The boys of the Oak Bay High cross country team shot back at the Island champion Reynolds on Saturday by winning the provincial team title in Prince George.
Reynolds finished second in the team standings, a solid placing for the Saanich school. But the Oak Bay crew, led by captain Liam Kennel (Grade 11), who ran to third overall, wasn’t waiting for another chance.
“They worked hard for this championship and were pretty pleased to win,” said Oak Bay coach Tessa Logan.
“The Island’s been really strong the past few years, there’s lots of rivalries with Dover Bay for the boys and Reynolds this year. So this is a big win.”
Nothing can take the shine off Reynolds’ accomplishments as the gang of runners will always remember dethroning the powerful Oak Bay boys at the Oct. 24 Islands at Beaver Lake.
But the provincial meet is a big race, and Oak Bay is a team with big expectations.
“There’s a lot of pride and the team looks good going forward,” Logan said.
Key to Oak Bay’s success behind Kennel was the work of 15-year-old Taylor Chan, who was 27th overall and looks ready to challenge for a top-10 spot next year. Chan, Liam Farrar and Owen Sieffart all came in under 25 minutes. The youngest of the Oak Bay boys was 14-year-old Max McCulloch, in 99th overall, just over three minutes back of Kennel.
Surrey’s Tim Delcourt won the event in 22 minutes and 20 seconds. The top Islander was Oak Bay resident Ben Weir of Glenlyon Norfolk School, who finished second despite losing a shoe.
Seamus Maguire (Grade 12) led Reynolds in Prince George, finishing 10th, just ahead of teammate Eric Evans in 17th.
Things didn’t quite go the way the Oak Bay’s girls team had hoped. The reigning Island champions settled for fifth, getting beat out by Island rivals Nanaimo District secondary.
“It wasn’t quite what we expected for the girls but we’ve got some great young runners ready to step up on both the girls and boys teams,” Logan said. “It’s quite a different race for us, we had such a massive group, our whole team of about 50 runners at Islands. So when we beat (Nanaimo) at Islands, it was big.”
Likewise, the girls weren’t so keen on finishing one spot back of Nanaimo in the team standings in Prince George (Oak Bay was second in B.C. in 2011, Nanaimo third).
Elite middle distance runner Madelyn Brunt, still just 16-years-old, was the top Oak Bay runner, 14th overall. Mount Doug’s Caleigh Bachop led the South Island contingent, eighth overall, and Spectrum’s Brittany King was 10th.
The majority of the Oak Bay team will be back for track and field season in the spring, where Oak Bay dominates provincially.
Coach Logan is a former cross country and track and field competitor herself, a Lambrick Park grad who teaches at Oak Bay High and took lead of the Keith Butler-built cross country program last year. She started with vice principal Butler as an assistant coach three years ago and is also an assistant coach with the track and field team.
“With up to 60 runners showing up it’s a lot of delegating but this program takes care of itself and is great to work with, it’s so much fun,” she said.
Brunt, Bachop and King, will compete at the cross country club provincials in Vancouver, Nov. 24. So will Kennel, Weir and Mount Doug’s Thomas Getty.