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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Ottawa Lions win 7 East titles at modified Ontario cross-country running championships

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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

Robert Mitchell (centre) and Nico Pedersen (right) were 1-2 in the East region’s senior men’s race at the Ontario XC Championships. Photo: Dan Plouffe

By Martin Cleary

Athletics Ontario staged its cross-country running championships last weekend and did it ever look different. That’s understandable. Playing under the COVID-19 umbrella, everything is a little dissimilar these days.

On the heels of a spring and summer where track and field meets were rare, cross-country meets also have been few and far between. But Athletics Ontario decided to forge ahead with the Ontario regional cross-country championships under COVID-19 health protocols.

The provincial championships were divided into three regional meets: East in Delta near Brockville, Central in Toronto and Western in London. Strict health and safety rules were in place for the runners, organizers and volunteers.

When the athletes submitted their entry forms, they needed to answer a health questionnaire and were asked to follow rules and regulations for competing in a COVID-19 pandemic environment. Some races required heats for smaller competition fields.

Everyone involved in the East Region meet were required to follow proper hand hygiene, refrain from sharing water bottles, sanitize surfaces, keep a minimum two metres apart, limit group sizes and follow coaches’ and volunteers’ safety instructions.

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The East Region championships were staged at the Lower Beverly Lake Park in Delta. The overland runners faced occasional strong winds, rain and ice pellets as they travelled over forest trails. The 15 boys and girls’ age groups attracted 99 runners.

The Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club won seven of the races, which ranged from U10 to masters. The host Brockville Legion Track Club captured four titles, while Quinte-Frontenac Track Club had two and Les Coureurs De Bois one. There was one unattached club winner from Ottawa.

The masters group runners ran together, all six men and women in a four-kilometre race and all wearing Lions’ colours. Michael Day took the men’s race in 16 minutes, 19.89 seconds, while Liz Maguire was the leading woman in 17:15.68.

“We were the last ones on the course,” said Day, adding the race conditions were cold and sloppy. “I was pleasantly surprised. It was a good run. We got into muddy conditions right off the bat. But I do a lot of running in the Greenbelt woods.”

Day, 57, has a tradition of running the Ontario championships, but has missed the past five because of a DND work assignment in Klefeld, Germany. “This is only my second real race this year. There hasn’t been a lot of opportunities to race.”

Lions’ teammates Robert Mitchell and Nicholas Pedersen finished one-two respectively in the men’s senior race over eight kilometres in 27:15.68 and 27:38.11. Mile2Marathon’s Garrett De Jong was third in 27:54.97.

The Lions’ other winners were: Jocelyn Giannotti, girls’ U16, 4K, 15:04.59; Ivy Bialowas, girls’ U18, 6K, 24:18.37; Pippa Norman, girls’ U20, 6K, 24:27.25; and Dominique Church, boys’ U12, 2K, 9:16.94.

Unattached runner Ellie McGregor of Ottawa won the girls’ U12, 2K, 8:32.49, while her brother Will placed third in the boys’ U14 race over 2K in 8:07.29.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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