CORRECTION: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect date regarding when cross-country provincials were last held on Vancouver Island. The News Bulletin regrets the error and any confusion or inconvenience it may have caused.
The race course was set up outside a castle, and a Nanaimo team became cross-country royalty.
The Nanaimo District Secondary School Islanders junior girls’ cross-country running team won the provincial title this past weekend.
Nearly 1,000 high school athletes from across the province flocked to Colwood’s Royal Roads University on Saturday, Nov. 5, for a chance to take home gold at the B.C. High School Cross Country Championships.
The event had not been held on Vancouver Island since 2018, and in honour of its long-awaited return, a special course was set up on the grounds of Hatley Castle to allow the athletes and coaches to compete with a spectacular backdrop as family and friends cheered them on.
“This may be the most stunning setting ever for a B.C. championships, with the vistas of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountain range and the beauty of Hatley Castle,” said course designer Jeff Hunt in a news release.
The course included two creek jumps, multiple challenging corners, steep climbs, and a long straightaway for exciting finishes.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, thousands of spectators lined the course for races in the para athlete, junior girls, junior boys, senior girls and senior boys categories. As the racers entered the home stretch set against the backdrop of the Esquimalt Lagoon, fans would rush across the field to meet them at the finish line.
NDSS was led by Brea Gillette, who finished ninth in the field, completing the four-kilometre course in 16 minutes, 14 seconds. Ava Gauthier was the Islanders’ next finisher in 16:56 and Amariah Zult in 17:02 and Elsa Romanik in 17:32 were also key to ND’s victory. Other team members were Subin Yun, Samantha Williams and Grace Webber.
In other divisions, Dylan Barberie of NDSS was 14th in the five-kilometre senior boys’ race in 16:41 to lead his team to a sixth-place finish. Haley Martin of NDSS was the top local in senior girls’ competition and Niall O’Hara of John Barsby Secondary School was the fastest local athlete in the junior boys’ race.
-with files from the Goldstream Gazette/Black Press Media