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Ottawa Lions U18 girls capture team gold by 1 pt at home XC nationals

The Ottawa Lions’ Amelia Van Brabant added gold to her red and white decorations by winning the U18 girls team title. Photo: Dan Plouffe

By Dan Plouffe

Most competitors had extra things that they wouldn’t normally pack for a cross-country race (like winter boots and mittens for the -15 C wind chill), but Amelia Van Brabant’s bag had some other unique items too: a pile of vaseline and glitter.

Decked out with red and white streaks under their eyes, she and her fellow under-18 girls from the host Ottawa Lions club wound up streaking all the way to the top of the team podium at the Canadian Cross-Country Championships on Nov. 27 at Wesley Clover Parks.

“It’s really exciting. We have a really strong team, and a really good team dynamic,” highlighted Van Brabant, noting they’d always encourage one another during workouts and do long runs together.

The Lions U18 girls needed every single placement point they got to earn the team title by one over University of Toronto (158-159). Van Brabant led the way with her 12th-place performance, finishing the 4 km course in 15 minutes, 32 seconds, followed by Olivia Baggley, who was 29th in 15:57.

The Lions’ #3 and 4-scoring runners were crucial. Cara MacDonald finished in the middle of three runners awarded the same time of 16:26 (in the centre of a pack of 12 who were all within 5 seconds), while Lauren Alexander came in just ahead of another athlete also timed at 16:43. Jocelyn Giannotti was just a couple spots back as the fifth Lion in their giant team of 20 runners.

The Canadian-champion Ottawa Lions U18 girls’ cross-country running team. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“Having a team behind me, it feels great to have such amazing support,” underlined Van Brabant, who knew the Wesley Clover trails well since she cross-country skis there about 5 minutes from home.

It would have been pretty nice weather for a winter ski day, noted the Earl of March Secondary School student, but it was less ideal for running.

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“The course was really disgusting,” laughed Van Brabant, who earned a second gold medal as branch champion with Team Ontario. “There was a huge water pit, and a bunch of girls were falling, so I kind of tried to swerve around it and get away from that. But overall, it wasn’t too bad. It was really the wind that hurt, like I could feel it in my lungs.

“But I was just happy to be able to be out and racing at nationals. Last year, you know, we weren’t even allowed to go beyond like the Capital Cross-Country Challenge, so I’m very grateful to have this setup.

“It’s such a cool experience to have this be my first nationals ever. It was super exciting.”

Katie Newlove strikes bronze (and gold) in U20 women’s race

Canadian U20 women’s cross-country running bronze medallist Katie Newlove. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Another Ottawa runner landed on the podium as well, with first-year University of British Columbia student Katie Newlove capturing bronze with a time of 23:30 in the 6 km U20 women’s event.

“I’m really excited. It was exciting to come back home and have all my training pay off,” signalled the St. Peter Catholic High School grad who spent a week in town after earning a 4th place team finish with UBC at the university nationals the previous weekend in Quebec City.

“I’ve had such great support from my team at UBC,” added Newlove, who also took gold with Team Ontario. “It’s just been such a great season working with all of them, and then this race here is just the icing on the cake.”

Ottawa native Kiana Gibson, who was 12th overall in the open women’s 10 km event, was a gold medal winner as well alongside Team Ontario.

Read More: University of Guelph’s Kiana Gibson takes the road less travelled to become champion XC runner

Hosted for the first time in the national capital since since 1977, the Canadian Cross-Country Running Championships welcomed almost 1,000 competitors across eight races.

Look for more coverage on and in the next edition of the Ottawa Sports Pages newspaper.

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