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Lions stampede at Ontario cross country championships

Ivy Bialowas. File photo

By Elio Elia

There were 48 members of the Ottawa Lions who competed in November at the Eastern Ontario Cross Country Championships, where Capital Region runners took home the gold medal in seven of the event’s total 15 races.

The races took place on Nov. 15 and were hosted by the Brockville Legion Track and Field Club in the township of Delta, Ont. The eastern championships were held in the place of the provincial championships, which was split into three regional events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Giannotti clutches victory in final stretch of U16 girls’ race

Jocelyn Giannotti was one of Ottawa’s golden Lions. In the under-16 (U16) girls race, she and fellow Lions runner Amelia Van Brabant were among the race’s top three competitors who were neck-and-neck throughout the race. Eventually Giannotti and Van Brabant distanced themselves from the Brockville Legion runner who was also fighting for a medal.

Giannotti broke away from her teammate in the final 150 metres, beating out Van Brabant by 3.5 seconds. She ran the 4-kilometre race in 15:04:59.

Giannotti, who is a Grade 9 student at Kanata’s Holy Trinity Catholic High School, was pleased with her performance.

“Everyone who participated are incredible athletes and runners, so I was pretty proud of my overall performance,” she told the Ottawa Sports Pages.

Giannotti says she was inspired to get into running by her parents, who themselves are runners. She began training with the Lions last winter and said she’s only recently started taking the sport “seriously.” She’s also a member of the West Ottawa Soccer Club’s U15 regional team.

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And though she’s years away from attending university, she said she’s hopeful she could continue competing at the post-secondary level as well.

“I feel like (it) would be an amazing experience to have,” she said.

As has been the case with all athletes this year, Giannotti has had to make adjustments to her physical upkeep because of the presence of COVID-19.

She’s thankful, she said, for where she lives, because of how it’s enabled her to continue training throughout the pandemic.

“I am lucky enough to have a forest behind my house with many trails perfect for biking and running. There are hills behind my old elementary school where I can practice running up steep inclines and there are plenty of different paths close by so I can mix up which routes I take each time I run,” she added.

Bialowas cruises to comfortable among U18 girls

The Ottawa Lions’ Ivy Bialowas won the 6km U18 girls’ race with time to spare. After distancing herself from her heat’s pack, she eventually finished her heat 10 seconds ahead of her closest competitor – in a time of 24:18:37.

Bialowas’ Lions teammate Gillian Porter won her heat by a commanding margin. Her time of 25:21:59 was good for 2nd place.

“I was pretty happy with how the race went,” said Bialowas, who took kindly to the Delta route, which was only 2km long and had to be repeated by runners in longer races.

“I really liked the course, trails, roots, tight turns and mud made it all the more exciting,” she said.

Outside of cross-country, Bialowas has played a range of sports, including soccer, touch football and ringette – which she still plays competitively. She credits skills like “endurance and speed” that she developed on the ice when she was younger as playing a part in her success as a runner.

Perhaps more unfortunately for her than her junior teammates that she ran with this season, the pandemic cost Bialowas the final competitive high school season of her running career. The unfortunate conclusion has pressed on her the need to move forward from what she sees as the end of a phase of her life.

“I’m excited for next year,” she said. “I’ve had a great experience at Glebe (Collegiate) over the last few years, but the pandemic has majorly impacted what I was expecting for my senior year. Currently, school isn’t as fun anymore with all the restrictions and no school sports, so I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life.”

Bialowas was recently accepted to the University of New Brunswick, where she plans to study business and compete on the cross-country team.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to start training with the Reds,” she said.

Pippa Norman huffs it with boys despite solo effort

Despite there being no other female competitors at the U20 level of the event, Pippa Norman would not be deterred from running amongst her male counterparts in what was a solo effort.

She placed 1st by default, but said the race was about more than a placing for her.

“I performed to the best of my ability, taking my injury and the wildly wet conditions into consideration,” Norman said. “(The) race was all about just showing up and being grateful for me.”

Norman had struggled with a range of injuries leading up to the season-ending event. She battled through several injuries and what she called “flare ups” this year – with an Achilles issue burdening her in the lead up to the Ontario championships.

Norman thanked Lions coach Helen Cooper for helping her push effectively navigate her injuries to allow for a successful season.

“She’s taught me that listening to my body is the most important rule of being an athlete, and any progress lost can always be made-up. It’s no big deal. I’ll be back better and stronger than before,” Norman said.

Lions collect masters crowns

Other top Lions finishes included: Liz Maguire, who was 1st in the women’s master-level event; Michael Day, who placed 1st in the men’s master race, Mitchell Robert, who won the senior men’s event, Dominique Church, the winner of the U12 boys’ race.

Read more on the masters race in this High Achievers column.

Full results of the championships can be found here.

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