Visit our NCXC23 webpage for more coverage and photo galleries from the national capital high school cross-country running championships in the lead-up to OFSAA XC 2023.
By Emma Zhao
Despite entering her rookie high school city championship race on Oct. 26 at the Hornets Nest, Laila Lebel’s had lots of time to get a view of what cross-country running competition is all about.
The Grade 9 Colonel By Secondary School student was introduced to running at a young age. Her family instilled a love of running, and she’s already been racing for several years with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club. She also trains with Nakkertok Nordic, her wintertime ski club, and also does dryland running with the group through the summer months.
While Lebel said she was nervous for her first national capital high school championship meet, the salve was getting to meet up with fellow runners from other schools.
“I got to see a lot of my friends, and I just really enjoyed hanging out with them before my race,” she indicated.
Lebel also had the chance to greet every one of them at the finish line after she crossed it first in a time of 16 minutes, 19.2 seconds for the victory.
During the race, a few unexpected elements occurred – her nerves and the mud.
“At the start, I thought I was going really fast, and all the other girls were going really fast, so I got a little scared,” she recalled.
Lebel also recounted how the many sloppy, squashy puddles on the course slowed down the group, especially going up and down hills, with plenty of slips and slides along the way.
“I was just trying to catch up to the other girls,” noted Lebel, adding she was nevertheless incredibly happy with her performance.
Every place mattered in the team competition as the Nepean Knights claimed a repeat victory in the Grade 9 girls’ event.
The Knights won the national capital championship (as well as OFSAA silver medal) in the novice girls’ division last year, and the younger crew kept that title in Nepean hands with their minuscule one-point victory over Lebel’s Colonel By Cougars.
Annie Hume placed 11th for Nepean, followed by Sydney Renfroe (16th), Caroline Chadwick (17th) and Beatrice Ward (35th) to score 79 placement points, while Rebecca Hutchens provided immediate backup support in 36th.
The Cougars qualified for OFSAA as well by virtue of a four-point advantage over third-place Garneau thanks to Jade Amberg’s 19th-place showing, Zola Estabrooks in 27th and Rosie Lee in 33rd, behind Lebel at the head.
Nepean had the biggest novice girls’ team entered of the bunch, with 10 members competing. They were all excited to not only run but hang out and cheer for their friends.
Knight Chantelle Watchorn echoed Lebel, recalling that the mud made it a bit more difficult to run.
“I think the mud made it more of an interesting race,” she smiled. “I was just trying really hard not to fall.”
Despite the mess, the novice girls said they enjoyed having older Knights cheer for them and were glad to be a part of a supportive team.
Pierre-Savard’s Dahlia Loreti set the pace for most of the race until Lebel overtook her during the final loops of the soccer fields. She’ll lead the local group of five individual qualifiers who all had to squeeze inside the top six to get a spot on the start line for Saturday’s OFSAA XC Championships in Etobicoke.
Immaculata’s Ellie McGregor finished third, followed in order by The Element’s Riley Daniels, Earl of March’s Abbie Begbie and St. Pius X’s Sofia Cesario.
NCXC23 Novice Girls’ Photo Gallery
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