Athletics High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Entertaining Saul Taler brings glory to Glebe cross-country running program


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Visit the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Facebook page for a photo gallery of this race

See our 2022 NCSSAA XC Championships webpage for more coverage, including race-by-race recaps and photo galleries, in the lead-up to the OFSAA provincials on Nov. 5.

By Martin Cleary

Saul Taler wasn’t 100 per cent sure he wanted to run cross-country this fall for Glebe Collegiate Institute, but coach Kirk Dillabaugh made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

When Taler entered Grade 9 in 2021, he made the boys’ senior soccer team in the fall. He also ran on the track team in the spring for coach Dillabaugh and had an exceptional debut interscholastic season as a 1,500-metre runner.

Dillabaugh certainly took notice of Taler, who was second in the boys’ novice metric mile at the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association championships and the East Regional meets as well as finishing fifth at the OFSAA provincial high school finals.

So, when the 2022 cross-country running season started in September, Taler thought about trying out for the team, but he wanted track to be his main focus.

Dillabaugh playfully countered with this suggestion: if you want to run track, you need to run cross-country.

Taler not only agreed to give cross-country running a shot, but also he turned out to be one of the Glebe Gryphons’ best performers this fall as he heads into Saturday’s OFSAA championships at the Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge.

“Kirk said if you don’t do cross-country, you don’t do track,” Taler recalled. “It worked out.”

An entertaining Taler finished first in last week’s boys’ junior 5,000-metre race during the NCSSAA cross-country running championships at Mooney’s Bay in a time of 15 minutes, 52.99 seconds.

When he crossed the finish line, he made circles with his thumbs and index fingers and contorted them into eyeglasses for a funny and animated ending. He also slapped the hands of some cheering spectators as he ran down the finish chute.

Boys’ junior city champion Saul Taler gets ready for Halloween by adding some goggles to his Glebe Gryphons cross-country running costume. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“I like to put on a show. You have to have fun and not take it too serious,” Taler said.

He outlasted friend and rival Daniel Cova of Louis-Riel, who was second in 15:57.20, while Glebe’s Russell Heins placed third in 16:18.21.

Taler was second to Cova at the NCSSAA East Conference championships. But Taler won the Trinity College Invitational meet in Port Hope and the Turkey Trot in Kemptville (and actually went home with a turkey for his first-place result). He also was second at the Capital XC Challenge.

The NCSSAA will send the top two teams and the top five individual finishers who didn’t qualify on a team to the OFSAA cross-country running championships in the boys’ and girls’ novice, junior and senior divisions.

Taler will enter the boys’ junior race as one of the top five finishers along with Heins, Lisgar’s Sami Ghozlani (sixth in the city final in 17:10.00), Sir Robert Borden’s Barrett Goold (eighth in 17:27.97) and John McCrae’s Harrison Tesselaar (10th in 17:33.32).

Immaculata and Louis-Riel will represent the national capital in the boys’ junior race at the OFSAA championships. Photo: Stuart McGregor

Representing the NCSSAA boys’ junior team champion are Immaculata’s Noah Smith (fourth in 16:32.21), Matteo Padoin-Castillo (fifth in 16:56.62), Will McGregor (seventh in 17:25.11), Aleksander Meehan (15th in 17:46.27) and Nate McFarling (84th in 22:51.22). The top four runners from each school count for the team standings.

Representing runner-up Louis-Riel are Cova, Cohen Kaye (ninth in 17:31.89), Evan Rebane (11th in 17:37.14), Mattias Plessas (12th in 17:38.70), Jason Parsonnage (32nd in 19:15.31) and Lucas Maynard (79th in 22:23.50).

Taler battled with Cova, who also is his training partner with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, throughout the race before securing the lead in the final few hundred metres.

Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club training partners Daniel Cova (left) and Saul Taler finished at the front of the boys’ junior race. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“I pushed him and he pushed me,” said Taler, who participated in elementary school cross-country running races, and took more interest in running during the COVID-19 pandemic, when sports were shut down.

He added his victory “felt amazing.”

“I’m really glad I got the win. I also was happy for teammate Russ Heins in third place,” he said.

The track runner has added to his athletic skill set by becoming a cross-country runner.

“You push yourself,” Taler said. “It’s a mental sport: ‘are you able to run hurt?’ By training and pushing yourself, you get better. I love seeing the progress.”

See our 2022 NCSSAA XC Championships webpage for more coverage, including race-by-race recaps and photo galleries, in the lead-up to the OFSAA provincials on Nov. 5.

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

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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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