Up at the crack of dawn, a group of teenagers dash through downtown neighbourhoods at 6:30 a.m., or an after school group sprints quick intervals at Christy Park. It’s just part of the brief blitz that is the high school cross country season — starting in mid-Sept. and ending with zones Oct. 21 or provincials Nov. 4.
And numbers are growing.
It’s the second year Centennial Christian School has a cross country team, with five boys last year, and a total of 12 runners now. The amalgamated Skeena Middle School and Caledonia Secondary School team has 20 youth, including one from Veritas Catholic School this year.
The group made a 32 runner contingent at the recent Smithers Secondary Riverside cross country meet, and though cross country races are difficult to compare, a significant improvement was made by Brook Leask, carving off nearly two minutes in the 4.5K junior girls race. She finished in 33:31 last year, and got that down to 31:20 this year, taking fifth in senior girls.
Michaela Yeo took third in senior girls, and Skeena’s Olivia Faetz got second in junior girls followed by Sophie Wright-Seymour who took junior’s third.
Centennial’s Connor Block claimed first place in 6.5K senior boys race, finishing in 25:59 a full-13 seconds faster than second and third place runners Konrad Thrummerer and Travis Pete from Smithers.
Though not his coach, Cal-Skeena coach Reid says she’s impressed with Centennial’s Connor Block.
“Block is off to a very fast season… I think he could be the next Tyler Dozzi,” said Reid, referring to the now-university level Terrace-based runner, who won nationals in 2016 and ranked the fifth fastest under-20 cross country runner in Canada last year.
Dozzi was a junior in his final year in Terrace in 2014 and clocked 16:36 in Smithers Riverside race, just one second faster than Connor Block’s 16:37 in his junior race last year.
Reid says if Connor doesn’t push too hard too soon, and finds the right training-resting balance to avoid injury, he could upset at provincials and become a standout runner.
Connor’s dad Tim Block started the cross country team at Centennial for the first time last year, after starting a track and field team in the spring 2016.
Block said he launched the team because he wanted opportunity for kids.
“We have kids that are good runners, so I wanted to give them a chance to compete. That was my main motivation,” he said.
He says he and his wife are both runners, and he has fond memories of his high school cross country team in Saskatoon.
“We’re also getting some kids that aren’t on the volleyball teams, which is great,” said Block, adding that the main sport at the school is volleyball, so its nice to have another fitness opportunity for students.
“There’s health benefits, but there’s also just the challenge of fighting through the discomfort of running,” said Block.
“I tell them it’s about suffering, I’m pretty open that,” Block joked, “But they keep coming back to practice, so I don’t know.”
Centennial’s team includes his sons Connor and Owen Block, Aidan Carter, Vincent Labrador, Stephen Lopez, Eryn Struyk, Josh and Joel Brown, Kai Cagna-Orr, Braden Clunas, Henessy Parnell, Levi Kroeker.
They do interval training at Christy Park after school Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Cal and Skeena team run in the horseshoe area every other morning starting at Cal at 6:30 a.m. New to the team this year are Jon Schlamp, James Griffin, Damian Cloutier, Jared Moth, Diana Harris, Kiara Pellizzaro, Sophie Wright Seymour, and Nathyn Sutton. And Ben Bilash from Veritas Catholic School also trains with the team. Returnees are Katie Andrews, Erin Billson, Shaena Gyorfi, Aiden Bremner, Olivia Faetz, Meghan Bowles, Brook Leask, Michaela Yeo, Tristen Brown, Spencer Schulte, and Zach Bilash.