan Plouffe.

By Dan Plouffe

After a stress fracture in his right foot kept him sidelined for his entire summer season, Glebe Collegiate Institute student Yves Sikubwabo is making up for lost time this fall.

“I couldn’t walk to school or do anything. I just stayed at home and did reading – that was it,” recounts the defending OFSAA senior boys’ cross-country running champion who’s been back to training for two months now. “I was very mad all summer, so I’m very happy now to come back with no more injury.”

Sikubwabo showed he was back and still well ahead of the pack by setting his fourth-course record in as many races this season at the west conference championships Thursday at the Hornets Nest in Blackburn Hamlet.

The new Gryphons senior boys’ soccer player then headed off farther east for his latest pursuit to play a match against St. Peter, in which his team lost 3-2.

“Back in Rwanda, my first game was soccer before I came running, so I said, ‘Why can’t I help my team make OFSAA? ’” explains Sikubwabo, who took a bus to Ottawa and became a refugee after the 2010 world junior track-and-field championships in Moncton, N.B. “Making OFSAA for soccer is so hard, so some of my friends challenged me and said, ‘Yves, we need your help so we can do it.’”

The OFSAA track double-gold medalist made it clear he’d have to be smart so he doesn’t get injured again but accepted their challenge on one condition – that many of them would come along to try cross-country running.

The result was an enormous Glebe senior boys’ squad of 12 who finished first as a team, while their second set of four runners would have placed third behind the Nepean Knights, who were led by Scott Donald in third place.

“Hopefully we can make it to OFSAA as a team this year,” says Donald, noting that his teammates are strong runners from their training as skiers and soccer players on top of being a fun group. “They’re great. We warm up together and do strides before the race and kind of bond as a team. On bus rides there, we sing songs, so our team is really ‘together.’”

Bohemian Rhapsody is a favourite the team likes to sing, which is an appropriate song for the type of epic challenge the Hornets Nest was about to send their way.

It was tough to find a speck of skin on Donald, face included, that wasn’t covered in mud – and he managed to stay upright for the entire race.

“There’s probably 100 puddles on that course and you can’t really get away from the mud,” laughs the Grade 12 student. “It’s kind of just everywhere. It ruined my new spikes.”

The worst part of the course – a short but steep uphill after the Green’s Creek toboggan hill that made for scenes that looked more like mud wrestling than running in previous years – has at least been fixed with a set of large gravel stairs.

“You were using trees to pull yourself up,” recalls Samantha Klus, a member of the second-place senior girls’ team from Bell who finished fourth individually behind teammate Erin O’Higgins in third, Glebe’s Charlene Rhead in second, and Franco-Ouest’s Emma Galbraith in first. “They put stairs in where it used to be a mudslide, so that was good, but it’s still muddy out there. Through the forest, you couldn’t step on grass that wasn’t muddy.”

It was a similar review from senior boys’ second-place finisher Mickey Day, a Grade 11 student from Holy Trinity who feels ready for a top-15 OFSAA performance since he’s in the best shape of his life.

“I had trouble in the last k loop in the forest. It’s just straight puddles the whole way,” notes Day, who beat Donald to the finish line after some wacky confusion about which finishing chute to take. “But it’s a good home-field advantage (to have the provincials in Ottawa). I get to have a good night’s sleep before the race, which is what everybody wants.

“And I get to run this course three times for west, the national capital, and OFSAA, so I get to know all the good points during the race.”

Most competitors enjoyed the thought of not having to travel to race and have friends and family out to watch, but the national capital’s best bet for a gold medal was a little on the fence about whether he liked having a big competition locally.

“OFSAA, when it’s far away, I like it. Traveling and making friends – it’s fun,” Sikubwabo says. “There’s a little bit of pressure at home. But with OFSAA here, I would be happy to have a gold medal in Ottawa, I have to say. I’m hoping.

“I’m not strong like last year, but in my mind, I still say I can do it, and I can do my best. I will get there.”

The rain and wind certainly didn’t make for a pleasant day for the west conference championships, and it only piled on to a bad day for organizers who ran into computer trouble with their timing system, causing them to have to input results manually.

Other race winners included Glebe’s Alexa Livingstone (midget girls), Sir Robert Borden’s Arjun Walia (midget boys), Brookfield’s Olivia Robertson (junior girls), and A. Y. Jackson’s Brendon Howard (junior boys), while Glebe won the team titles in every event except for junior girls (Earl of March) and junior boys (Woodroffe, in a tiebreaker over Glebe).

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