They were the fastest team by a country mile.
In fact, you could pretty safely argue that the Sentinel Spartans were the fastest senior girls cross-country running team this province has ever seen.
Clad in their patented hot pink racing shorts, the Spartans didn’t just win the team competition at this year’s B.C. high school cross-country running championships held Saturday in Abbotsford, they dominated the competition. Sentinel placed six runners in the top-25 in a race that included 220 finishers.
The team competition takes the placings of a school’s top four finishers – individual runners who are not affiliated with a team are taken out of the equation – and adds those placings up to produce a total score. The lower the total, the better. The Spartans score was 14. The next highest score, by Nanaimo District, was 64. No team in history has ever scored 14 points or less at the provincial championships.
“It was incredible,” said Mark Fenn, who co-coaches the team with Hugh Wilson. “I’ve been involved in this sport for 20 years and I haven’t seen anything like it before. They were fantastic.”
Just how dominant were these Spartans? If you took away the team’s fastest two runners and substituted the fifth and sixth fastest, Sentinel still would have won the team title.
“They were just rolling in, one after another,” said Fenn. “It was neat to see. A lot of people were kind of in awe – like, holy smokes, who are these girls? They were the talk of the race out there for sure.”
Grade 12 student Emmajean Neal (18 minutes 20 seconds) and Grade 9 student Sidney Clement (18:27) led the way for the Spartans, finishing fourth and fifth overall, about 40 seconds behind individual winner Madeline Bonikowsky of Nelson’s L.V. Rogers Secondary. Grade 12 student Ehren Paterson (19:17) and Grade 10 student Sofia Day (19:18) rolled up together less than a minute later, finishing 11th and 12th overall. They were followed soon after by Grade 12 student Jade Clement (19:37) and Grade 11 student Cameron Hill (19:47), who finished 18th and 23rd. The team also included Gabrielle Bourgault-Kennealy, who finished 80th overall, and Tabea Gehnen, who finished 161st.
The average time for Sentinel’s top-four finishers was 18:50, a full 70 seconds faster than the average time for the second place team.
“I’m just kind of in awe of the girls’ grit, focus, and sportsmanship,” said Fenn. “Their preparation for races is remarkable, really. In that sense, they’re kind of mature beyond their years.”
Fenn credited the multi-sport approaches of his athletes with helping them succeed as a racing team.
“They aren’t just runners,” he said. “One is an elite rower, there are a couple of elite swimmers, there are soccer players, there’s one really good volleyball player. I think it pays dividends. They really know how to work as a team. They’re confident and they love to compete.”
It was the second provincial team title in a row for the Spartans, who won in 2018 with a total score of 27. Three departing Grade 12 racers – Neal, Paterson and Jade Clement – leave the program with four provincial team titles, one at the junior level from their Grade 8 year and three at the senior level from Grade 9, 11 and 12.
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On the boys side the Handsworth Royals had a big day, earning team bronze at both the senior and junior level. Cyrus Young, Theo Rhodes, Matthew Cusanelli and Owain Cormack paced the senior team, while Ryan Goodwin, Francois Maurice, Charlie Kanuka and James Edgell were the top four junior Royals.