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COVID brings Kinahan & Fast back home to claim Open men’s gold & silver medals

Running cross-country in his hometown for the first time in 5 years, Toronto-based Sam Kinahan was the somewhat unlikely winner of the Open men's race at the Oct. 3 Capital XC Challenge.
Sam Kinahan. Photo: Dan Plouffe

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By Elio Elia

Running cross-country in his hometown for the first time in 5 years, Toronto-based Sam Kinahan was the somewhat unlikely winner of the Open men’s race at the Oct. 3 Capital XC Challenge.

“COVID brought me back here, because of school and everything,” notes Kinahan, who’s working on a pharmacy PhD at the University of Toronto. “I like it. It’s nice to be back for a little bit.”

Running in the final heat of the day, Kinahan cruised to the fastest time out of 29 competitors, covering the 6 km course in 19:38.

“It felt good. It was my first race since February, and I was excited there was a race going on,” says the Lisgar Collegiate Institute grad. “It was fun – it’s always fun winning a race. It was one I thought I had a good chance at, so I went for it.”

(From left) Joe Fast, Robert Mitchell and Nicholas Pedersen. Photo: Dan Plouffe

The Heat 1 winner (and 2nd-place overall finisher) would have also been an unlikely entrant in this year’s Capital XC Challenge if not for COVID. Past OFSAA champion Joe Fast was scheduled to be in New Jersey this fall for his first season with the Princeton University Tigers.

“I was planning on going to university, and COVID really affected that a lot,” notes the Ridgemont High School grad. “Now I’m training alone, which is a lot different than I expected.”

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Fast hadn’t been planning to race any time soon, but jumped on the opportunity when he heard about the event a week beforehand.

“I’d say it was well worth it,” smiles Fast, who received good competition from fellow Ottawa Lions Robert Mitchell and Nicholas Pedersen in the first heat. “My goal coming in was to come 1st in my heat, and I did that, so I’m happy with it. The four hills were tough, and I kinda died on the last couple kilometres, but it went well.”

Luke Allan. Photo: Dan Plouffe

COVID hasn’t caused quite as much disruption for Luke Allan, who followed behind the Lions trio in Heat 1.

Recently selected as one of four Nordiq Canada special prospects, Allan’s upcoming cross-country skiing season seems to be on track.

“So far, my skiing has not been disrupted,” notes the Nakkertok Nordic athlete whose club is set to host the 2021 nationals next March Break. “They have a race plan for the season, and I hope to do that.”

Allan was busy writing his SATs the morning of the Capital XC Challenge, so couldn’t enter his regular U20 competition, but he was able to make it in time for the later Open men’s division.

“There were some fast guys and older guys in this race, but I think I did well,” Allan indicates.

The Grade 12 Ashbury College student is “excited to graduate” and is “hoping to go somewhere where I can ski and run cross-country too” at university.

‘Friendly community’ motivates Lions lifer

Garrett De Jong. Photo: Dan Plouffe

The Lions’ Garrett De Jong topped the third heat of the Open men’s division. The 32-year-old former University of Ottawa Gee-Gee now has a career as a chiropractor but continues to produce standout running performances locally.

“I prioritize health and movement. It is kind of part of my job to promote that,” explains De Jong. “If you’re not healthy, then your profession does not matter nearly as much. Everything’s better when you’re healthy and fit, and I truly try to promote that with everyone I meet, so it’s my number one priority.”

A past Ottawa Race Weekend 5k champ, De Jong says it’s friendly competition that drives him these days.

“It’s just nice to be part of this community,” underlines De Jong, also a Lions/Gee-Gees coach. “We push each other. We have fun together. We build strong friendships.”

Taking the Open men’s team competition was the Lions Black group of Fast, bronze medallist Mitchell, Heat 2 winner Daniel Ribi, Andrew Heffernan – a past Paralympic guide runner for track-and-field sprint events – and Jay Sneddon.

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