Athletics High Schools

NCXC23: Nepean Knights fight their way to first in junior girls’ race

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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

They say cross-country running is an individual sport, but the city-champion Nepean Knights junior girls would certainly object and say it’s all about the team.

Last year, the Knights parlayed their lineup’s strength from top to bottom into an OFSAA team silver medal in novice competition.

At the national capital high school championships on Oct. 26 at the Hornets Nest, Nepean entered five runners in the junior girls’ competition and all five finished in the top 20.

The sum of the Knights’ parts once again rose to the top for a solid 53-point victory over second-place Glebe as each of their runners placed among the top 17% of the 113-athlete field.

Edie Petrescue-Commene led the way in fourth place, followed by Gabrielle Forestier in 10th, Tillie Pender in 14th, Olivia Voros in 18th and Avery Magnusson in 19th.

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Petrescue-Commene said that she was confident that her team would place well in the race, however, she hadn’t expected that she would finish so close to the front herself.

“I was trying to come top 10, so I really wasn’t expecting to come fourth,” indicated the 2022 OFSAA 36th-place finisher. “I think there were a lot of hills that slowed people down, so that’s how I caught up.”

Fourth-place finisher Edie Petrescue-Commene led the Nepean Knights to a junior girls’ team title as all five of their runners finished inside the top 20 at the national capital high school cross-country running championships on Oct. 26 at the Hornets Nest. Photo: Dan Plouffe

While she was surprised by her own fast pace, Petrescue-Commene also said she was incredibly proud of her teammates all finishing within three minutes of her. The team dynamic inspires each individual to do better, she added.

“Everyone worked super hard,” underlined the Grade 10 student.

Many of the older girls cheer for the younger girls, which Petrescue-Commene finds incredibly touching. She noted that she can always hear senior girls’ runner Charlotte Watchorn on the sidelines.

“Charlotte cheers for us all the time, and she screams our names,” Petrescue-Commene smiled. “It just makes me want to run faster.”

10th-place finisher Gabrielle Forestier was the second Nepean runner to cross the finish line, while the next three all followed in the next minute. Photo: Dan Plouffe

She credits Nepean’s supportive team dynamic to a spontaneous Starbucks rendezvous. Their coach, James White, set aside time for them one day to order sugary drinks in the name of team bonding.

White has been a coach with Nepean for about 20 years now, and has used that time to really get to know his athletes. He recognizes that the junior girls perform better as a team.

“Individually, they’re strong, but their strength really is in their numbers,” he signalled. “They’re dedicated. … They wake up early and train, and their strength lies in their willingness to do that.”

This particular team holds a special place in his heart since last year was the first time he’s ever witnessed any of Nepean’s teams place second at OFSAA. He said that he admires the work ethic his athletes display, and credits all their current success to their hard work.

“I’m really proud of them,” he highlighted. “Everything we’ve done has come down to their strength and dedication.”

Franco-Ouest’s Kyra Lauter won the junior girls’ race by over 20 seconds. Photo: Dan Plouffe

The winner of the junior girls’ race, in contrast, was the only entrant from her school.

Kyra Lauter from Franco-Ouest high school outpaced her competition by 21.7 seconds to win the five-kilometre event in a time of 21:20.0.

The Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club athlete said that while she was on course, her focus was just to finish her race no matter what the conditions were.

“I was thinking, ‘OK, there’s a little more to go, I’m almost there,’” recounted Lauter, who finished sixth at cities last year. “When I started getting closer, I was like, ‘I think I got this.’”

Glebe’s Julia Van Wesenbeeck and Immaculata’s Evelyn Davies were the junior girls’ individual silver and bronze medallists. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Lauter is poised to improve on her 56th-place showing from OFSAA XC 2022 when she takes to the start line at the 2023 high school provincials on Saturday in Etobicoke.

She’ll be joined by individual qualifiers Evelyn Davies from Immaculata H.S. (who finished third at cities), Louis-Riel’s Sofia Lefaivre (fifth), John McCrae’s Maya Allibon (sixth) and Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Gwen Hatfield (seventh).

Glebe edged past John McCrae by eight points for the second OFSAA team qualification position thanks to the efforts of Julia Van Wesenbeeck (second place), Madeleine Leschinsky (29th), Madeleine Beauregard (33rd) and Kailena Allen (35th).

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.

NCXC23 Junior Girls’ Photo Gallery

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.

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