By Elio Elia & Dan Plouffe
Outside of some big-bucks pro sports events, COVID-19 has wiped out the bulk of the world’s sports calendar, but the Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club has successfully brought back community-level competition, including the Oct. 2-3 Capital XC Challenge out of Terry Fox Athletic Facility.
“It’s been huge to get this going,” says Ottawa Lions head coach Richard Johnston, whose club also offered 5 twilight track meets at the end of summer. “We wanted to stay true to the sport and this way we were able to get a decent group together with that competitive mindset. The enjoyment of the athletes speaks far more than I can say with words.”
The scholastic cross-country running competitions that usually draw thousands of local students are cancelled for the season, but the Lions, alongside the City of Ottawa, drew up a safe formula to run meets.
“The cloud of COVID-19 is there and we are not neglecting that,” notes Johnston. “We have the safety and control measures in place.”
Safety procedures included: morning health checks, time-trial races with just 10 runners starting at once, passing competitors quick and wide, 1 spectator per athlete to limit crowds at Mooney’s Bay Park, and mask-wearing for all (expect for athletes while racing).
The Lions will host another meet on Nov. 6-7 called “Ottawa Friday & Super Saturday All-Comers XC.” OF&SSA XC will take place on the same weekend the OFSAA high school provincials were originally scheduled. While the event is open to all, the Lions don’t plan to call far and wide to bring in athletes to replicate a massive OFSAA.
“The (Athletics Ontario club) provincial championships are still on (set for Nov. 14-15) and the idea is that the Lions want to put forward a team there,” highlights Johnston. “As we get later on in the season, we want them to feel a little more comfortable for their championship events.”
Roughly half the field at the 6th-annual Capital XC Challenge were Lions members, alongside many Brockville Legion entries and others representing local schools.
Click on the headlines below to read recaps of each of Saturday’s races.
Find full results here.