HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Note: HIGH ACHIEVERS will post a recap of each NCSSAA cross-country championships race over the next six weekdays, along with a photo gallery on the Ottawa Sports Pages Facebook page.
By Martin Cleary
The Ottawa high school cross-country running season came to an abrupt end Thursday, following the conclusion of the slippery and muddy National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association championships at the Hornets Nest.
After 622 runners survived the sloppy course conditions and the top runners and teams celebrated their achievements, the student/athletes lamented their fall sport ended too early at the interscholastic level, unlike previous years.
In a normal year, the NCSSAA finals also would have served as the qualifying event for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships, but not this time.
While the OFSAA provincials are scheduled for Nov. 6 in Lakefield, the NCSSAA has decided not to send its best individual runners and top teams because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 OFSAA championships also were cancelled for the same reason.
The NCSSAA acted on the advice of the two English and two French school boards. The boards ruled students should not be travelling to events involving an overnight stay for health and safety reasons.
This rule also will apply to all fall sports. NCSSAA champions in football, field hockey, boys’ volleyball, girls’ basketball, and qualifiers in golf also will not attend their respective OFSAA championships.
The exception could be the boys’ soccer champion and tennis qualifiers, who will be determined in the fall, but their OFSAA championships are not scheduled until June, 2022.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Kirk Dillabaugh, the NCSSAA cross-country running convenor and chair of the OFSAA cross-country running sport advisory committee, about the NCSSAA decision not to send a team to the OFSAA championships.
“We worked tirelessly this summer to put protocols in place. It’s unfortunate the boards feel it is not safe for us to go. I’m disappointed. I thought we did all that we had to do to make it safe. It is what it is and we have to accept it.”
The decision not to send NCSSAA athletes to the fall OFSAA championships was made at the end of September.
As a coach of the Glebe Gryphons, Dillabaugh was able to watch his team win an 11th consecutive NCSSAA grand aggregate cross-country title. Glebe also won the boys’ team aggregate, while Nepean captured the girls’ team aggregate.
Individual and team medals were not presented at the championships under health and safety protocol and will be delivered to the schools for distribution by the coaches.
“I’m very happy with our athletic performances. They were outstanding, the senior boys in particular,” Dillabaugh said about the Gryphons’ success. “It’s great when you have a team dynamic like that. They push each other.”
The age-group team winners were: Glebe, boys and girls’ senior and boys and girls’ junior; Immaculata, boys’ novice; and Nepean, girls’ novice. Glebe won the same four titles at the East Conference championships.
All six NCSSAA race champions also were saddened by the OFSAA championships not being a part of their fall season.
“At the beginning of the season, I was excited to go to OFSAA,” said St. Paul’s Zachary Sikka, who won the boys’ senior 6,000-metre race by more than nine seconds in 22 minutes, 51.47 seconds.
“Then my coach told me and I said ‘oh, no OFSAA.’ But at the end of the day, it is what it is. It’s frustrating. Cross-country is a smaller, individual sport and it could have been done safe.”
Elijah Barrett of Glebe had his best race of the season, placing second in 23:00.80 and beating teammate Thomas Fairhead to the finish line. Fairhead was third in 23:01.45.
Amelia Van Brabant of Earl of March expressed her disappointment in not being able to attend the OFSAA championships, after scoring a decisive victory in the girls’ senior 6,000-metre race in 23:53.32.
“I’m disappointed in the people who made the decision,” said the Grade 11 student/athlete. “I feel bad for the people who experienced this as their last season.”
Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Elizabeth Vroom placed second in 24:32.42, while Gloucester’s Olivia Baggley took third in 24:47.13.
Glebe runners Derek Strachan and Kiefer Melinz Dupuis were one-two respectively in the boys’ junior 5,000 metres in 18:56.34 and 19:06.63. The battle for third place was breathtaking as William Sanders of Saint Mother Teresa passed Theo Krnjevic of Lisgar on his final step at the finish line. Sanders stopped in 19:16.54, while Krnjevic was timed in 19:16.78.
Daniel Cova of Louis-Riel won the boys’ novice 4,000 metres in 15:39.59 and was followed by Levi Sankey of Merivale, 15:52.91, and Will McGregor of Immaculata, 16:09.45.
Jocelyn Giannotti of Holy Trinity recorded a convincing girls’ junior victory over 5,000 metres in 21:46.14. Glebe runners Laurin Alexander and Claire Allan finished second and third respectively in 22:09.97 and 22:29.39.
Isabella Chiumera of St. Pius X placed first in the girls’ novice 4,000-metre race in 16:40.44, while Merivale teammates Grace Streek and Olivia Chen were second and third respectively in 16:47.27 and 17:51.90.
Here are the age-class team scores from the NCSSAA championships:
NOVICE GIRLS: 1. Nepean, 69 placement points from its best four runners; 2. Canterbury, 78; 3. Merivale, 85.
NOVICE BOYS: 1. Immaculata, 23; 2. Merivale, 109; 3. John McCrae, 121.
JUNIOR GIRLS: 1. Glebe, 18; 2. Nepean, 78; 3. Ashbury, 168.
JUNIOR BOYS: Glebe, 18; 2. Woodroffe, 58; 3. Saint Mother Teresa, 83.
SENIOR GIRLS: 1. Glebe, 32; 2. Merivale, 82; 3. Franco-Cite, 125.
SENIOR BOYS: Glebe, 27 ; 2. Paul-Desmarais, 122; 3. Nepean, 153.
Check back on OttawaSportsPages.ca each day later this week and next for recaps of each race and photo galleries.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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